Posts in category "Vol. 07 No. 1"

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Richard Cronin, Romantic Victorians: English Literature, 1824–1840

Richard Cronin, Romantic Victorians: English Literature, 1824-1840. New York: Palgrave, 2002.  vii + 296pp.  $69.95 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-333-96616-3).

Reviewed by
Cynthia Lawford
Independent Scholar

Though the subtitle of Richard Cronin's latest book is English Literature, 1824-1840, a skim of the table of contents should alert those who hope it will give them a strong sense of the distinctiveness of the period's literature. Of the eighteen names listed under eight chapter headings, Tennyson's name occurs four times, as his work is given detailed treatment in four chapters. Browning, Carlyle, and Mary Shelley each receive discussion in two different chapters, and a decent amount of space is accorded to Coleridge, Shelley, Byron, Barrett Browning, and Macaulay. Add to that lot Caroline Lamb, whose Glenarvon (1816) alone wins her attention, and precious few names are left who have not long been considered as unmistakably Victorian or Romantic, indeed, precious few whose writings have not been considered essential to our understanding of what those two terms mean for English literary history. Those few are Benjamin Disraeli, Edward Bulwer Lytton, Letitia Landon, Felicia Hemans, George Darley, Thomas Lovell Beddoes, John Clare, and Catherine Gore. Among those, Disraeli alone is seen to deserve space in two chapters, as he wrote a novel using Byron and Shelley as characters.

Cronin is not intent on elucidating what is distinctive about the literature of the 1820s and 1830s. In the "Introduction" he shuns "any 'period-defining theory,'" while admitting that the "absence" of such a theory was "regretted by a sympathetic and intelligent reader of my manuscript" (4). After summing up the characteristics of the period in his "Conclusion," Cronin is willing to say that "all that I feel able to do by way of offering a 'period-defining theory' . . . is . . . not much. Does it amount to a theory at all? Not really . . . ." (259). He blames and credits the period itself: "It is, of course, its failure to achieve a single distinctive character, and its resistance to having one thrust upon it, that has left the literary period from 1824 to 1840 so vulnerable to the great imperial powers that adjoin it" (259-60). "One of the pleasures of writing this book" for Cronin "has been the opportunity my chosen period has given me of evading 'Romanticism' and 'Victorianism', the lumbering reifications that guard its borders" (4). Yet what the book essentially does is try to build a bridge between the two, setting out some of the steps English literature gradually took away from one and gave to the other. Hence, those reifications loom large in the title Romantic Victorians and in the chapter headings--e.g., "Memorializing Romanticism," "Civilizing Romanticism," "Domesticating Romanticism"--all of which show something being done to that one monolith, and in most cases that something being done sounds very, well, Victorian.

In the first half of the book, Cronin wants to show how the writers of this period were adapting the ideas of the best-known Romantic poets through "generic innovations," and in the second half, how they were adapting those ideas to accord with their different views about politics, landscape, religion, and sexual relations (142). He nods toward Virgil Nemoianu's The Taming of Romanticism: European Literature and the Age of Biedermeier (Harvard Univ. Press, 1984) and is "happy to agree" that much of what he finds in the literature of this period constitutes a kind of calming, disciplining, and making acceptable: "the taming of the isolated heretic into the dutiful member of the congregation; of the revolutionary into the citizen; of the guilty raptures of the Romantic brother and sister sexually consummating their love . . . into the wedded bliss of Victorian first cousins" (4). It is worth noting that his three examples here are taken from chapters 5, 7, and 8, which are not about popular writers of the 1820s and 1830s, but instead are devoted largely to Tennyson and the Brownings. These three chapters are excellent in their research and arguments, as Cronin is at his most learnedly sympathetic when dealing with a few works by canonical writers he thoroughly appreciates. He situates the works in their historical contexts with the precise care of one who wants us to sense all the tensions faced by the poets at the time of writing, and before that time as well. That is, we are led up to the works, through Tennyson's and the Brownings' biographical background, the views of their associates, and their changing feelings about their Romantic inheritance.

Take the longest chapter of the book, chapter 5, a masterful explanation of how Tennyson and the Brownings came to see themselves as citizen-poets engaged in the political events of their day. Their belief that the business of politics mattered was fostered, Cronin reminds us, by the Test and Corporation Acts, Catholic Emancipation, and the Reform Bill, laws that helped to push these poets away from Byron's individualism and Shelley's revolutionary collectivism. Browning rejected the concept of simple political choices in his play Strafford, and his poems Paracelsus and Sordello show him wrestling to resolve the conflicts thrown up by his efforts to write poetry at once politically responsible and aesthetically advanced. Cronin attributes the "anxiety" inherent in Browning's approach to his lack of "social and cultural confidence," contrasting his situation in Camberwell with that of the more fortunate Tennyson at Cambridge (171). Tennyson experienced a short but powerful flirtation with revolutionary ideals in 1830 when the Cambridge Apostles became enamored with the idea of assisting the Spanish constitutionalists to overthrow the Bourbon monarchy. Encouraged by Cambridge graduates F. D. Maurice and John Sterling writing in the Athenaeum, the Apostles' idealism had sought to root itself in a "conflation" of Shelleyan liberalism and Wordsworthian humanity, resulting in such poems as Arthur Hallam's Timbuctoo (150). Maurice and Sterling were also behind the enterprise that sent Tennyson, Hallam, Richard Chenevix Trench, John Kemble, and Robert Boyd abroad to help the constitutionalists. That enterprise culminated in Boyd's 1831 execution by a firing squad and the Apostles' guilt-ridden reaction. Cronin studies Tennyson's "Oenone" in light of this alteration in the Apostles' opinions "from an enthusiastic but moderate liberalism towards a conservative distrust of any but the most gradual change" (154).

As Barrett Browning "more vigorously" appealed "to the reader's sense of civic responsibility" than any of the "major Victorian poets," chapter 5 closes with a fine study of the "process" of citizenship in Casa Guidi Windows (180, 183). The only problem is the poem's publication date, 1851, and the date of its subject matter, the 1848 Italian revolution against the Austrians. Cronin even points out that "the Great Exhibition . . . was taking place in Hyde Park as Barrett Browning wrote" and that she referred to it in the poem (192). He does not explain why he has chosen to spend ten pages on a poem that has little or nothing to do with the 1820s and 1830s, though he briefly links its ideas with those of De Staël's influential Corinne; ou, L'Italie (1800) and Mary Shelley's Valperga (1823). If Barrett Browning had not been discouraged by her father and male advisors, she would have written political poetry much earlier, we are led to suppose, at least by 1845.

In chapter 7, Keats's and Shelley's pantheism and the prayerful isolation of Wordsworth and Coleridge are rejected, as again by means of the work of Maurice and Sterling, as Cronin leads up to his reading of Tennyson's poetry. Cronin sees Supposed Confessions as a testimony to Tennyson's inability to escape from a self-conscious spiritual pride. Christmas-Eve gives witness to Browning's own success at having made such an escape as he learns that congregating with the faithful, however ignorant or smelly they may be, is as important as belief itself. Again, Cronin maps a trajectory to high Victorianism.  Christmas-Eve was not published until 1850, and its spiritual attitudes differ sharply from those of Pauline (1833).

For the most part, Cronin touches lightly on the Romantic ideas and reputations that provide the contrast for all the works he is interested in here. But chapters 1 and 8 are an exception. Chapter 1 takes up questions of how the lives of Byron and Shelley were remembered, or misremembered. Commenting on biographies by Hunt, Moore, Medwin, Blessington, Trelawney, and Hogg in particular--though Trelawney's and Hogg's were published in 1858--Cronin concludes that the biographers tended to feminize Byron and Shelley when they said the poets lived most fully and truthfully in their imaginations, in their poetry. Hence, the biographers claimed they had to speak for the poets, like husbands speaking for too unworldly wives. Cronin does not look at the reception of these works, namely, how the superior positions their authors took in relation to their subjects could harm their own reputations, as in the case of Hunt, or, as in the case of Blessington, jump-start their careers. In the novels Glenarvon, The Last Man, and Venetia, Shelley and Byron are taken out of their age and made highly political, only to have their political importance reduced by events and amours. Cronin states, "Venetia is, to use Nemoianu's term, a perfect example of the Biedermeier" as Romantic energy is "'captured and tamed'"; however, Cronin in effect deflates the importance of this assessment by adding that Disraeli's novel, "when it was published in 1837, did not make much of a stir" (43-44).

