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Adriana Craciun, Fatal Women of Romanticism

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Adriana Craciun, Fatal Women of Romanticism. Cambridge Studies in Romanticism, no. 54. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. xviii + 328 pp.  Price. (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-521-81668-8).

Reviewed by
Kathryn Pratt
Auburn University

Feminist inquiry in Romantic studies achieves new sophistication with the publication of books such as Adriana Craciun's study, which addresses the need for scholarship on sexuality in order to supplement the vast range of works on gender that have already enriched the field.  After the early emphasis on male writers' representations of women and, in recent decades, the recovery of popular and respected women writers who had been written out of the Romantic canon, critical attention necessarily turns to the historicizing of Romantic feminism.  In other words, recent developments in feminist theory demand a self-conscious critique of feminist ideology: how do feminist notions of gender and sexual difference reify the women they purportedly seek to liberate?  Examining how representations of the body disrupt normative notions of sexual difference at the very moment of their cultural enshrinement in the early nineteenth century, Fatal Women of Romanticism offers a compelling and timely argument for the importance of women's literature to an understanding of the cultural history of the Romantic Period in Britain.

Craciun addresses the paucity of feminist criticism on issues of sexuality in nineteenth-century Britain, rightly noting that the emphasis on the construction of Romantic gender roles has resulted in a naturalization of sexual difference.  Although she follows Judith Butler in making this claim, Craciun enriches her observation by attending to the history of this naturalization in the late eighteenth century itself: during this time, the complementary two-sex model replaced the longstanding scientific prejudice that women were simply inferior versions of men (the one-sex model).  Yet the ways in which women writers refused or rewrote the two-sex model, specifically through their representations of the femme fatale, demonstrate how the effects of sexual discourse transgressed the sexual and gender boundaries that scientific and cultural hegemony attempted to uphold.  At once hypersexual and hyperviolent, the "fatal woman" figure subverts the two-sex ideology that represents the female sex as naturally benevolent and passive in comparison with the active, violent male.

Fatal Women is impressive because its rigorous methodology combines the best of new historicist analysis with a cutting-edge cultural-studies sensibility.  By focusing on the significance of literary works, Craciun avoids the problems of broad cultural analysis that cannot hope to address differences in textual form and ideologies of production.  In her use of cultural materials as context and evidence, however, she attends to the political concerns that continue to motivate feminist theory and praxis.  By historicizing Butlerian notions of sexual difference within the context of British Romanticism, Craciun contributes to both ongoing feminist and Romanticist conversations.

Craciun introduces her book by noting the convergence of the Romantic femme fatale and contemporary theory's attempt to de-naturalize received notions of sexual difference.  She argues that women writers' femmes fatales were crucial to the development of these women's poetic identities, because they challenged the assignation of mastery (along with violence) to men only.  Craciun states her intent to investigate the very origins of theories of sex in order to steer the book away from a simple application of "postmodern performative" sex.  With admirable attention to the genealogy of her approach, she describes the feminist critique of the passive Foucaultian subject by writers including Grosz, MacNay, Mackinnon and Ramazanoglu, and indicates her own interest in Foucault's later writing on resistance as a fertile source for feminist theory.  She debunks a lingering essentialism in feminist Romantic studies through her insistence on examining "women's subjectivity as an effect of power" (8).  Androcentric histories of the femme fatale figure separate the violent "unfeminine" woman from the sexy femme fatale, but Craciun examines the power that connects the two.  Mentioning how "natural" female nonviolence was used to bolster ideas of bodily sexual difference, she notes, "In women's violence and destructiveness we find the end of woman as a sex" (9).

In the first chapter, Craciun uses the notorious "mad" matricide and gifted children's author and poet Mary Lamb, with her poetry's interest in "fatal beauty," to establish the link between the hypersexual femme fatale and the violent woman.  After thoroughly explaining and supporting the ideas sketched in the Introduction, Craciun uses her second chapter to expand her argument, showing how British women writers used the femme fatale figures of the French Revolution to historicize emerging notions of "natural" sexual difference.  A crucial question for activists like Wollstonecraft and Mary Robinson was the possibility of cultivating women's physical strength, although they were thought to be "naturally" feeble by proponents of the two-sex model of sexual difference.  In the next chapter, Mary Robinson becomes the central writer under analysis, as her celebration of Marie Antoinette provides a combination of bourgeois and aristocratic ideals in an "Aristocracy of Genius."  The executions of both queen and antagonistic female revolutionaries became in popular narrative the ritual exclusion of women from public life, but Robinson combats this exclusion in A Monody to the Memory of the Late Queen of France, published after Marie Antoinette's death, as well as in writings on French republican murderesses and women salonnières.  Evidence from journals and political tracts provides political context for the argument.

In Chapter Four, Craciun turns her analysis to Charlotte Dacre, the notorious Gothic novelist also known as poet "Rosa Matilda," and her portrayal of female violence and sexual transgression in novels including Zofloya and The Passions.  Although critics have claimed that Dacre's femmes fatales reveal her sympathies with the sexist status quo, Craciun argues that Dacre destabilizes the sexuality of the female subject through her pornographic Sadean heroines, who claim the power pathologized in Bienville's (two-sex model) Nymphomania and other misogynist scientific treatises of the period.  Chapter Five discusses poet Anne Bannerman's femmes fatales as types of the poet as "magnificent destroyer," a formerly masculine ideal.  Bannerman intensifies the mystification of women seen in Coleridge and Schiller for her own poetic ends.

