Short Reviews

RC Reviews is a collection of 700-800 word reviews on the most recent scholarship relating to British Romanticism, its authors, history, and ideas.

D. A. Dunkley, Agency of the Enslaved: Jamaica and the Culture of Freedom in the Atlantic World (Lexington Books, 2013). 240pp. (Hdbk., $65.00; ISBN 978-0-7391-6803-5).

Rebecca Schneider
University of Colorado Boulder

There is something Romantic about revolution. Between throwing off the constraints of tyrannical institutions and reimagining more equitable collective life, modern conceptions of liberty in the West echo the political convictions of the Romantic era. While revolutions in America, France, and yes, Haiti/Saint-Domingue provide sites for exploring revolutionary action, the accretion of small, daily acts of resistance throughout the West Indian slave colonies reveal something more pervasive, insurgent, and durable about the revolutionary spirit. Such acts provide the main focus of D. A. Dunkley’s examination of freedom in Agency of the Enslaved: Jamaica and the Culture of Freedom in the Atlantic World.

In 1823, one hundred and forty imprisoned Jamaicans submitted a petition rejecting their criminal status. Their alleged crime? Failing to prove that they were free. By the time the list of “Persons Committed to...

Ingrid Horrocks, Women Wanderers and the Writing of Mobility, 1784-1814. (Cambridge, Cambridge UP, April 2017). 309 p. (Hdbk. $98.00; ISBN 978-1107182233).

Kathryn Pratt Russell
Clayton State University

Ingrid Horrocks’s rigorous study of “women wanderers” in the late eighteenth century contributes to a critical tradition in British travel studies, recently represented by Elizabeth Bohls, Celeste Langan, Michael Wiley, Robin Jarvis, and others. Horrocks, though, attends to a gap in gender studies and the theory of travel by not merely focusing upon a particular author or genre, but instead enlarging the scope of her analysis in order to argue that at the end of the eighteenth century, British women authors began to write about travel and wandering in ways specific to their gender position, and not limited by genre. As opposed to their male counterparts, who, when depicting women wanderers, portrayed them as objects of loss and abjection, female authors wrote of women wanderers as representative of a “deep homelessness” (7) that reconfigures eighteenth-century theories of sympathy.

Horrocks acknowledges the influence...


Mary Shelley, Mathilda, ed. Michelle Faubert (Broadview Press, 2017). 208 pp. (Pbk. £14.95, ISBN 9781554812271)

Anna Mercer
Keats House

“I offer the present edition as an effort to release Shelley’s Mathilda from its readerly purgatory, for it deserves a wider audience than it presently enjoys” (33): so Michelle Faubert closes her introduction to the Broadview edition of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s novella Mathilda. The editor writes with a clear sense of hope that the text may find new readers thanks to this publication. I share her optimism.

The Broadview editions should be praised in general: they provide introductions that often represent a particular critical moment and which therefore reflect the scholarly ‘mood’ at the time when that edition first appeared. Along with this important framing material they include carefully selected appendices, usually excerpts of related texts. They are indispensable to scholars of Romanticism; we need Broadview editions of all of MWS’s novels, and as I will explain in this...

Richard E. Brantley. Transatlantic Trio: Empiricism, Evangelicalism, Romanticism, Essays and Reviews, 1974-2017 (Culicidae Press, 2017). 740 pgs. (Hdbk., $79.80, ISBN: 1683150023; pbk. $42.95, ISBN: 1683150031; ebook $59.95. ASIN: B01NARHXTN.)

Andrew O. Winckles
Adrian College

For those of us brave enough to walk into the minefield that is the study of evangelicalism and Romanticism, Richard E. Brantley has always loomed large. I can remember when, as a graduate student playing with the idea of writing about Methodism during the Romantic era, my dissertation director recommending I read Brantley’s Wordsworth’s Natural Methodism (1975). In typical graduate student fashion, I put it off, somehow convincing myself that the book would be my exact project and I just could not face knowing that someone else had already done what I wanted to do. Of course, it was not, and when I finally did get around to reading both Wordsworth’s Natural Methodism and then Locke, Wesley, and the Method of English Romanticism (1984), they both proved foundational to my own understanding of evangelicalism in the Romantic era and helped contextualize my own project. Indeed, it is not an exaggeration to say...

Devoney Looser, The Making of Jane Austen (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017). 304 pp., 23 b&w illus. (Hdbk., $29.95; ISBN 9781421422824).

Meaghan Dodson
Fordham University

"She was not born, but rather became, Jane Austen." And so Devoney Looser begins, analyzing the myriad ways Austen's persona has been portrayed, studied, and interpreted over the past two hundred years. Looser's work is the latest entry in a veritable modern genre-what we might call "Austen-cult scholarship"-which includes, among many other works, Deidre Lynch's Janeites: Austen's Disciples and Devotees (2000), Claudia L. Johnson's Austen's Cults and Cultures (2012), and Janine Barchas's Matters of Fact in Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity (2013). The Making of Jane Austen, however, stands apart as an engaging, even gripping account of both the newly discovered and under-appreciated aspects of Austen's legacy. Looser's generative curiosity moves among a catalogue of fresh topics: Who was Austen's first illustrator? Why is she studied by paranormal psychologists? What inspired Colin Firth's infamous wet-white-...