If only Cronin had devoted the whole of his attention to the literary works that were making a stir in the 1820s and 1830s London newspapers and magazines, he would have been far more reluctant to agree that, for the most part, during those sixteen years the rebellious spirit of Romanticism was being tamed or, as Herbert Tucker has said of the 1820s, quietly domesticated. 1 Chapter 8, "Domesticating Romanticism," addresses "the most dangerous of Romantic legacies," sexual freedom, but it addresses it only "in its most dangerous form," the incest espoused by Byron and Shelley (237). Cronin recounts the quaint anecdote of how Tennyson's fellow Apostle, Henry Alford, presented his wife and cousin a copy of The Revolt of Islam in 1835 as a wedding gift, in the pious hope "that somehow, as she [read], his wife [would] transform Shelley's subversive visionary epic into a paean to quiet, domestic joy" (247). Cronin delves a little into Shelley's philosophy of love and language, finding incest central to Shelley's notion of the "origin" and "goal" of his creativity (242). A reworking of the incest theme, Tennyson's A Lover's Tale presents a male poet who is shown to be unfit for the object of his passion, his female cousin. For Cronin, the poem illustrates well how Victorian poets acted out Romantic doctrines only to discover their limitations, and he mentions as a corollary the actions of Tennyson and the Apostles in the Spanish enterprise.

One example at the end of chapter 8 reveals the trouble with Cronin's limited focus in parts on how a few major, but not popular, writers treated a particular strand of Romantic thought. To support the idea that Tennyson's reworking of the incest theme points to a wider trend, Cronin names a few other works including Landon's popular Improvisatrice, in which Lorenzo declares that his passion for the performing songstress far outweighs his feelings for one whom he loves as a sister. Landon is then made to come across as another writer dampening down Romantic passion in favor of "married love" (249). Cronin seems unaware of the fact that Landon wrote dozens of works approving the strength of illicit sexual passions, that she preferred to malign marriage than otherwise, and that she had three illegitimate children by the Literary Gazette editor who published many of her improper poems. Indeed, much of the literature produced after Don Juan did anything but dry up or discipline itself to observe solely chaste affections; for example, witness Bulwer's Godolphin, Julia Pardoe's Traits and Traditions of Portugal, Allan Cunningham's Songs of Scotland, to name but a few.

Two chapters concentrate mostly on works by a few of the period's popular writers. Set in racy London, Don Juan's last cantos establish the tone for chapter 4, as Cronin maintains that the silver-fork novelists took their lead from Byron. He is right to relate their novels to the newspapers and their "Fashionable Intelligence" columns. Like the novels, the papers embraced people fashionable for a day as well as "commodities [that have] so quickly become obsolete" (119). Such novels were also not written to last, Cronin deduces with reason but probably not with complete accuracy. Certainly, the public interest sparked by Bulwer's Pelham and Disraeli's Vivian Grey promoted their authors onto a public stage on which they remained for decades. Both novels mock their authors' own puppydom as well as the ennui-making-yet-fascinating fashionable world. As Cronin says, the puppydom and the mockery were alike provoking to "unsympathetic readers" (124), though from what I know of the hostility to Bulwer, his unsympathetic readers were largely confined to a few periodical writers of a different political stripe who could not have won entry to many of the London circles open to him and Disraeli. Cronin is simply wrong when he states that Bulwer and Disraeli "could no longer dream of prowling, like Byron, the drawing rooms of London as a literary lion." Bulwer especially was regarded as a great "lion" in the 1820s and 1830s, but both men were considered literary celebrities worthy of being invited regularly to entertain and impress high society, terrific catches for any rising hostess. Cronin's assertion that, compared to Byron's day, the writer's status was much diminished "in the fashionable world that they both [Bulwer and Disraeli] aspired to enter" (256) is contradicted by a host of reports in newspapers, letters, memoirs, and biographies describing how many popular writers were courted by their betters in unprecedented ways during this very period.

Sartor Resartus's reaction to the dandies is also covered in chapter 4. Cronin points out that Carlyle saw the extreme division between rich and poor as having helped to produce the silver-fork novels. This extreme division gave the novel its "potential to produce its own antithesis" in the historical novels of highwaymen and murderers that came into vogue in the 1830s, such as Ainsworth's Rookwood and Jack Sheppard (130). In his comments on the characterization and style of Mary Shelley's Lodore, Cronin emphasizes her indebtedness to Bulwer. He uses the word "styptic" to define the silver-fork style in which sentences that tended "both towards the antithetical and the oxymoronic" were placed immediately after sentimental ones to expose their sham; however, in some passages of Lodore, the cynicism of the styptic "co-exists with the sentimental, it does not expose it as a sham" (136-37). Such a combination well fits a novel about unhappy marriage as opposed to one about courtship, the subject of most novels of the period, including Plumer Ward's Tremaine and Gore's Women as They Are, briefly noticed in chapter 4. In this respect Mary Shelley's work marks for Cronin an advance over Bulwer's and, it seems, all other silver-fork novelists. Cronin opines that the fashionable novel "is the genre that best defines the period"; how much he will let himself admire "fashionable novels of the 1830s . . . no longer much read" is called into question by his lackluster recommendation: "yet they have at least a historical importance" (142). Cronin cannot have much admiration for a genre that he thinks of as being "invented and developed not by a writer but by a publisher, Henry Colburn, who, as it were, merely sub-contracted the task of supplying the words for the novels to his authors" (256). That silver-fork novels were written fairly quickly and were meant to sell right away does not detract from the fact that many were composed with seriousness and attention to detail. Some authors no doubt merely supplied Colburn with words, but I think a number of them viewed their novels as creative works of art, signs of the times that could perhaps one day serve as historical records of those times. Likewise, a number of reviewers took care to distinguish the frothy Colburn novel from the more substantial ones out of the same publishing house. The better written novels usually sold better, so their authors were paid more for the next novel. Colburn himself could not afford to ignore the art of these novels, as opposed to their manufacture.

In chapter 3, Cronin seeks to uncomplicate Felicia Hemans by turning her back into the poetess her first readers revered, one who would never have sought to undercut the domestic and heroic values they saw her as upholding. That Hemans's poetic voice is almost always calm and cool, no matter what horrors her poem might be describing, is "her most powerful achievement" (78). In her work, femininity is best defined and appreciated when serving masculine ideals which the woman, in turn, must be the one to express. Cronin makes the interesting, though not corroborated, point that Hemans and Landon actually caused Scott's masculine poetry to seem old-fashioned by appropriating and feminizing his poetic style. But he seems less than enchanted with Hemans's popular narrative poetry, preferring to discuss at length just The Siege of Valencia, which he finds "uncharacteristic" of her work in general (74). He gives the game away at the book's end, when all he can say about "the feminizing of poetry that I explore in Chapter 3" is that it "is susceptible of a more cynical explanation. The feminine voice came to dominate poetry at precisely the period in which it became scarcely possible for poets to earn a living from the practice of their profession . . ." (256). So much for Hemans's "achievement," and Landon's for that matter. Cronin states strangely that "since there were only two niches available [for women poets], the choice one [Hemans] made in large part determined the choice of the other [Landon]" (82). The statement reveals that he has yet to appreciate how wonderfully varied was the women's poetry of these two decades and how competitive was its market. If there was room only for a matronly, reserved Hemans and an appealingly lonely L. E. L., how can Cronin explain the success of Caroline Norton, Caroline Bowles, Mary Howitt, Maria Jane Jewsbury, Emma Roberts, and Mary Anne Browne? What about the novelists like Anna Maria Hall and the Countess of Blessington who wrote poetry in annuals that sold as well or better than those featuring Landon and Hemans?

As I suspect he would not do of any of the major Romantic and Victorian poets, Cronin states with complete certainty what is "Landon's finest poem" (84): "A History of the Lyre." Yet it is clear that he has not read the vast majority of L. E. L.'s poetry. He refers to nothing she wrote in the entire decade of the 1830s nor to any of the hundreds of poems she published in periodicals and gift books in the 1820s. Consequently, he makes many generalizations which, though sometimes astute with reference to the five volumes of poetry for which she is best known, do not hold true for a large body of her work and, hence, oversimplify Landon as a writer. To say that Landon represented life as "only constituted by poetry and love" (88); that the improvising Corinne-like figure "underlies all her poems"; or that "all of Landon's poetry returns obsessively to a tightly bunched arrangement of a small group of motifs, all of them already deployed in . . . The Improvisatrice" is unfair and unnecessary in light of the fact that Cronin has consulted McGann and Riess's 1997 Broadview selected edition of Landon's works (91; emphases mine). Yet Cronin could not be more right in his assessment of how important the feelings of Landon's readers were to Landon: "Tears, for Landon, dissolve the distinction between poet and character," the "weeping woman" figuring "the appeal that the poems themselves make to their reader, who is himself the chivalrous man who, by reading Landon's poems, rescues her from her desolate loneliness" (85-86). Likewise, he diagnoses shrewdly the "anxious tenderness" (92) that her improvizational style fostered in sympathetic readers, most of whom were women.