The final chapter takes perhaps the most innovative approach to sexuality in the work of women Romantic writers by linking bodily death and decay to Letitia Landon's "beautiful" aesthetic.  Beginning with a discussion of the literary and cultural display of mermaids during the period, Craciun churns through theories of water pollution, miasma, and contagion.  Reading poems including "The Fairy of the Fountains," "The Mask," and "The Altered River," she argues that Landon is explicitly anti-Wordsworthian due to her poetic assertions that "the will to purity central to Romanticisms such as Wordsworth's is unsustainable and 'In vain'" (226).  Using texts from sanitation investigations and reforms, Craciun offers compelling evidence for Landon's use of the miasmatic theories of disease to portray the corporeal body's disruption of Romantic transcendence.  Various contemporaneous portrayals of the unnatural, "undead" female body in both mermaid and human form reveal how Landon's woman is not all passivity and death, as in recent readings like Bronfen's Over Her Dead Body, but instead a miasmatic sexual transgression, an unnacceptable, dangerous, yet exhilarating form of life in a "philosophy of decomposition."

The pertinence of Craciun's book lies in its refusal to provide simple answers to the complex questions that motivate current theorizing about human sexuality.  The author acknowledges the dangers of undermining theories of "natural" sexual difference since, as in the one-sex model that dominated scientific discourse before the nineteenth century, patriarchy often exploits claims of sexual similarity or intellectual "transcendence" of material circumstance.  Fatal Women of Romanticism is a tightly focused and controlled history of the ideology of sexual difference, and as such it offers insight into the history of contemporary feminist thought.  When the field has already been enlarged by so many studies of playful and performative gender in the writings of Romantic women, Craciun's attention to the seriousness of literary "women's work" is a timely contribution.

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Kevin Hutchings, Imagining Nature: Blake's Environmental Poetics

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Kevin Hutchings, Imagining Nature: Blake's Environmental Poetics. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2002. xiv + 256 pp. $75.00/£57.00. (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-7735-2342-1).

Reviewed by
Dennis M. Welch
Virginia Tech

Because scholars since Northrop Frye's Fearful Symmetry (1947) have generally considered Blake an adversary of nature, he has largely been avoided in the recent emergence of eco-criticism among Romanticists.[1] Kevin Hutchings's book changes this situation and deserves much respect for doing so.

Imagining Nature seeks to delineate a "distinctively Blakean view of the relationship between humanity and nature," a view challenging "the traditional Western notion that humans should exercise a hierarchical and narrowly anthropocentric 'dominion'" over the non-human world (3). Hutchings's strategy involves a double focus, in which he finds Blake distinguishing between nature itself and Enlightenment discourses about it, opposing and critiquing mostly the latter instead of the former. Deeply aware of discursive ideological renderings of nature, Blake shows that Enlightenment philosophy, science, and religion colonize it with anthropocentric systems of thought.

Following the "Introduction" in Imagining Nature, Chapter 1 includes sections not only on the scholarship about nature in Blake's work but also on his environments while growing up and his views concerning industrialism, his relationship with the creation theology of antinomian and Miltonic traditions, his myth of Albion in terms of panvitalism and hylozoism, and his own anthropocentrism as it relates to environmental ethics and animal rights. Of these sections the last two are the most original and interesting. According to Hutchings, panvitalism and especially hylozoism provided Blake with perspectives that emphasize the interconnectedness of all creatures as integral parts of a unified divine organism, which he called Albion or the Human Form Divine. But whereas the hylozoism of a James Hutton was solely analogical, the poet's is literal. All natural phenomena are parts of Albion's physiology, whose cosmic organicism enables Blake to imagine that they are both interrelated and interdependent. Because it may preclude "the possibility of valuing non-human entities on their 'own' terms" (67), this cosmic anthropomorphism seems problematic. And yet it challenges deistic mechanism and hierarchy and poses fresh possibility for an environmental ethics because, "if all nature is considered human, the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' must necessarily be generalized to include literally 'every thing that lives's" (69). Whether or not this view leads to a practical ethics, as Hutchings suggests in terms of "merely letting creatures 'be'" (74), is uncertain, however. For what if those creatures multiply (as deer have in some regions), so that people can't travel the highways safely or maintain the plants in their yards?  Just letting the deer "be" gives those plants less opportunity to live.

Chapter 2 presents a subtle and fascinating analysis of The Book of Thel , arguing that Thel's initial abandonment of the vales of Har is a rebellion against its implicit anthropocentric violence, that she is at odds specifically with its emphasis on use-value (or instrumentalism), and that she is informed by the Cloud about a selflessness (3: 26-27) that raises the possibility of egalitarian holism, in which she might participate except for her own sense of hierarchy and the danger such holism "can be manipulated to serve the self-interested ends" of power and regulation (89). Hutchings contextualizes this holism and its political implications in terms of the concept of "nature's economy," which "epitomizes a highly ethical mode of mutual coexistence" that the alienated Thel "would do well to emulate" but also effaces the otherness of Har's natural creatures "by naturalizing various modes of social hierarchy" (90) that Thel herself needs to reject. Underlying this effacement is the fact that "nature's economy," which Blake understood probably through his familiarity with botany and, in particular, with Erasmus Darwin's Loves of the Plants (1789), was a sexual economy. The illustrations of Thel, especially its title-page, show Blake's awareness of this fact. But Hutchings, instead of using it (as most Blakeans have) in order to argue that Thel fails to embrace her own sexuality, shows that this gendered economy involves a masculinist discourse projected by Thel herself in hierarchical ways between the male and female creatures she encounters.