Ashley Cross, Mary Robinson and the Genesis of Romanticism: Literary Dialogues and Debts, 1784–1821 (Routledge, 2017). xiii + 288 pp. (Hdbk., $140; ISBN 9781848933682).

David Sigler
University of Calgary

Ashley Cross’s new monograph, Mary Robinson and the Genesis of Romanticism, works in two directions at once: it scrutinizes the oeuvre of a single author, but it also presents Romantic-era writing as a network, something thoroughly collaborative, competitive, and communitarian. Cross, in presenting a study of Mary Robinson’s literary writings as she responded to her contemporaries and inspired her successors, gives us a model for understanding “authorial identity grounded in dialogic exchange” (3), and for apprehending Robinson’s writing across genres. Thus it offers a different vision of Robinson than has emerged in previous studies, such as Daniel Robinson’s The Poetry of Mary Robinson: Form and Fame (2011) and Paula Byrne’s more biographical Perdita: The Life of Mary Robinson (2004), both of which stress the unusualness of Robinson’s celebrity instead of her more typical struggle to be accepted, as a woman...


Anthony Howe. Byron and the Forms of Thought (Liverpool UP, 2013). 205 pp., (Hdbk., $ 99.95; ISBN 978-1846319716).

Chris Washington
Francis Marion University

Like any good study of Byron does, Anthony Howe takes his subject seriously as both a writer and thinker, but unlike other studies Howe’s book features a methodology perfectly in line with Byron’s own compositional practices. Howe intentionally plays with the scholarly book form in order to demonstrate how form evinces its own complicated thought process, just as, the book argues, the forms of Byron’s poems do. Howe’s book adopts an essayistic approach, as does Byron on Howe’s reading, even in Byron’s most seemingly non-essayistic works like Don Juan (1819-1824). Positioning himself against the idea that Byron was an important literary and cultural historical figure but not an important writer as famously encapsulated by Goethe and Arnold’s opinions, both of who labeled him an anti-intellectual, Howe seeks to reclaim Byron from this critical judgment, which Byron has never fully shaken off.

The larger context...


D. B. Ruderman, The Idea of Infancy in Nineteenth-Century British Poetry: Romanticism, Subjectivity, Form (Routledge, 2016). 273 pp., 5 b&w illus. (Hdbk., $112.00; ISBN 9781138191853).

Diana Edelman
University of North Georgia, Gainesville

What do sleeping babies, dead babies, and lyric poetry have in common? D. B. Ruderman explains in The Idea of Infancy that contemplating sleeping and dead babies literally affects poetic form, which, in turn, creates new conceptions of identity on the part of the reader. Although childhood and the imagination have long been constitutive of Romanticism, Ruderman carves out a new understanding of infancy in the period by reading it through the lens of poststructuralist discourses and psychoanalytic theory.

Ruderman attempts to recover the “more disturbing and philosophically fraught notion of infanthood” that he pits against the “sentimental view of childhood,” which, he rightly argues, tends to be the dominant narrative in the history of Romantic criticism (2). This newer, darker view of infancy challenges linear narratives of development in which infancy is perceived as one stage in a progressive...


Matthew Wickman. Literature After Euclid: The Geometric Imagination in the Long Scottish Enlightenment (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016). 304 pp., 7 illus. (Hdbk., $69.95; ISBN 9780812247954; Ebook; $69.95; ISBN 9780812292534)

Aaron Ottinger
University of Washington

Matthew Wickman’s Literature After Euclid: The Geometric Imagination in the Long Scottish Enlightenment (2016) is an investigation of the history of figures of history, as mediated through literary forms. The study asks: What is the shape of history in relationship to the shape of geometrical figures? And how has the development of geometrical figures impacted our image of history?

Instead of a straight (time)line, Wickman’s geometric figure of history resembles the line of Thomas Reid’s “geometry of visibles,” according to which space is spherical, and thus the course of history curves back upon itself. In a curved image of history, Modernism germinates in the 1700s, and Enlightenment “undead” encroach on the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries (24, 129). The claim is surprising because Wickman posits that this figure of history emerges in the Scottish Enlightenment and is far more complicated than Futurist...


Susan Wolfson, Reading John Keats (Cambridge University Press, 2015). 198 pp., 10 b&w illus. (Hdbck., $52.00, ISBN: 9780521513418; pbk. $19.99, ISBN: 9780521732796; ebook $16.00, ISBN: 9781316308059.)

Brian Rejack
Illinois State University

For guidance on the path of reading John Keats, it’d be difficult to find a better Virgil for your journey than Susan Wolfson. As readers of her ample body of scholarship should expect, Wolfson is here a consummate close reader, attending always to the minute formal, sonic, structural (and otherwise) details that make Keats’s poems the beguiling texts that they are. I found myself again and again coming across “ah-ha” moments which pointed toward my own inadequacy as a reader (e.g. “Of course! Why did I never before realize that Hyperion begins with a bunch of lines featuring initial spondaic feet?? I’m such a fool…”). But in addition to that immensely satisfying micro approach and the brilliant insights about Keats’s poetry it reveals, Wolfson’s book also offers an overarching poetic biography, tracking the broad scope of Keats’s development as a poet. Though a short book, Reading John Keats nonetheless manages...



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