"Contempt" for the literary market and its feminine tastes is shared by several of the male writers Cronin covers. George Darley's poem Sylvia, or, The May Queen. A Lyrical Drama (1825) "failed, one suspects, because for all its talent it exposed Darley's contempt for his own poem" and for its female audience (100). Before his suicide in 1848, the uncompromising Thomas Lovell Beddoes spent five years writing and nineteen revising Death's Jest Book, "in its entirety a calculated and bitter affront to the fashion for sentimental verse" (102). The whole of chapter 6 is devoted to John Clare, who "often expressed his contempt for the notion that the value of poetry might be determined by market forces" (206). The "peasant poet" Clare was stuck in an isolated position, far removed from the London literary world yet not really part of the non-literate village community of Helpston. Cronin insists that Clare's in-between status greatly benefited his poetry, helping him to see with clarity the natural objects around him as "at once familiar and strange" (205). Though Clare spent much of his adult life in insane asylums, Cronin does not want us to regard his case as "too individual," but he rather stresses that Clare's inability to earn a living with his poetry resulted from the late 1820s downfall of the market for poetry volumes (212). The less-educated Clare is then compared with Tennyson, Browning, John Hamilton Reynolds, Beddoes, and Darley, all of whom were able to find other means of supporting themselves, some continuing to write poems, others not. These men are those to whom, Cronin more than suggests, the market never gave a fair chance to compete with Hemans and L. E. L.

For Thomas Carlyle, whose French Revolution is chapter 2's concern,"the mere thought that any such marketplace existed provoked in him 'a feeling mild and charitable as that of a starved hyena'" (66). His historical novel managed to bring him fame but not much money. Chapter 2 reads as an excellent introduction to the French Revolution, whereas Macaulay's "insular" History of England is set up merely to be knocked down pre-emptively by Carlyle's insistence on the immediacy of that event over the Channel which Macaulay prefers to ignore (46). The French Revolution's infamous Terror is discounted by Carlyle, who will only make "confessedly provisional, even erratic" judgments of a revolution that has removed the old standards of morality (49). Just as he satirizes the politicians who tried to control events, so Carlyle refuses to wield authority himself and submit the forces of the French Revolution to one lucid interpretation. Rather, he takes first one side then the other, his language all the while throwing up new words and mixing up class categories with what Mill saw as a disdain of conventions akin to that which epitomized Lyrical Ballads. Thus, Cronin links the revolution in style and content that was this historical novel with "High Romanticism" (65).

Unfortunately, Cronin does not pause to reflect what effect 1820s and 1830s periodicals and their warfare might have had on Carlyle's novel. Their often wild energy, humorous and biting satire, capacity to take fierce sides in politics, and unpredictable capacity to favor someone of opposite political views seem to me more directly responsible for the French Revolution than anything Wordsworth or Coleridge penned. As Cronin admits, the lack of attention to periodicals is his book's "single biggest omission" (257). An immersion in them would, I believe, have made it impossible for Cronin to call the period of 1824 to 1840 "a shadowy stretch of time sandwiched between two far more colourful periods" (1). For never did London newspapers and magazines battle one another quite as they did in the 1820s and 1830s, and their ongoing warfare deeply influenced all the period's popular writers, most of whom wrote for one or more. If respectable Victorians reacted against anything, it was the politically-motivated reviews plus the frivolity, ribaldry, innuendo, puffery, and occasional nastiness that characterized John Bull, Fraser's, the Age, the Satirist, Blackwood's, the Sunday Times, and a host of other periodicals from the delightfully undisciplined 1820s and 1830s. But when Cronin looks at the London literary world, he sees an unfair market that did much to keep talent at bay, with the very best poets having to wait until the period was over to have their big successes. How they diverged from the path tread by a few dead poets in the meantime of this "modest little period" is a question well answered in Romantic Victorians (260), but it is, after all, a question very different from that of assessing the uniqueness of the period's literature. The immodesty of 1820s and 1830s writers is easily observed, just not in those moments when one would least expect it, when they were reflecting on the work of those who had claimed so much for themselves and were gone.


1. Herbert F. Tucker, "House Arrest: The Domestication of English Poetry in the 1820s," New Literary History 25(1995): 521-48.(Back)

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William H. Galperin, The Historical Austen

William H. Galperin, The Historical Austen. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002. viii + 286 pp. Illus.: 4 halftones.  $39.95 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-8122-3687-4).

Reviewed by
Mary A. Favret
Indiana University, Bloomington

In a recent profile in The New Yorker, Slavoj Zízek recalls the failed revolutionary rhetorics of the late '60s, insisting that they offered, at least, a sense of possibility, of alternative futures. Now, with the hegemony of American capitalism, he laments, we imagine no alternatives and have the bleakest sense of possibility. The probable is all too palpable: "[I]t is much easier for us to imagine the end of the world," notes Zízek, "than a small change in the political system." 1 For all the differences between them, Zízek's stance nonetheless approximates that of William Galperin in his important, revisionary study, The Historical Austen. At the turn of the nineteenth century, when Great Britain was consolidating its empire, when the cultural norms of domesticity were pressing more forcibly upon women, when economic and political changes were sculpting a straitened version of the real, Galperin finds Austen simultaneously registering and resisting this reality. Acutely aware of the rise of the realistic novel, "in which she surely knew her own instrumentality," and alert to the "probabilistic" (215) and hegemonic world view it inscribed, Austen chafed, wrestled and devised experiments to distance herself from the probable and make space for the possible. Increasingly in her writing career, Austen broached the possible through a sense of belatedness, or, as Galperin sees it, through nostalgia for "a [lost] interval when other prospects were abroad" (215). In so doing the novelist becomes, in Galperin's hands, more Romantic, more historically-minded and more urgently contemporary than ever before.

In this reading, Austen would belong in Jerome Christensen's Romanticism at the End of History, where anachronism, rather than nostalgia per se, is the strategy for resisting a new world order. She would be at home as well among the writers whose historically-conscious interventions into the form of history occupy James Chandler's England in 1819. She finds kinship with the Blake of Saree Makdisi's recent William Blake and the Impossible History of the 1790's. A might-have-been, could-have-been, evermore-about-to-be  historiography is replacing the "narrowness" (18) of new historicism and emerging as the Romanticism of our own turn of the century. Romanticism in this version has reorganized its expectations: it is less about revolution than salvage and survival, more about "getting on" than "getting out," to echo Galperin (30). Like these other works, The Historical Austen disturbs the study of Romanticism--as well as the study of the novel--in exciting, compelling ways. Not solely a study of the novelist, this book is as concerned with the adjective "historical" as with the substantive "Austen."

Galperin himself conducts an experiment in history, calling for a reading practice that is more responsive to the silences, perplexities and inordinate detail in the text which undermine any simple notion of context. His attention to unspoken or lost meanings in the novels and his search for allegories of narrative authority allow him to establish a dialectic between the text and the narrator in such a way that the text becomes "readable" against the claims of its narrator's knowledge, against the imperatives of domestic realism, and, most significantly, against the ideological aims most often ascribed to Austen's work (in, most famously, Raymond Williams's The Country and the City, Marilyn Butler's Jane Austen and the War of Ideas and Alistair Duckworth's Jane Austen and the Improvement of the Estate). For Galperin, the novels all provide material which eludes, contradicts or otherwise exceeds the regulatory work associated with Austen's narrator and the practice of free indirect discourse. Where D. A. Miller finds an unyielding dominatrix, Galperin finds in Austen's narrator another short-sighted, often dim character, oblivious to the significance of the everyday details she describes.2 The everyday has special force here as the register of that which is not subject to the regimes of the realistic or probable; it is the collective designation of the resistant opacities, indeterminacies, and more-than-real minutiae of Austen's world. In the opening and final chapters of The Historical Austen, Galperin makes explicit his debt to Michel de Certeau's The Practice of Everyday Life (Univ. of California Press, 1984) and The Writing of History (Columbia Univ. Press, 1988) on history and the everyday, which envisions a historical practice inseparable from "the prospect of historical agency" as it reveals itself in the everyday (216). A commitment to such prospects, together with a desire to write "the history of her milieu" makes Austen, in properly anachronistic fashion, de Certeau's type of historian.

The Historical Austen thus offers an example of the possibilities for a deconstructive historical criticism in the wake of and not totally free from the practice of new historicism. It is tempting, in fact, to follow Galperin's avowedly allegorical method and find new historicism filling the place realism filled for Austen, as a dominant system of representation whose demands he can neither deny nor embrace. For Galperin, these include the difficult task of finding historical warrant--material evidence--for a reading practice that stands in opposition to the protocols of realism and its empiricism.  He has two answers to this (unannounced) difficulty and delivers them in the chapters 1 and 2. First, he borrows the new historicist strategy of the anecdote or minor incident. He presents the shop-lifting trial of Jane Austen's Aunt Leigh-Perrot, replete with court records and published pamphlets, in order to adumbrate its silences. Taking his cue from Austen's letters, which refer to her aunt but offer no commentary on the crime, and acknowledging the evidence which proves Leigh-Perrot's guilt even as he cites the reasons she was acquitted, Galperin models an impossible history, whose yield (a favorite word) cannot be fixed or determined. It stands outside the histories we have inherited, which collapse women's destiny, domesticity and propriety into a single story. The impenetrable silences of this particular incident signal for Galperin the same "metairony" that permeates Austen's narratives, "through which story becomes history in its incomprehensibility, ordinariness, and promise" (31; emphasis in original).