Central to nature's gendered economy in the eighteenth century was its discourse on harmony, which tended to valorize a secure and orderly status-quo of unequal relationships. Hutchings conjectures that the word "Har," which is followed in two instances by a grammatically unnecessary period (3:18, 4:10), is an abbreviation for "Harmony" and that Thel's abandonment of Har constitutes an intuitive dissent against its peaceful but patriarchal pastoralism. While the conjecture about "Har." as an abbreviation may be relevant, it's important to remember that the Erdman edition, which Hutchings uses for all quotations from Blake's texts, is a consensus version of them (Viscomi 181). This means that the unnecessary periods after "Har" probably do not appear in each copy of Thel and therefore "Har." is probably not an abbreviation. More importantly, as Joseph Viscomi observes, in Blake's texts there are "marks meant to be commas but that look like periods because of the way they had printed" (181). In both instances of conjectured abbreviation, commas would make more sense as the appropriate punctuation.

Chapter 3 of Imagining Nature shows how Blake "correlates the Satanic 'Selfhood' with Newtonian physical science, basing his critique of Satanic self-interest in part on social and quasi-legal implications of Newtonian atomism" (28). Although it was Donald Ault, who first elucidated the Satanic "Selfhood" in terms of Newtonian science, Hutchings's analysis of its social and legal import in Milton is fresh and illuminating. The analysis involves environmental concerns by showing—as in the design on plate 15, the imagery associated with Theotormon's Mills (27: 49-54), and the descent of Milton from heaven—how Blake critiques both the "deterministic model of cyclical recurrence" (125) and the self-reflecting legalism that are inscribed in Newtonianism and inclined to enclose nature in a dull round of atomistic and self-interested creatures.

Because Blake considers Newtonian circular time highly problematic, he formulates "imaginative alternative[s]" to it,  associated with such diverse forms as vortexes, larks, wild thyme, and visionary artists—each embodying "a profound commingling of discrete entities that prefigures the interrelationality crucial to ecological models" (136). In contrast to these imaginative alternatives, Blake also recognizes the eventual outcomes of mechanistic circularity and atomistic self-interest—i.e. , disrespect and even destruction of the natural world (M 38: 15-19). But perhaps even more relevant for Hutchings's argument than Newtonian science to self-interest and adverse effects on nature was the long history of self-interest per se in England. This history ranged from at least Hobbes and Locke to Mandeville, Hume, and Smith. Explored by such scholars as A. O. Hirschman and Stephen Holmes, self-interest, which became a euphemism for avarice, underscored the political economy of accumulation, consumption, waste, and abuse that has compromised nature at least as much as Newtonianism has.

Focusing mostly in Chapter 4 on Jerusalem, Hutchings continues to investigate the role that anti-relational self-interest plays in Blake's understanding of humanity's connections with nature. Albion's fall from emanative relationship ("Fibres of love"), which once united him with Eternity's inhabitants, leads him to solipsism and to anthropomorphic projections that divide, disregard, and damage nature. Given Albion's many projections on nature (Vala), Hutchings focuses on her role, which he sees (unlike most Blakeans) not as inherently harmful but instead as ideologically constructed by patriarchal science and religion. He makes this point partly by demonstrating Vala's associations with Newtonianism and deistic reason and by examining both her upbringing in the context of religious warfare (J 22: 4-7) and her adulthood amid male-centered relations such as the battle between Albion and Luvah for "dominion" over her body (43: 61-62).

Just as Vala is ideologically constructed, so also is the "Polypus," which is an especially problematic manifestation of materiality as a proliferating and consuming power capable of homogenizing humanity and nature. But just as this figure in Blake's work derives from his era's materialistic science, specifically on vegetative polyps, which Hutchings mentions and which Blake may have observed in William Hunter's Anatomical Theatre (Kreiter 114, Hilton 88), so also does the figure have definite associations with sensibility as a kind of physical, social, and economic "connective tissue" that bound men and women together in self-indulgent and mutually consuming relationships. These relationships played directly into the economics not only of marriage but also of household demand and commercial products in a vast consumer revolution, "a mighty Polypus" (15: 4), whose effects on natural resources and the environment were as extensive also as those of eighteenth-century science. Thus, the following would have been relevant in Hutchings's argument about Blake's concern with nature and its "female commodification" (183): namely, that he critiques the "Polypus of soft affections" (M 24: 38), that the "Fibres of Life" which Rahab and Tirzah "Weave" into human bodies "till the Great Polypus covered the Earth" (J 67: 4, 34) are probably nerve-related tissues, which (as Dr. George Cheyne had said to Samuel Richardson) women possess in greater (and hence more sensitive) abundance than men do, and that Rahab herself with "Lovely  Delusive Beauty" (FZ 8.109.11) enters Albion's heart (J 66: 28-29) "in many tears" (or great sentiment) and, with her "locks of shadowing modesty" and "features, soft flourishing," functions as a figure of deceptive and corrupt sensibility, "consuming lives of Men [as well as other entities] / In fires of beauty" (J 70: 22, 23, 27-28).

In a "Coda" to Imagining Nature Hutchings asks if "the humanization of nature that occurs in Jerusalem's apocalypse" can be trusted as an "appropriate resolution" to the problem that "human conceptions of nature are largely the cause of nature's devaluation" (207). He answers this question, arguing that "poetic anthropomorphism prevents a purely utilitarian approach to the natural world" (207) by avoiding hierarchy and imposition, as in the case of Jerusalem's apocalyptic moment when nature's animals "Humanize / In the Forgiveness of Sins" (98: 44-45). This reconciliation between the human and animal is interpreted by Hutchings as mutual, "actualizing the cosmic covenant God establishes in Genesis between himself, humanity, and literally 'every living creature'" (217). In this apocalypse, however, the natural or material—in particular, the body's "excrementitious / Husk & Covering"—will be cut away, "Driving outward the Body of Death" (98: 18-19, 20). The new body succeeding the old and resembling the Pauline "spiritual body" (1 Cor. 15:44) will be like nothing humanity and nature have ever known, for all creatures will partake in it as parts of Albion's (risen) body. And if they do not, then Albion will return to a hierarchical order, with his embodiment existing at a higher plane metaphysically and ontologically than any other. The point is that nature and embodiment in the Blakean apocalypse differ fundamentally from nature and embodiment in this world.