A second strategy involves culling the responses of Austen's first readers. Beginning with the aesthetic regimes of the picturesque, which taught Austen's generation to contain or normalize their view of nature and the real, Galperin compares its demands with the reading practices of Austen's earliest audience. Yes, Austen's novels were hailed as a "new" form of the novel and recruited to the purposes of a regulatory realism; her marriage plots sat comfortably within picturesque but limited prospects. But against this reading, so familiar to students of Austen, Galperin finds contemporaries following other paths, interested at once in "charms" (76) unmoored from plot and in the startling way Austen's characters make unfamiliar the familiar. A powerful test for this division of reading practices was Emma's Miss Bates: defying all norms of narrative and epistemological propriety, her "dilations" were painful to realists (Scott and Edgeworth, for instance) but wonderful to others, who understood them to be the source of Austen's distinctive power. Here Galperin uses the evidence of reader response to brush against the accepted history of realism and Austen's assumed role in it. More provocatively, a reading practice which he locates in snippets of letters, diaries and reviews in the early part of the nineteenth century gives warrant for Galperin's own critical practice, trained as it is on the uncanny charms of narrative detail and the possibilities posed by minor characters. Deconstruction and Romantic readers apparently agree in their embrace of a real that exceeds realism, and of possibilities that escape the plot of probabilistic history. In many ways, these are the most impressive and satisfying of Galperin's chapters, as they chart a new course for the history of the novel and the history of reading Austen.

When he turns to readings of the novels themselves, in chapters 4-8, Galperin succeeds emphatically in de-familiarizing Austen, if not Romanticism. And he does so through readings which lean--maybe strain--in the direction of the improbable. A brief list will not do justice to the subtlety and resourcefulness of these readings but ought to register their shock value.  In Sense and Sensibility, we are invited to charge Colonel Brandon as the manipulative "troublemaker" (19) and tattle-tale whose actions direct the narrative toward closure. Who else could have told Willoughby's relative of his dalliances? Who else could have told his fiancée of his attachment to Marianne? (Why shut down possible answers?) For Pride and Prejudice, we are asked to acknowledge Jane Bennett as the underwritten, alternative heroine. Forget Lydia: Jane's admission that "she does not know what she writes" (qtd. in Galperin 74) makes her the crucial figure of opposition in a narrative that otherwise epitomizes knowingness. She is the remainder and reminder of an earlier, less authority-driven narrative practice Galperin associates with the epistolary novel (her quotation above is from a letter she writes to her sister). The surprise in Emma leaps up from the never-noticed possibility of a prior association or "intimacy" between Mr. Knightley and Miss Bates (!). The history in the novel becomes, then, the resonance of that foreclosed option: why didn't Knightley, like Frank Churchill, marry a decent gentlewoman of his own age, but with no dowry? Galperin's intentionally perverse interpretation of Anne Elliott in Persuasion is more difficult. His reading ascribes great agency and "effectiveness" (222) to Anne in her abject position as spinster. Her oppositional force and "autonomy"--found in the way she babysits her nephews? in the way she must listen to others' petty complaints and silence her own? in the way she is bumped from one house to another, with no home of her own?--are sacrificed when she regains her "bloom" and becomes "something like Anne Elliott" (qtd. in Galperin 225), i.e., just another simulacrum of a Romantic heroine destined to be married. Here, more than elsewhere, the pressure of his reading runs athwart the palpable affective force of the novel, which, it seems to me, comprehends the impossibility of the romance it nevertheless allows.  It is a sign of the shifting grounds of the probable in literary criticism that the revelation that Catherine Morland, in Northanger Abbey, only has eyes for Eleanor, not Henry Tilney, hardly raises an eyebrow. Of course, Galperin has anticipated any objection to the implausibility of his readings. The point here is to undermine a probabilistic view of the real, to make room for a more capacious reality.

In each case Galperin elaborates these improbable options in order to put in relief the "incompetence" (6) of narrative authority in the novels. There are possibilities available in the novels, a welter of historical alternatives, which the narrator (and a host of prior critics) cannot or dare not pursue. This proves an enabling strategy for criticism and, in Austen's case, especially feminist criticism. It also offers real excitement to the reader of Austen--a more sophisticated and perhaps more earnest version of the endless sequels and prequels posted on Janeite websites. Galperin's approach also unfolds a sophisticated awareness of temporality in the novels, twining between narrative, history and affect. The Historical Austen is at its most searching and poignant when, in Mansfield Park and Emma, both novelist and critic confront the negativity of their aspirations. Mansfield Park, according to Galperin, is a dystopic revelation of the world about to be, a future Austen elaborates because she cannot avoid it. Less darkly, Emma organizes itself around nostalgia, which can be oppositional in its "anterior wish for a version of the future on which the present (or erstwhile future) has subsequently foreclosed" (206). Elsewhere this anterior wish gets located in the epistolary novel; here, in a lovely, intricate reading by Galperin, it resides in the call for a dance.

This approach has limits. One is the notable lack of limits: at what point do we stop finding alternatives to the story the narrator tells? Galperin tries to address this question in chapter 3, "Why Jane Austen Is Not Frances Burney," where Burney's fiction is made to bear the burden of capitulating to history or "the way things are."  For all their similarities to Austen's work, Burney's novels, it appears, do not yield to a dialectic or allegorical reading as actively as Austen's. Is this limit a function of Burney's writing or Galperin's reading?  Elsewhere, in the case of Mrs. Leigh-Perrot, we glimpse the promise of a history that renders all options, notes all silences--truly an impossible history. Galperin elects (how much choice does he have?) to tether his options within the realm of historical plausibility: in the end he cannot abandon a notion of Austen's historical "context" any more than she could abandon the protocols of the real.

More curiously, the strategy Galperin chooses in this study, especially in prying the novels away from narrative authority, has the effect of producing a truly daunting author-function. "Jane Austen" has an intellect that comprehends and transcends the inadequacy and partiality of a realist narrator.  Dwelling in the ether of metairony, she sees what is and was and could have been. She divines the future as well, not just in the "future shock" of post-Waterloo England, but also in her anticipation of critical reading practices two hundred years in the future. This intelligence is not merely the function of the text; Galperin is committed to the historical agency of one Jane Austen, born in 1775 and expired in 1817.

These limits help to limn Galperin's ambitions here, which are substantial and possibly unrealizable. In the compulsive ingenuity of its readings, its remarkable resources of knowledge, and, less pleasurably, the contortions of its prose, Galerpin's The Historical Austen registers on every page the work required to create a new reality, to write a new history. In this sense, it does depart from its object, Jane Austen, who continues to make it all look so easy. For all that, The Historical Austen stands as a signal work for current Romantic studies and for this historical moment. Consider Romanticism to be Austen's enterprise, a Romanticism which resists the assuagements and resignation of realism by calling, like Frank Churchill, for us to "do something" else. Consider it also to be Galperin's "anterior wish" and a way of reading to help us survive things as they are.

1. Quoted in Rebecca Mead, "The Marx Brother," The New Yorker, May 5, 2003: 40. (Back)
2. D. A. Miller, "Austen's Attitude," Yale Journal of Criticism 8.1 (Spring 1995): 1-5. (Back)

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Samuel Lyndon Gladden, Shelley's Textual Seductions: Plotting Utopia in the Erotic and Political Works

Samuel Lyndon Gladden, Shelley's Textual Seductions: Plotting Utopia in the Erotic and Political Works. Studies in Major Literary Authors Series.  New York: Routledge, 2002. xviii + 351pp. $90.00 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-415-93702-7).

Reviewed by
John Kandl
Walsh University

Samuel Lyndon Gladden's Shelley's Textual Seductions itself presents a seductively engaging study of the political implications of Shelley's major "erotic" works, including Oedipus Tyrannus, The Cenci, Julian and Maddalo, Epipsychidion, Laon and Cythna, and Prometheus Unbound. Throughout the book, Gladden demonstrates how Shelley's "processes of textual seduction model political strategies for displacing larger oppressive social structures" (xvi ). "Time and again," Gladden states, "Shelley stages the erotic as a device for renegotiating power and privilege, so that every context in which the erotic figures must be understood as a resolutely political one" (xvii). Acknowledging that the erotic has traditionally been associated with the apolitical and private, Gladden draws upon a "range of interpretive strategies" (xv) as well as an impressive range of critical authorities, to reveal the ways in which, for Shelley, the physical (or public, exterior world) and the psychological (or private, interior world) "dissolve into a radical contingency" (xvi). Shelley's dissolution of boundaries between the private and the public, which Gladden playfully and appropriately terms "ooziness," expresses at once the most definitive characteristic of the erotic while exploiting its subversive potential for exposing, and offering alternatives to, oppressive social relations. Gladden contends that Shelley, perhaps to avoid charges of treason, transposed "the language of radical politics into a discourse of eroticism," developing "a parallel language for the production of anti-hegemonic texts [which enabled him] to speak about political engagements even amidst seemingly apolitical retreats to pleasure, love, and aesthetics" (18).