Except for neglect of this difference and the discursive histories of self-interest and sensibility in England, no significant gaps appear in Hutchings's book. On the contrary, it includes numerous fascinating discussions of both minute and significant particulars in Blake's work. Posing and working through competing interpretations in mutually instructive ways, Hutchings's book is well balanced and illuminating. Permanently altering the old misconception that Blake is an adversary of nature, the book makes judicious use of modern ecological thought and is a significant contribution to both "green" Romantic studies and Blake scholarship.

[1] Lussier and McKusick are exceptions. [back]

Works Cited

Ault, Donald D. Visionary Physics: Blake's Response to Newton. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1974.
Hilton, Nelson. Literal Imagination: Blake's Vision of Words. Berkeley: U of California P, 1983.
Hirschman, A. O. The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism before Its Triumph. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1977.
Holmes, Stephen. "The Secret History of Self-Interest."  Beyond Self-Interest. Ed. Jane J. Mansbridge. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1990. 267-86.
Kreiter, Carmen S. "Evolution and William Blake." Studies in Romanticism 4 (1965): 110-18.
Lussier, Mark. "Blake's Deep Ecology." Studies in Romanticism 35 (1996): 393-408.
McKusick, James. Green Writing: Romanticism and Ecology. New York: St. Martin's, 2000.
Viscomi, Joseph. Blake and the Idea of the Book. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1993.

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Anne K. Mellor, Mothers of the Nation: Women's Political Writing in England, 1780-1830 2nd ed.

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Anne K. Mellor, Mothers of the Nation: Women's Political Writing in England, 1780-1830. 2nd ed. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2002. 172pp. $39.95/$17.95. (Hdbk; ISBN: 0253337135, Pbk; ISBN: 025321369X).

Reviewed by
Sarah M. Zimmerman
Fordham University

Anne Mellor's latest book brings to bear on the field of British Romantic women's writing recent debates about women and the public sphere. She invokes two pervasive critical accounts: Jürgen Habermas's theory of the emergence of a "bourgeois public sphere" in eighteenth century Europe, and feminist narratives of the development of gendered "separate spheres" that culminated in the Victorian ideal of a domesticated womanhood. These historical paradigms do not readily map onto one another (chronologically, geographically, or theoretically), yet both accounts rehearse the rise of a predominantly masculine realm of public debate and discursive exchange. Mellor challenges both models, finding Habermas's "conceptual limitation" of the public sphere to propertied men "historically incorrect" (2), and "the theoretical paradigm of 'the doctrine of the separate spheres'" limiting for our understanding of the period's lived experience and literary culture (7).

Mellor's study participates in a broader rethinking of these models by social and literary historians. Linda Colley, Amanda Vickery, and Lawrence Klein, among others, have critiqued accounts of women's increasing confinement within domestic space, while historians such as Dena Goodman and John Brewer have suggested that the era was defined not by hardening distinctions between public and private experience, but rather by the very instability of these categories. Brewer argues that public authority gradually managed to "colonize" the private realm; Mellor claims the opposite. She posits that active, influential women promoted the "values" of a feminized private sphere—"moral virtue and an ethic of care"—so successfully that, by the end of the Romantic period, only a monarch who seemed to embody moral rectitude and domestic stability was acceptable to the English public. Mellor credits women debaters, preachers, philanthropists, rulers, and especially writers with authoring a "transformation" in "public opinion" and "political culture" that rendered the fiscal and domestic excesses of George IV increasingly unacceptable and paved the way for the chaste figure of Victoria (11-12, 38). In her "Introduction: Women and the Public Sphere in England, 1780-1830," Mellor eschews the paradigm of a separate, "counter public sphere" for women and claims for them instead "an enormous—and hitherto largely uncredited—impact on the formation of public opinion in England between 1780 and 1830" (11).

While I welcome Mellor's bold thesis, in what follows I question her reluctance to qualify it. The sweeping transformation she calls for in how we view Romantic women writers may, however, seem to require such decisive critical gestures. Mellor successfully champions a bracing shift in perspective that moves these writers to the center of Romantic England's literary and political culture. We may no longer speak of them as "marginal," but Mellor goes considerably further in claiming that they were instead influential players in turbulent scenes of social change. Mellor herself laid the groundwork for this case in Romanticism and Gender (1993), where she argued that Romantic women writers "promoted a politics of gradual rather than violent social change, a social change that extends the values of domesticity into the public realm" (3). In Mothers of the Nation, she follows these writers into the world of print and theater, demonstrating how "[w]omen writers' words and ideas were disseminated orally as well as in print" (4).

For Mellor, Hannah More plays a key role in the social, cultural, and political transformation that heralded Victorian Britain by envisioning "women's public role as mothers of the nation" (30). More is introduced as a "revolutionary reformer" in Chapter 1, and her centrality to the study is reinforced by her reappearance in subsequent chapters on women playwrights (Ch. 2) and poets (Ch. 3). Mellor makes two large claims about More that undergird the entire study: that she was "the most influential woman living in England in the Romantic era," and that she helped to prevent "a French-style, violent revolution in England," fostering instead her "revolution in manners" (13, 14, 18). Mellor recounts More's multi-faceted program of reproving aristocratic decadence, promoting an Evangelical revival within the Church of England, and dangling the carrot of middle-class prosperity to workers to be pious and industrious. According to More, the "behavior" of women of all ranks was key to the nation's reformation, although upper- and middle-class women were to assume particularly prominent social roles as philanthropists. More, who "insisted on the innate difference between the sexes," credited women with possessing the qualities requisite for social renovation that she envisioned: sensibility and, "above all, a greater moral purity and capacity for virtue" (26). These qualities, however, had to be developed. For More, women's education should foster their facility at managing their households' moral, spiritual, and fiscal economy—and thus to make them exemplars for how to run the nation's domestic economy.

More reappears as an influential figure in Chapter 2, which treats "Theater as the School of Virtue," along with Joanna Baillie, Hannah Cowley, and Elizabeth Inchbald. Mellor argues that each of these writers viewed the theater "a public school for females" (40) that could produce a "new woman" who was "rational, compassionate, merciful, tolerant, and peace-loving" (38). Mellor's treatment of Baillie exemplifies both the power of the study's broader thesis and what is compromised by an unwillingness to qualify it. Mellor offers Plays on the Passions as an influential interjection of (private) emotion into the public arena of the theater (42). Mellor's reading of Count Basil is one of the study's strongest, both for its sheer vitality as an interpretation and for the convincing way in which it links literary form (dramatic character and plot) to her broader historical thesis. She considers the play as a critique of a masculine public realm embodied by the Duke and Count Basil. The Count is brought down not by his (heterosexual) love for Victoria, nor by his (homosocial) attachment to his soldiers but rather by "the dominating passion" of the masculine public sphere: "an egotistical self-love that seeks only its personal aggrandizement" (44).

Mellor's reading of Baillie's "Introductory Discourse" to the Plays is less convincing because it allows neither for the dramas' fascination with extreme emotion nor our desire to witness it. Mellor reads Baillie as promoting "a rational control of passion that produces harmonious and loving family relationships." This portrait of emotionally regulated family life is to serve, in turn, as a "model for peaceful national and international relations" (42). Certainly, Baillie asserts the beneficial nature of her theatrical investigation of strong emotion, but it is possible to read the "Discourse" more as a proleptic defense of—rather than a straightforward agenda for—her excavation of intense feeling. By the same token, Mellor regards Baillie's emphasis upon the audience's "sympathetic curiosity" as the pedagogical vehicle for the plays' tempering of emotion's potential destructiveness. But Baillie's treatment of this capacity allows ample room for auditors' voyeuristic fascination with persons under duress, especially when she suggests a comparison between theater audiences and the crowds who gather to witness public executions. Mellor does not concede that Baillie's treatment of a natural "curiosity" with human behavior that she dates from childhood may be understood apart from a reforming impulse.

In Chapter 3, on "Women's Political Poetry," Mellor identifies a Romantic "tradition of the female poet," whom she distinguishes from the "the poetess," a figure previously defined by Mellor and other feminist critics (70). In contrast to "the poetess," who works within a separate, women's tradition that celebrates the "domestic affections," even as her poetry may subtly subvert convention, the work of the "female poet" is "explicitly political" (70). Under this heading Mellor brings together Hannah More, Charlotte Smith, Helen Maria Williams, Anna Letitia Barbauld, and Lucy Aiken. Mellor argues that these poets found enabling precursors in a tradition of female preachers and prophets who, in turn, drew their authority to speak in public from "seventeenth-century Quaker theology and a belief in a divine inner light" (70). Mellor's argument is refreshing for demonstrating that Romantic women poets found grounds for asserting their cultural authority well beyond the bounds of literary history. This argument is especially illuminating for poets such as Anna Letitia Barbauld who were steeped in traditions of Dissent. For Charlotte Smith, however, the paradigm of the "female poet" is a less comfortable fit. Certainly, Smith "intended to sway public opinion" (84), but unlike the "female poet," who "insisted she spoke on behalf of Virtue" (71), Smith simply insisted. Her disregard for conventional piety was a lightening rod for the Tory, High Church British Critic who accused her of presuming that she could find God in nature, beyond the Church's institutional edifices.

Chapter 4, "Literary Criticism, Cultural Authority, and the Rise of the Novel," makes one of the study's most valuable contributions, by conceiving a Romantic school of literary criticism by women that competes with the prevailing paradigm of their male peers, who (in Mellor's estimate) emphasize the imagination, language, transcendence, the visionary, and subjectivity. Mellor thus expands her claims for Romantic women writers' influence in the public sphere by gathering a handful of critics— Joanna Baillie, Anna Barbauld, Elizabeth Inchbald, Clara Reeve, Anna Seward, and Mary Wollstonecraft—who "set themselves up as judges, judges not just of aesthetic taste and literary excellence but also of cultural morality" (100). Mellor credits these critics with championing a didactic literature that promoted "virtue, thrift, and self-control" and punished "willful impulse, irrationality, lack of foresight, excessive sensibility, and uncontrolled sexual desire" (89). In her account, they accordingly elevated the novel over lyric poetry in the hierarchy of genres for its pedagogical possibilities, preferring the novel as "the most moral and the most realistic" literary form (95).

Mellor's final chapter—"The Politics of Fiction" (Ch. 5)—develops her account of the novel's potential as a vehicle for social reform. Taking Charlotte Smith's Desmond and Jane Austen's Persuasion as her primary examples, she argues that some of the period's women novelists "used their fiction to promote radical changes in Britain's legal system of governance, both at home and abroad" (104). While Desmond launches a comprehensive critique of patriarchy that encompasses the compromised roles of women under English law and in France's new Republic, Persuasion offers an alternative future in Anne Elliot, who "comes to embody Jane Austen's concept of the new mother of the nation" (131). Mellor reads Austen's protagonist as "the visible embodiment of Britannia herself," and thus the novel as contributing to "a moment in which British national identity is reconfigured as feminine" (139). Mellor concludes this argument with a suggestive reading of a contemporaneous change in British coinage—the appearance of Britannia on the British copper penny—as heralding Victoria's ascent to the throne.