Drawing upon Roland Barthes's The Pleasure of the Text, Gladden sees the erotic in Shelley's texts as "not clearly definable as a specific pleasure, or even a catalog of pleasures; instead, the erotic emerges as something of a rupture, or split, between culture and what we might think of as its 'other'" (14). Drawing upon Lynn Hunt's and others' studies of the politically subversive implications of French Revolution-era pornography, including the works of Sade, Gladden links Shelley to this tradition--emphasizing the ways in which Shelley seduces his readers by employing the "titillating potential of the erotic as a discourse of force; descriptions of love and pleasure are posed to sway readers by mediating the subjective experience of desire rather than by appealing objectively to reason and utility" (17; original emphasis). Gladden's emphases upon the erotic as negotiating a political rupture between dominant culture and its "others," as well as his emphasis upon the seductive power of erotic and pornographic representations of revolution, come together in an aptly chosen revolution-era engraving by A. Clement which represents erotically revolution as a female figure offering her breasts to the people of France. "The bare breasted woman," Gladden contends, "defies the public/private split by advertising the pleasures she promises, themselves both erotic and political" (24). Clement's engraving, moreover, "anticipates the image Shelley unveils throughout his erotic narratives--the revolutionary icon as the conflation of God and mother, of masculine and feminine, of public and private, of politics and the erotic" (24).

Adventurously, Gladden also sees this transgressively gendered dialectic as erotically embodied by Shelley's texts themselves: "Shelley's texts situate themselves as the feminine 'others' in opposition to the heteropatriarchal power-structures they reject" (15). With this contextualization, Gladden provides a useful insight into the political rationale informing the Tory press's feminization of the Cockney School (including Shelley and especially Keats and Leigh Hunt)--an issue the "Introduction" aptly develops in some detail by linking the response to the Cockney School to Southey's castigation of Shelley and Byron as members of the "Satanic School." Gladden concludes, "I find it particularly important to understand the place assigned to the Cockney School in the Blackwood's reviews because those attacks more broadly outline an ideological space congruent to the one Shelley and Byron are imagined to occupy in the literary and political climate of their day. Like the 'Cockney School' of Hunt and Keats, the 'Satanic School' of Shelley and Byron must be understood to operate in terms of textual strategies that infuse erotic narratives within revolutionary political agendas, and thus that pose a real threat to 'good' readers, a real germ of ideological infection, of textual taint" (33). And finally, for Shelley, this "ideological infection" takes the form of "a series of decidedly erotic narratives dedicated to the mapping of a liberated world, to the plotting of utopia" (34). Having fully set forth his central thesis, Gladden then divides the book into two parts: "The Problem" and "The Solution," admittedly broad categories designed to negotiate the ways "Shelley investigates the full range of potential embedded within representations of [erotic] relationships, acknowledging that the presence or absence of equality within any relationship determines whether that relationship tends toward liberation or oppression, as well as whether the relationship plots the liberation of the world or simply anatomizes the systems of oppression that mark Shelley's own historical moment" (xvii).

Part I ("The Problem") considers Oedipus Tyrannus; Or Swellfoot the Tyrant, The Cenci, and Julian and Maddalo as works which "examine erotic relationships that exemplify inequities in power, where one partner is privileged--and pleasured--at the psychic and, sometimes, the physical expense of others" (xvii). In Swellfoot, for example, "the tyrant's long absent wife, Iona Taurina, is rumored to have engaged in sexual exploits that become the subject not only of much gossip but also of enthusiastic support by the masses of swine, who for generations have been kept in poverty under English monarchial rule" (57). The allusion to Burke's "swinish multitude" places this relationship broadly against the background of British responses to the French revolution, but Gladden focuses upon a much more specific and contemporary issue--the Queen Caroline affair, directly paralleled and satirized in Shelley's play. Gladden summarizes the central issues: "Tyrant Swellfoot attempts to quell public support for the return of Queen Iona to her rightful seat of power--a close parallel to the real-life George IV's desperate attempts to bar his wife, Caroline of Brunswick, from her spousal privilege incumbent upon his accession to the throne" (52). While such parallels have been noted before (as Gladden acknowledges), it is Shelley's attunement to the politicized-erotic nature of this public scandal that Gladden sees as central to Shelley's satire. Particularly notable is Gladden's attention to the infamous "Green Bag" (which contained "evidence" against Caroline) and Shelley's eroticized employment of the image in his play. In a such close readings of Shelley's language, while linking the play to textual contexts such as Sophocles's Oedipus Rex, Hunt's Descent of Liberty, and Shelley's own "Ode to Liberty," Gladden deftly locates and highlights the intersections of the erotic and the political throughout the play--revealing ways "Shelley demonstrates how language, the body, and sexual transgression affect change at the level of politics, and, consequently, in individual lives--whether for good or bad, whether in the interest of oppression or of liberation" (109).

Similarly, Gladden's treatments of The Cenci and Julian and Maddalo focus largely upon the eroticism of oppression, but these works, in different ways, also involve Shelley's plotting of erotic utopias designed to seduce readers into considering an alternative social vision, even though in Shelley's texts the vision may ultimately fail. In The Cenci, set within the always erotically charged environment of the family, for example, Beatrice articulates a "model feminine community," which fails to save her from execution but "may prove [a model] that Shelley's readers will embrace"(146). In Julian and Maddalo, Gladden sees "in Julian's description of the Maniac the image of the Romantic Poet par excellence, who [like the Alastor poet] falls in love with his own vision, rejecting the outer world for the inwardness of narcissistic pleasure" (155). Like Beatrice, however, the Maniac "complicate[s] the subject/object split according to which power relationships are traditionally defined," and in both The Cenci and Julian and Maddalo "Shelley explores the dismantling of oppressive orders by posing erotic relationships as paradigms for alternative social models" (159).

This process is promoted more fully and convincingly in the visionary utopias Shelley develops in Epipsychidion, Laon and Cythna, and Prometheus Unbound, the works which Gladden examines in Part II ("The Solution"). "In these poems," Gladden explains, "three erotic relationships emerge as paradigms for a new social order" (xvii). Gladden considers these relationships "in terms of feminist theory, Lacanian psychoanalysis, spatial theory, and ecocriticism" arguing that "in these poems Shelley envisions what I describe as the erotic cartography of a liberated world, a figurative map that charts personal relationships and political orders according to the contours of individual love-unions, which the poet sharply contrasts to the inflexibility of oppressive relationships and social structures" (xvii-xviii). Part II is thus dedicated to demonstrating "the textual processes that allow Shelley to subvert the unbending order of tyrannical regimes to peer beyond what [Gladden calls] the 'vanishing points' of patriarchy and to imagine a space over the horizon where rigidity dissolves into permeability as oppression succumbs to ecstatic union" (xviii). Reading Epipsychidion through Lacanian psychoanalytic theory and employing the feminist concept of jouissance, Gladden posits "Emily" (Teresa Viviani) as signifying Shelley's unattainable ideal (Lacan's objet a) complicated by Shelley's model of free love and his symbolic introduction into the poem of two other lovers (pointing autobiographically to Mary Shelley and Claire Clairmont), and proposes that the true object of desire for the speaker of the poem is "a complete escape from the Symbolic order and a return to the Imaginary"(187). While the Imaginary--Shelley's erotic utopia--is never realized, it is glimpsed in a transcendent moment of jouissance. Gladden (like Shelley himself) is loath to jettison entirely the viability of Shelley's erotic ideal. Focusing upon Shelley's attention to the limits of his own poetic language--itself enmeshed in a patriarchal symbolic order--Gladden proposes that the poem "finally demonstrates the inability of language to provide access to the place Shelley has experienced and thus underscores the insufficiency of language to the project of liberation, rather than the impossibility of the ideal" (194). Some may question whether this rationale places too great a thematic burden upon Shelley's linguistic frustration, but nonetheless it seems that Shelley's pragmatic purpose is certainly not to posit an unproblematic ideal, but rather, by simultaneously presenting and deconstructing the ideal, to provide a kind of negative dialectic--pointing to the Lacanian Imaginary as a free space apart from the symbolic order--a space from which to critique and reconsider the confines of oppressive and restrictive moral codes. Here, then, the erotic emerges as a revolutionary force, true to Gladden's definitions, as both a rupture and an "oozy" dissolution of boundaries between symbolic orders and the pre-symbolic Imaginary. Gladden concludes with a pronounced emphasis on the revolutionary: "In the end Epipsychidion succeeds in justifying--commanding, even--love's break from the confines imposed upon it by the Symbolic Order and its inflexible 'code of modern morals'" (214).