Mellor's study is a corrective, not only to theories of a "bourgeois public sphere" and "separate spheres," but also to what she characterizes as a liberal bias among social historians emerging from a Marxist tradition and some feminist literary critics who deplore the brand of social change championed most effectively by More. Mellor is correct in arguing that to dismiss, according to a narrow definition of activism, the influence of women who participated in conservative social movements is to distort significantly our understanding of the period. Throughout the study, Mellor is careful to acknowledge the ideological implications of the social and aesthetic views that she identifies with this tradition of Romantic women's writing: Hannah More "strongly believed in economic stratification" (24) and promoted a "Christian capitalism" that exploited workers (33). In addition, the works of "the female Christian poet" were likely to "co-opted in the name of British imperial expansion" (72) and were often characterized by a "Eurocentric assumption" that Christianity is "superior" to other religions (77).

Thus Mellor's study—having made the broader correction—lays the groundwork for assessing the field of Romantic women's writing that she outlines. Critics will want to question the coherence of the program of the women writers she brings together under the rubric of a determination to shape public opinion and define literary culture. Critics will also want to measure the extent to which these writers' works manifest the social and aesthetic agendas that they profess. Mellor's study, however, makes it impossible to overlook the importance of these women writers' reforming zeal for the period's literary, social, and political culture.

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Peter Otto, Blake's Critique of Transcendence: Love, Jealousy, and the Sublime in The Four Zoas

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Peter Otto, Blake's Critique of Transcendence: Love, Jealousy, and the Sublime in The Four Zoas. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000. xiv + 365 pp. $95.00. (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-19-818719-X).

Reviewed by
Kathleen Lundeen
Western Washington University

Night the Ninth of The Four Zoas has been likened to the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. The words epiphany, apotheosis, and climax have all been used to describe the grand finale of Blake's unfinished epic, in which all of life appears to rush together to restore the transcendent unity that was shattered in Night the First. In a recent study of The Four Zoas, Peter Otto argues otherwise. "It is my contention," he writes, "that rather than urging sublime transcendence, The Four Zoas hopes to thwart it." He explains, "The poem aims to delay the movement of the sublime from blockage to transport and elevation, long enough for the reader to see the warring visual and verbal elements of the fallen world as the fragmented and dismembered body of humanity" (8). "Blake's poem," he goes on to argue, "directs us to a human rather than transcendent reality. Contrary to the thrust of the sublime, therefore, the 'transcendence' canvassed in this poem is horizontal and temporal rather than vertical and eternal" (33-4). In the 300 pages of commentary that follow, Otto defends his thesis through an exhaustive explication of the poem, including its graphic design.

In the introduction Otto offers a concise history of the poem's construction, including the alterations and censoring that mark its development and seem to restrict access to it. He also provides an overview of twentieth-century interpretations of the poem, thus clearing the way for his own reading. In Otto's study, The Four Zoas emerges as a multi-layered allegory whose psychology, philosophy, and theology counter those traditions that idealize a separation of the spirit from the body. To present the poem as a critique of transcendence, Otto situates it within the tradition of the sublime. Enlisting the services of Locke, Young, and Swedenborg clarifies Blake's response to the sublime and shows convincingly how each member of that motley group is essential to Blake as he forges his response to it. The premises Otto assumes about the illustrated poem are as follows:

Blake's Critique of Transcendence argues, first, that The Four Zoas is structured as a coherent, albeit complex and multi-voiced narrative, which details the history and outlines the relations that constitute the body of the fallen Albion. Second, far from being opaque, the illuminations (drawings and proof engravings) are arranged in a multifaceted "visual" narrative, that stretches across the entire length of the poem. Third, text and illumination sustain an intimate, mutually clarifying relation to each other (10).

Otto's presentation of the poem as a coherent statement is nothing short of remarkable, in light of the elusive nature of Blake's prophetic method and the sheer density of detail in the poem. Some readers, however, may encounter the same challenge in navigating his deciphering of The Four Zoas that they confront in reading the prophecy itself. Otto's patient explanations of the complicated relationships among Blake's cast of characters, along with his elaborate decoding of Blake's iconography (airborne genitalia and all), give readers the sense they are traveling through the poem in real time; but real time in literature and art is not as reader-friendly as imaginary time. Though one might expect a moment-by-moment unwrinkling of the manuscript to yield a smooth and lucid narrative, unrelenting scrutiny of minute particulars poses a difficulty for readers: being introduced to so many verbal and visual parts demystifies the individual components of the prophecy, but it doesn't always facilitate comprehension of the whole. Such an approach makes it difficult at times to see Blake's epic forest through the signifying trees.

Though Otto discovers a logic in Blake's prophetic method, he also reflects on the unconventional nature of The Four Zoas. In the early pages of his book he writes, "the narrator is himself an effect of the story he wants to relate." He also notes, "Far from providing a frame within which history can be ordered, The Four Zoas sometimes seems little more than a container within which narratives and voices multiply" and then muses, "It is as if the poem is haunted by voices, traces of other poems, and allusions to other projects and times, all of which it can embrace but not assimilate to a single point of view" (2-3). Though in the next paragraph Otto argues that the poem does in fact have an accessible structure, his shrewd observations of the prophecy's postmodern features linger as one proceeds through his argument.

Otto himself helps sustain the lingering. In the course of his encyclopedic cataloguing of the visual motifs and verbal images, from time to time he steps back to remind the reader of the built-in problems of critiquing such a poem. At the end of the third chapter, for example, he writes:

The fallen world is a moment in the life of Albion that is spatialized and temporalized as a world of seven thousand years. It is in this space that Los and Enitharmon are born. Their world is based on contradiction, for in the spaces of Eno, within the lifeless body held by the Saviour, nothingness is given a time and a space (77).