This engaging chapter on Epipsychidion is followed by equally thorough and complex readings of Laon and Cythna and Prometheus Unbound, elucidating ways these poems, too, present revolutionary erotic utopias located in "the void of a space that is both before and after, at the beginning and end of a historical record" (272). Gladden makes a strong and useful case for the erotic power of Laon and Cythna over Shelley's revision (The Revolt of Islam) in which Shelley acquiesced to his publisher's request to edit out the incest emphases: "In the original work, the pair's subversive eroticism elevated the twins to emblematic status, first by differentiating them from their culture at large (and thereby situating them in the figural space of the outlaw, or other) and then by recuperating them as renegade leaders whose shared psychic wholeness embraces the political landscape, (s)mothering it with a love whose seamlessness and self-sacrifice anticipate the model of the feminine community Beatrice envisions at the conclusion of The Cenci" (229). While noting the remarkable similarities between Laon and Cythna and Prometheus Unbound, however, Gladden stresses an important difference: "By locating the space of liberty in the real world, Prometheus Unbound offers an alternative to the problematic utopias we have seen in Epipsychidion and Laon and Cythna, and the poem suggests that any reader may access this space through a mere shift in perspective, a new way of thinking about the world" (269). Moreover, the reader is seduced into this "new way of thinking" by Shelley's erotically charged language, fusing the erotic and political liberty: "In short, the orgasmic cataclysm of man's protracted release from tyranny registers in this world and beyond to reconstruct the entire universe in the image of Shelley's agenda of peace and love, and the erotic cartography of the redeemed world of Prometheus Unbound echoes the oozy pleasures of the lovers' ceaseless reciprocity. In plotting utopia, Shelley co-aligns erotic and political engagement, whose effects interpenetrate the natural world" (271).

One of the critical bonuses of this book is the ecological potential for much of its exegesis of the political and erotic to yield, via Shelley, a "new way of thinking" precisely about the ways we have historically imagined the natural world. Gladden uses eco-criticism as one of his focal points, but this emphasis is somewhat sporadic and limited--mainly framed within some useful references to Martin Warnke's Political Landscape: The Art History of Nature. This is less a failing of the book, however, than it is an indication of the richness of its potential to inspire future studies, framed within Gladden's timely and convincing treatment of the ways in which Romantic literature intertwines and dissolves the oozy boundaries between the private and public, the erotic and political, the social and the natural. The book concludes by pointing to Shelley's influence upon later poets, including the Pre-Raphaelites and the Aesthetes, pointing again to potential further studies, and illustrating the richness and usefulness of Gladden's thesis. For this, and for Gladden's erudite and thoroughly detailed close-readings of Shelley's works, this book is highly recommended to anyone engaged in charting the connections between the erotic and political, or the private and the public, particularly within the historical contexts of English Romanticism.

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Dustin Griffin, Patriotism and Poetry in Eighteenth-Century Britain & David Morse, The Age of Virtue: British Culture from the Restoration to Romanticism

Dustin Griffin, Patriotism and Poetry in Eighteenth-Century Britain. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. x + 316pp.  Illus.: 7 halftones.  $60.00 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-521-81118-X).
David Morse, The Age of Virtue: British Culture from the Restoration to Romanticism. New York: Palgrave, 2000.  viii + 330pp.  $69.95 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-312-22353-6).

Reviewed by
George Justice
University of Missouri-Columbia

Both of these books take seriously affective identifications that are commonly depreciated as "ideology" in much recent critical study. Dustin Griffin's Patriotism and Poetry in Eighteenth-Century Britain examines well-known poets during the century in the context of various understandings of "patriotism"; David Morse's The Age of Virtue surveys a broad swath of writing during the century in relation to "virtue." A strength of both books is the flexibility with which they address their topics. Patriotism and virtue emerge from these studies as crucial ways through which writers understood themselves and their culture. The authors' takes on their subjects result in refreshing works of scholarship (in the case of Griffin's book) and criticism (in the case of Morse's sometimes maddening book). Some readers may rush through the pages of these books looking for a central argument, but the absence of artificially unifying theses emerges, finally, as a strength rather than a weakness.

Griffin's book contains impeccable scholarship that draws readers' attention back to the merits of the poets under primary discussion: Thomson, Akenside, Collins, Gray, Dyer, Goldsmith, Smart, Cowper, and Yearsley. Griffin situates his study in the context of post-9/11 America, but his poets' engagement with their nation and its times is far more subtle than the packaged and produced patriotism that has turned tragedy into a marketing opportunity in the past two years. There is, Griffin argues, no single "patriotism" to which his poets adhere. Instead, the poets of the period engage an extended range of events and public characters in their love and concern for their country. Thus, John Dyer's triumphant celebration of the British wool trade in The Fleece is not necessarily any more "patriotic," in the historical terms that Griffin recovers, than Oliver Goldsmith's nostalgic lament for the lost countryside in The Deserted Village. Following the ambivalence of Pope's relationship with his country--which Griffin discusses in his first couple of chapters--the poets of the eighteenth century respond to the great national events of war, politics, and the economy with a mixture of criticism and celebration.

Griffin's book is thoroughly researched. Much of the argumentation is focused on long-standing debates within the scholarship on the particular poets the study addresses. The broader analysis follows, perhaps too closely, Linda Colley's magisterial study, Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707-1837 (Yale Univ. Press, 1992). Griffin takes from Colley a central interest in the "forging" of a new British nation in the century through means of communication, including poetry. Patriotic poetry about the new nation, Griffin suggests, replaces the older form of the epic. The book is interesting throughout, but I particularly enjoyed the chapters on Dyer, Goldsmith, Cowper and Smart, and Yearsley (the latter also including a broad analysis of female poets throughout the century, from Lady Mary Wortley Montagu to Anna Barbauld). More on the women poets would have been welcome, but the book is long already. Griffin's book is a useful corrective to studies, often of a single author, that make broad claims about the relationship between poetry and the state in the early modern era. Readers interested in these large issues and more specialized readers interested in particular figures will alike find Patriotism and Poetry a worthwhile read. These poets--often celebrated for a "preromantic" turn inward--not only addressed matters of national import, but they also tried to forge for themselves, and for poetry generally, a new public role as critic, celebrant, and prophet.

Both Griffin and David Morse see John Brown's Estimate of the Manners and Principles of the Times (1757) as a central work for their purposes. Brown's dark vision of mid-century Britain serves for Morse's many authors as a spur to a continued defense of "virtue" against the onslaught of material history and its attendant philosophies, most particularly Mandeville's Fable of the Bees (1714). Whereas Griffin's broad understanding of patriotism in the period proves to be an effectively loose organizing structure for his analysis of poetry's public role, Morse's similarly broad understanding of virtue ends up detracting from the value of his study. Morse begins by saying that virtue in the period is nearly indefinable. Although he alludes at many points to the period's classical associations, reference to philosophical texts is minimal. More problematically, Morse's text seems to assume that there is a coherent notion of virtue that underlies both his authors' perceptions and his own critical analysis.

Like Griffin, Morse wants a flexible definition for his thematic subject. Unlike Griffin, however, Morse is unable to focus his thoughts into a unified argument beyond locating a "discourse of virtue" throughout eighteenth-century literature. Morse organizes his book thematically. Virtue is located on the outside for most of the century: in political opposition ("Virtue Excluded"), class and gender ("Virtue from Below"), the countryside and geographical periphery ("Provincial Virtue"), and innovative literary form ("The Romantics and Virtue"). Morse complicates things by breaking down the oppositions that structure his chapters, but the broad framework allows him ample space to expatiate, usually in five- to ten-page chunks, upon authors and their works. Morse's book is encyclopedic: he tries to cover nearly every major author and work in the century. This range is as often a weakness as a strength. The book reads like a series of lecture notes for a year-long survey of eighteenth-century literature strung together with connecting passages. Morse is a lively writer with much of interest to say about the books he discusses, but the lack of engagement with contemporary scholarship will diminish the book's usefulness to professionals: there is no mention of Michael McKeon's analysis of "questions of virtue" in the century, perhaps because Morse dismisses J. G. A. Pocock's influential argument on civic virtue in two brief paragraphs concerning Cato's Letters. Similarly, the breezily confident analysis of the literature made by Morse overrules the subtlety of the responses to virtue that the book's thesis describes.

The Age of Virtue will perhaps be most useful to graduate students preparing for exams and wishing for a refresher course in the period and a hook to organize their thoughts. Those graduate students should be warned, though, not to emulate the terrible job of proofreading done either by the author and/or Macmillan/St. Martin's. There are misspellings, incomplete sentences, run-on sentences, and other mistakes on practically every page. The author apparently does not know how to use commas. Morse is a lively thinker, but the lack of a strong structure, minimal engagement with other scholars, and the poor presentation make this book seem like a rough draft or outline rather than a book published by a reputable press.

It is good to see scholars interested in recovering what crucial terms like patriotism and virtue meant to writers in the time they were writing. Dustin Griffin's Patriotism and Poetry is an important recuperation of the public role that many eighteenth-century poets aspired to, and the close readings made in conjunction with historical scholarship will make this an important work for readers interested in eighteenth-century poetry. It is too bad that Griffin's book appeared after David Morse's: Morse might have used Patriotism and Poetry as a model for the careful attention to detail that his The Age of Virtue unfortunately lacks.

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Susan Manning, Fragments of Union: Making Connections in Scottish and American Writing

Susan Manning, Fragments of Union: Making Connections in Scottish and American Writing. New York: Palgrave, 2002.  vii + 249 pp. Illus.: 7 halftones.  £55.00/$69.95 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-333-76025-5).

Reviewed by
Janet Sorensen
Indiana University, Bloomington

Scotland, once relegated to the margins of studies in Romanticism, has reemerged in recent scholarship as a geographical and intellectual site that at once anticipated key Romantic topoi and provided the conceptual basis of much Romantic cultural theory. Susan Manning's contribution to these studies is the most theoretically sophisticated and wide-ranging to date, moving fluidly between cultural politics, post-structuralist and psychoanalytic methodologies and traversing Scottish and American texts produced between the 1707 Act of Union and the American Civil War. At all points hesitant to identify causal relationships between specific political and cultural circumstances and the philosophical thought she outlines, Manning nonetheless makes a convincing argument regarding the significance of the post-Culloden Scottish intellectual milieu to subsequent Romantic motifs of fragmentation, of structural dismemberment, of incomplete memory, of unregistered mourning, and to the unstable narratives of union designed to acknowledge and sometimes overcome these threats to personal and national identity. In her discussion of the Scottish and North American literary negotiations of such fraught narratives, Manning profoundly complicates the very notion of national Romantic traditions. Temporally, she reveals links between Scottish Enlightenment and Romantic thought, particularly through her focus on David Hume and the Common Sense philosophers, such as Thomas Reid, who sought to discredit Hume but unwittingly propelled his views into the future. Spatially, she demonstrates the intricate connections between Scottish and North American writing as she describes how that most American "structure of thinking," e pluribus unum, is "characteristic of the writing of the Scottish Enlightenment" (2).

As Manning notes, she is not the first to call attention to the close ties between Scottish and North American thought, nor is she the first to track the centrality of motifs of fragmentation in Romanticism as well as in an expanded understanding of Enlightenment thought. She is, however, the first to put the two together, thinking through the implications of the troubled Scots/English union and the American War of Independence and the ever-present possibility of state secession for rhetorics of identity, fragmentation, and union. Manning invites us, for instance, to consider Hume's narrative of human understanding, in which seeming union is in fact an association of fragments of meaning, as Hume put it in his Treatise--"what we call a mind, is nothing but a heap or collection of different perceptions" (cited 37)--in relation to Queen Anne's instruction to the Marquis of Queensberry to block any move in Scottish Parliament toward a federal union. As debates raged, in both Britain and the colonies, between two models of union, aggregative and federal or hierarchical and incorporative, Hume's assertion of union as association, as an imaginary principle, a fiction, might be said to resist that latter model of union.

When Manning poses these two models of union in grammatical terms, she refers to the federal as structured by an hypotactic syntax and to the incorporative model as a paratactic syntax. These two terms inform her analysis of the multi-layered meanings of "and" or, more concretely, of intricate and multi-faceted narratives of union, throughout the book. Manning's work is particularly distinguished in its emphasis on language, grammar and rhetoric as she tracks the tensions between fragmentation and union in language and narrative structure of analogous Scottish and American texts. The emphasis on grammatical structure allows her to pursue her interest in "'transitive structures' which propagate and translate themselves as ways of thinking and formulating ideas in a more diffuse but also a more precise way than consciously held political beliefs" (9). Thus, Hume, who was "clearly pro-Union" (34), might also register resistance to an incorporative model of union--and underscore the fictionality of all unions--in his grammar of mind. Manning's focus on syntax and grammar is further validated by the peculiar self-consciousness Americans and Scots, including Hume, had about language; speakers and writers from England's "peripheries" suffered from acute anxieties regarding the "naturalness" of their use of English.

While her observation that "debates about political [and, as she argues elsewhere, personal] identity cannot be separated from questions of syntax and semantics" (10) has affinities with twentieth-century post-structuralist thought, then, that link also reflects specific historical situations, not least of which was an eighteenth-century insistence on the connection between structures of language and mind. Manning's use of language and grammatical structure as a way into her analysis of Scottish and American texts becomes a means of both situating the concepts under study within a specific historical context and broadening the discussion to more abstract terms of the promise and limitations of language and narrative. Chapters on personal, spatial, historical, and national linguistic narratives of identity elegantly include both transhistorical and historically specific approaches grounded in the writings and contexts of Scottish Enlightenment thinkers. A chapter on narratives of personal identity considers both the project of subject formation in the face of parental authority and the specifics of James Boswell's and Benjamin Franklin's different social historical contexts and respective strategies of composing themselves in distinct journal styles. Another chapter on creating identity through mapping space tracks the general project of "defining the known against the unknown, the industrious against the indolent," but the chapter also takes up peripheral writers'--be they Scots like James Thompson or American colonialists like William Byrd--concerns regarding the danger of self-dissolving incorporation by a more powerful society. One especially original aspect of this discussion is the focus on Holland and particularly its depiction in Scott's fiction as an example of industriousness without an accompanying "insatiable greed" to incorporate ever greater masses of land and peoples.

Narratives of union, even of the most triumphalist incorporations, however, always harbor the danger of the very impossibility of union, often "betrayed by grammar and syntax that focus attention on the nature of the spaces or interludes that frustrate the impulse to union" (13). In what is likely the richest chapter for students of Romanticism, Manning turns to "savaged texts," such as Macpherson's Poems of Ossian, a text of silences, fragments, and "syntactic disruptions" (149). In considering the enterprise of composing an historical national identity, Manning points out the challenge--and necessity--of translating fragments of the past into a unified national history and across cultural divides. Yet the "ruinous form" (149) if the Poems of Ossian, with its gaps and emptiness, underscores the unfeasibility of constructing a continuous narrative of national history, exposing the fiction of its many contemporary unionist historiographies in post-Culloden Scotland, including Hume's own History of England.

In her complex discussion of memory and identity in this chapter, Manning explores the figure of "ghosting" evident in Macpherson's texts and in those of compatriots such as Henry Mackenzie. In Scottish Enlightenment writing, she argues, ghosting represented the ways in which "[b]oth cultural and personal identity were projected in terms of similar processes of imagining ('raising up') the fragments of the past into wholeness" (166); Hume's narrative of consciousness again comes into play here. Manning sees the prevalence of the ghost as unsurprising in a mid-century Scotland that was at once obsessed with its past and invested in removing all traces of itself, particularly from the language writers used, for ghosts act as interpreters, connecting the present with the past with a communication that is always disjointed and often failed. Further, in Hume's version of consciousness, identity is produced through memory, and yet the act of unburial that is remembering also endangers the object of memory, bringing it back to the realm of the mutable, much as the exhumation of Pompeii was also, in some senses, its destruction. Think, here, of the corpse of Hogg's Confessions of a Justified Sinner, or more literally of the transformations in folk song culture when translated into print. Objects of sympathy and sentiment--all important to a Scottish Enlightenment worldview--and representations of ghosts and other fragments of the past turn on corrupting translations across space and time.

Not least of the losses in such translations is the historical specificity of a particular language, and it is through the invented notion of the analogous power and eloquence of the languages of Highlanders and savage American tribes that Manning examines the connection of the Ossian poems to Jefferson's Declaration of Independence and Notes on the State of Virginia. Jefferson, too, needed to create a community of feeling out of disparate groups, and "his solution was to adopt the discursive tactics of Scottish Enlightenment affective aesthetics: the evocation of sympathetic identity through inexpressible feeling, fragmentation, natural development savaged by violated emotions" (191), available, as he saw it, in the eloquent language of Scottish Highlanders and Native Americans. Yet where Macpherson linked sympathetic identity to the cultural representatives of a fading and soon-to-be forever lost national past, Jefferson submerged the Native Americans' loss in the "proclamation of possibility" of a newly formed nation.

If images of memory, fragmentation, and loss, of spectrality and imagination, bring us close to key motifs of British Romanticism--and Manning argues that "these structurally fragmenting registers of translation in Post-Culloden Scottish and early national American writing pre-formulate some of the major concerns of Romantic cultural theory" (182)--they also offer significant and, in the end, longer-lived alternatives to the formulations of major figures like Wordsworth and Coleridge. While Wordsworth hated the non-local character of Ossian's landscape, for instance, it was that very lack of specificity that "allowed readers to bring a broad range of loss-related emotions" (186) to it and facilitated Jefferson's deployment of its structures of feeling in his own writing, making, oddly, for a transnational object and form of writing. And while the broken forms of Scottish and American writings resemble those of Wordsworth and Coleridge, Hume and those influenced by him refused the resolving organicism of Coleridge. Scottish Enlightenment writers and the Americans influenced by them in the universities populated by Scots educators re-socialized, instead, dangerous fragmentation. Sympathy became the crucial term of an open-ended series.

If the question of fragmentation was posed sooner and with more urgency in Scotland than it would be in England (by the War of Independence or the French Revolution), narratives of union would have had a greater exigency in Scotland as well. And "the preoccupation with union and fragmentation" (58) persisted in Scottish and American literature much longer than it did in English literature. Final chapters on the surprising silences in Walt Whitman's seemingly all-inclusive lists and on Emily Dickinson's compelling dramatization of gaps in meaning and the meaning of gaps foresee the continuing attention to questions of fragmentation and union in modernist aesthetics. In this ground-breaking and authoritative book, Manning shows how, when told through the perspective of Scottish and American writing, the story of the dialectical tension between union and fragmentation might be more continuous and more broadly connected than previously imagined.