Here, it would be worth showing the problems Blake encounters, as poet and graphic artist, in depicting that contradictory world and representing nothingness in time and space. Similarly, there are occasions when Otto's attempt to resolve the conflicts in the narrative mutes the dynamic of the poem. For example, Otto notes that "the narrative detailing the birth of Los from the divisions of Tharmas is continually undermined and qualified by other narratives," which leaves the reader "encompassed by a babel of voices" (101). Instead of accepting "a cacophony of voices" (to borrow his own apt chapter title) and the discomfort in inhabiting such a rhetorical realm, however, he reassures the reader that "this instance of a cumulative threat to the poem's narrative structure provides us with helpful insights into the structure of the poem as a whole" (101). Perhaps the cumulative threat to the poem's narrative structure is the principal structure of the narrative? Otto's argument that Blake's unfinished prophecy is a critique of transcendence would be more convincing if he showed the ways in which The Four Zoas stymies conventional criticism and its complicity with transcendental structures rather than justifying its every mark as part of a unified scheme. Indeed, Blake's prophetic method does not produce seamless narratives or stable rhetorical structures, and his words and images do not always join in fruitful collaboration.

The problems that face any reader—when to read texts literally and when to read them figuratively; when to read texts ironically and when to read them in a straightforward manner—are exacerbated in Blake's prophecies, thanks to the ways his texts, both verbal and visual, resist becoming contexts in the poem. Otto's interpretive choices lead him to read the The Four Zoas as a poetic proposition that "spirit and flesh [are] contraries rather than opposites" (344). Whether readers accept his interpretive choices and his conviction that leaving no Urizenic stone unturned reveals a coherent theme and structure, there is value in rambling with Otto through the pages of Blake's manuscript. By immersing us in the formality of The Four Zoas Otto enables us to see that Blake, at least on the inscribed page, was a player in the intellectual debates of his day—one who understood the contenders in philosophy, art, and theology well enough to orchestrate his own revolution.

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Alan Richardson, British Romanticism and the Science of the Mind

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Alan Richardson, British Romanticism and the Science of the Mind. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2001. 266 pp. $65.00/£40.00. (Hdbk; ISBN: 0521781914).

Reviewed by
Joel Faflak
University of Western Ontario

Alan Richardson's detailed and provocative British Romanticism and the Science of the Mind reads the nineteenth-century concern with the imagination and the mythopoeic powers of the mind through the lens of Romanticism's fascination with brain science of its own era. This reading corrects the view that Kant, or more generally German metaphysics, largely taught the Romantics, by way of teaching us, what they needed to know about how the mind makes sense--and makes sense of--the world. The Romantics were reacting against a too materialistic Enlightenment empiricism, a story which finds its main plot in Coleridge's rejection of Hartleyan associationism in Biographia Literaria. Or as Richardson argues in "Neural Romanticism," the book's Introduction, "Although literary Romanticism has most often been associated with idealistic and transcendental conceptions of mind, the many points of contact between scientific and literary representations of the embodied psyche helps remind us of an antidualistic, materialist register within Romantic writing that has, until recently, been badly ignored" (36).

The monumental Bollingen/Princeton re-collection of Coleridge has produced what Jon Klancher calls an "uncollectable" Romantic subject whose thoughts remain scattered across nineteenth-century culture. Richardson's book takes its metaphorical cue from this idea of a Romantic mind constituted by a dense and polyvalent neural apparatus, a mind often working at cross purposes within itself. And so in Richardson's powerful opening chapter, "Coleridge and the new unconscious," Coleridge's metaphysics, as well as the meta-critical imperative to monumentalize the Biographia and its monolithic, canonical definition of the Romantic imagination, are displaced by a Romantic concern with models of the brain, and thus of the mind, that speak to a range of other interests and objects of Romantic curiosity. That is, instead of reading Coleridge setting aside Hartley for the abstract, spiritualized functioning of the transcendental imagination, Richardson reads associationism and its empiricist legacy as a productive rather than reductive matrix for an ongoing Romantic interest in how the subject is defined in terms of an embodied mind.

A re-embodied Romanticism has become crucial to our seeing through Romantic ideologies to the socio-historical matrix of their generation in the period. So, here Richardson reads Coleridge's famous account of the composition of "Kubla Khan" in the context of emergent and evolving theories of the brain and its connection to a central nervous system, as if to re-attach the Romantic psyche to its own body. The cast of Frankensteins is multi-national: "F. J. Gall in Austria, Pierre-Jean-George Cabanis in France, and Erasmus Darwin and Charles Bell in England" (5). And beyond this group, "important popularizers of a brain-based psychology (especially for Great Britain) Sir William Lawrence, J. G. Spurzheim (Gall's errant disciple), and George Combe. " Emerging among these various figures is an increasingly complex sense of the mind's embodied functioning, crystallized in Gall's organology of the brain as an incorporation of distinct and frequently autonomous parts or "organs." Responding to Gall thus meant staving off the various threats--religious, psychological, political, cultural, linguistic, anthropological--evoked by the idea of an embodied subject not at one with itself, a kind of Romantic organicism that threatens not to add up to the sum of its parts. If a key concern of this science was the absence of the self, "the poor, worthless I," as Coleridge says in the Biographia, then science, while it contributed on one hand to empirically validating this absence, on the other needed to recuperate it by way of responding to charges against science's atheism, but more darkly against an immanent sense of nihilism--charges that would beleaguer the increasingly radical progress of science toward enlightening the unconscious of history in the Victorian period and beyond.