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Jerome J. McGann, Radiant Textuality: Literature after the World Wide Web

Jerome J. McGann, Radiant Textuality: Literature after the World Wide Web. New York: Palgrave, 2001. xv + 272pp.  $39.95 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-312-29352-6).  $19.95 (Ppbk; ISBN: 1-4039-6436-X, 2004).

Reviewed by
Ron Broglio
Georgia Institute of Technology

Jerome McGann's introduction "Beginning Again: Humanities and Digital Culture, 1993-2000" gives us a glimpse at how far computing in the humanities has come in less than a decade, and it signals possible directions for the future. McGann situates humanities computing at a critical moment:

[W]e stand on the edge of a period that will see the complete editorial transformation of our inherited cultural archive. That event is neither a possibility nor a likelihood; it is a certainty. As it emerges around us, it exposes our need for critical tools of the same material and formal order that can execute our other permanent scholarly function: to imagine what we don't know in a disciplined and deliberate fashion. (18)

The way scholars work with new media has changed drastically over the years. As a collection of McGann's essays during the 1990s, Radiant Textuality bears witness to these changes--from digital editing in the mid-1990s, to pondering the ontology of the text in the late-1990s, and then to critical gaming in the new millennium. As the collection proceeds, chapter by chapter we see McGann's concerns shift, themes emerge, and new possibilities arise alongside the developments in digital technology. Unifying the diverse experiments in Radiant Textuality is McGann's persistence in finding ways that new media can improve the exploration and interpretation of aesthetic works.

In his chapter on textual deformation as interpretation, McGann suggests we try unconventional reading methods to release the possibilities within the text. Taking his advice, I will suggest readers first look at his final chapter, "Conclusion: Beginning Again and Again: The Ivanhoe Game." Adopting dialogue and gaming as formal methods for textual inquiry, The Ivanhoe Game stands as a culmination of McGann's experiments in new media. The chapter opens with a look at Mallarmé's Un coup de Dés. For Mallarmé the book works like a machine for producing the very orders that bring it into existence typographically, musically, and poetically. The book is not simply a carrier of information but rather itself a thought machine that produces worlds and readers both real and imaginary. Mallarmé's experiment provides an-other horizon for the book and for new media humanities. Using the poet's work as a model, McGann approaches the problem: "How can we exploit digital tools to augment critical reflection both on and within bookspace?" (214). His response is The Ivanhoe Game. In the game mode, "action does not take place outside but inside the object of attention" (218). This mode enacts McGann's idea of a quantum poetic: since neither the reading subject nor the textual object provides a stable ground for interpretation, each shifts in relation to the other so that there is no "outside" space, no Archimedean point from which to leverage an objective reading. In response to the problem of grounding meaning, gaming allows the readers to work from within the literary texts and produce their own textual commentary which becomes part of the playing field alongside the literary object.

In The Ivanhoe Game, readers become players who take on roles and particular styles of reading. Each player uses the literary text and commentaries on it as moves in the game in response to the opportunities and problems raised by the text-moves produced by other players. Players interact with one another through the moves they make and dialogue about these moves and even about themselves as role-players. The software McGann has sketched out uses a variety of venues--including primary texts in digital format, posting forums for moves, email discussion, and live MOO chats--that promote different discourses and hermeneutics. While most scholarly inquiries follow an essay format with its singular and unified argument from a point of view outside of the object of study, the gaming genre can work from within the text itself and adopt several perspectives (even contradictory views) in a polyphonic orchestration of interpretations. The game is not about winning but about what is learned in the performance of reading: "Its central object is to make explicit the assumptions about critical practice and textual interpretation that often lie unacknowledged, or at least irregularly explored, in a conventional approach to interpretational practice. . . . 'The Ivanhoe Game' is not a video game to be bested but a difference engine for stimulating self-reflection through interactive role-playing" (218-19, 222).

The playfulness found in gaming and interpretation begins as early as the first chapter. "The Alice Fallacy; or Only God can make a Tree" is a philosophical drama pondering the role of the reader in determining the meaning of a text, or as Lewis Carroll's Alice ponders: "whether you can make words mean so many different things" (38). The dialogue format, multiple characters with different agendas, and the wistful conversation look forward to strategies in The Ivanhoe Game where readers are the characters creating their own drama as they read texts.

Chapter 2, "The Rationale for Hypertext," extends McGann's argument about the use of the digital medium as a machine for thinking. McGann argues for hypertext editions of a book over paper editions of a book. As the number of online editions grows and their use becomes commonplace, the importance of this chapter shifts from simply arguing for digital editions to making clear once again what it is readers do when working with an online edition. The digital tools provide a new reflexive heuristic for editing and reading. The problem with book editions is that "they deploy a book form to study another book form. This symmetry between tool and its subject forces the scholar to invent analytic mechanisms that must be displayed and engaged at the primary reading level--for example, apparatus structures, descriptive bibliographies, calculi of variants, shorthand reference forms, and so forth" (56). Hypertext editions provide "nested series of operational possibilities" (58) for both editors and readers, manifesting how different editions serve the purposes of different scholars. Readers no longer find order; rather, they make it. McGann illustrates the new operational possibilities through several editing examples: Burns's "Tam Glen," McGann's New Oxford Book of Romantic Period Verse, Emily Dickinson's corpus, Landon's picture-poems, and Wordsworth's multiple versions of The Prelude. He concludes that "Precisely because an electronic edition is not itself a book, it is able to establish itself in a theoretical position that supervenes the (textual and bookish) material it wishes to study" (68).

The rationale for hypertext editions, as well as for readers as performers (actors and agents) of meaning, continues in "Visible and Invisible Books in N-Dimensional Space." The focus here is on how web archives of literature can better meet the needs of scholars than a page-based edition of a literary work. When marking a text for digital archiving, e.g., in SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language), an archivist must decide what parts of the literary work should be tagged and how the parts function in relation to one another. Secondly, an archivist must decide how to represent the literary work. In what McGann calls "conscious deformation," editors manipulate the perceptual field to generate dominant conceptual patterns for reading and understanding the text. A digital archive allows for greater storage and means of serving data. Consequently, in digital archives, the meaning of the textual object can be de/reformed "on the fly." In selecting particular textual features from the archive, readers create a version of the text and at the same moment are performing a reading through their choices. McGann points out that an informational text seeks to minimize attention to its perceptual features. However, as his readings of several poems show, it is the interplay between percept and concept--between visible and invisible--that makes for aesthetic meaning. While we can order fields of information hierarchically--semantic, syntactic, and rhetorical features--it is a topological interplay among fields that carries richly textured meaning. Using hypertext markup and databases, the reader can run through topological fields of meaning without being bound by the dictates of a particular perceptual or conceptual feature. Texts may then reach toward an N-dimensional space. It is worth noting that in The Ivanhoe Game, the topological fields and N-dimensional space become the playing fields for critical gaming.

Editing and reading as a play among fields is evident in Radiant Textuality's central chapter "Deformation and Interpretation." McGann explains that "criticism (scholarship as well as interpretation) tends to imagine itself as an informative rather than a deformative activity" (114) by favoring exposition to deformation. Yet as he shows throughout the book, every edition and translation is a performative deformation. Such performances disorder the organization of the text and our common sense methods of reading. A release from common sense highlights the methods normally held in common and interpretive possibilities overlooked by customary heuristic rules. McGann then gives examples of reading through several deformations: reordering, isolating, altering, and adding. Performative deformation is extended in the chapter "Rethinking Textuality." In this chapter interpretation as textual transformation gets enhanced by storing readers' transformational "moves" in computer programs. The programs could then scan various texts using the stored computational-interpretive operations. Such experiments run throughout the book and show how McGann uses performance as an interpretive strategy to supplement scholarly delineation.

Radiant Textuality shows McGann building important theoretical arguments for pursuing digital humanities. Since the early 1990s, he has been a central voice in digital editing and experimentation. My one regret is that many other voices of the computing in the humanities community do not make an appearance in his book. McGann's experiments in digital textual deformation build on methods of interpretation advocated by digital guru Greg Ulmer in Teletheory, Applied Grammatology and Internet Invention. Over the last decade, Ulmer and many from the loosely grouped Florida School of criticism have adopted experimental methods for reading literature through the construction of new media objects. Textual deformation leads to questions about the ontology of the text which Katherine Hayles has vigorously pursued. Likewise, Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin's popular Remediation certainly has relevance in any discussion about the translation between book and digital media. McGann's examinations of online textual editions include his own sophisticated Rossetti Archive but omit the formidable The Blake Archive and important editors such as George Bornstein and Peter Shillingsburg. Finally, his advancement of critical gaming overlooks many gaming communities as well as performative interpretations constructed over the last five years in Romantic Circles' MOO space. Attending to suchs omissions reveals the rich polyphonic discourse amid which McGann's voice rings clearly.

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