Situating Coleridge's statement within this context, Richardson notes three issues "crucial to contemporary debates on the mind and brain," and central to the unfolding of Richardson's study: "the splitting or fragmentation of the psyche, the status of conscious volition within mental life, and the relationship between mental events and the organic body" (48). Or as Richardson puts it in one of the book's most provocative statements, the Romantics were in the process of discovering that "the body may have a mind of its own" (60). Such a statement raises the spectre of the hysterical symptom that would be such a central problem for and theme of psychoanalysis as it set about rationalizing the subject who is self-absent and thus threatens to go missing for a society that wants to locate her, even if by her self-absence, definitively. Richardson doesn't quite get us to a more radical notion of what psychoanalysis what might mean before Freud. Rather he  moves beyond Coleridge to Wordsworth's poetics and his "science of feelings," of the embodied imagination; to Austen's Persuasion as a post-Enlightenment, proto-Victorian move toward "a new psychological appreciation of the unconscious mental life and embodied cognition" (94); to Keats's exploration of the "embodied mind's unconscious and ineffable magnitude that might be termed the 'neural sublime'" (148); and finally to how these heterogenous neural attitudes "broached an embodied universalism that promised to extend human belonging and mutual comprehension beyond the limits set by an earlier era's governing paradigms" (180). As Richardson concludes, "That the vision was barely sustained and its promise largely unrealized does not make the attempt less intriguing."

But if the embodied universalism that Romanticism implicitly promised, and to which it remained susceptible in turn, never materialized, a different kind of positivism did. And here is where the book's otherwise so convincing central precepts and local unpackings invite a counter-response. Matthew Arnold's notion of critical disinterestedness in "The Function of Criticism at the Present Time" implicitly borrows from Kant, among others, the idea of "keeping aloof from what is called 'the practical view of things'" (246). Ironically, what is here a statement about the value of Victorian critical objectivity could just as easily be used to label the Romantics as too impractically withdrawn into themselves, and thus from the activity of the world--an identity that Arnold so influentially analysed for a post-Victorian audience. While many of the Romantics had read their Kant in some depth, Arnold's own mapping of Kant onto the Victorian age produced a vision of Romanticism that for so long informed how we read the period, a mind that is always already post-Romantic or Victorian. There is something of this post-Romantic neo-Victorianism in Richardson's methodology as it works to contain Romanticism, despite the book's claim against Arnold that the Romantics were "premature" because they "proceeded without having proper data, without sufficient materials to work with" (240).

British Romanticism and the Science of the Mind is an invaluable resource for those of us interested in Romantic psychology as one of the most fertile "origins" of modern psychology as it has emerged from what has, for better or worse, been termed the Romantic "turn inward." This turn produces what Phillip Reiff has called the birth of "psychological" man, or what Michel Foucault examined, rather more critically, as the end of the human that comes with the birth of "man," psychoanalysis for him signalling one of most interventionist and prescriptive expressions of this end. But the spectre of psychoanalysis in Richardson's book demands a further telling, not as one of its missing themes, for the book's focus on its subject is admirably sharp, but in terms of a missed encounter with the darker implications of its own methodology.

This book is one of the more compelling aftermaths of the New Historicist reclamation of lost, forgotten, or erased layers of the palimpsest of the mind of Romanticism as we have come to analyze its various cultural and historical overdeterminations, yet ostensibly without submitting this analysis to the critical cure provided by so many previous critical schools. We can work through Romanticism, just never through to its "end," and thus to any final sense of a destiny to which it opened itself without quite realizing the illimitable reach of its horizon. So, the disclosures of new historicist and cultural criticism have unleashed an array of heterodox subjectivities which give the lie to the Wordsworthian paradigm of The Prelude and The Recluse, what Clifford Siskin calls Romanticism's "self-made mind, full of newly constructed depths" (13). The dialogue between Romanticism and cognitive neuroscience as part of a New Psychology--Richardson's "neural historicism" or "neural Romanticism"--would reclaim yet another lost personality of this by now much-splintered Romantic cogito.

Yet one wonders why psychoanalysis, while it is clearly important to the critical methodologies of New Historicism or Cultural Studies after it, and despite our current passion for cultural archaeology, is so frequently set aside in histories of the period that deal so specifically with its mental concerns. When Richardson argues that "Post-Freudian accounts of the 'discovery of the unconscious' suggest how these Romantic-era formulations of unconscious mental processes that most closely anticipate psychoanalysis and other 'depth' psychologies form only one subset of a larger discursive field," and that "writers now associated with literary Romanticism were aware of the 'alternate' unconscious, more productive than repressive, working to a large extent independently of the conscious subject, rendering the mind a theater of instinct, emotion, and desires as well as of reason, perception, and ideas" (58), he is having his cake, but not quite digesting it. Richardson locates Romantic interest in the mind as a lost origin of what is called the New Psychology. This paradigm is defined by the revolutionary breakthroughs in cognitive neuroscience distilled in the work on the literary nature of the mind found in the writings of Mark Turner, Eve Sweetser, George Lakoff, Mark Johnson, Antonio Damasio, Steven Pinker, and others. Reading genealogically forward to the New Psychology, Richardson shows how it promises a much-needed corrective to our perception of Romantic theories of cognition as primitive or naive. Yet less so does Richardson read archaeologically back from this telos to tell us how Romanticism might contest the later enlightenments it produces.

This book's appeal to the insights of "science" and its various "materialisms," that is, raises the specter of an empiricism that resists containment, a resistance that fuelled anxieties in both the Scottish and British Enlightenments that produced so much of Romantic brain science, but also in Kant and his heirs as they wrestled with the empiricism of a cognition so frequently beyond itself, and not always transcendentally so. The psyche's resistance to the empirical is the resistance of a Romantic psychoanalysis, in Lacan's sense of a resistance to the Real as that which itself "resists symbolization absolutely" (66). One could also argue that the Romantics come to appreciate this resistance as it informs other facets of their writing, especially because of their engagement with the science of their own time.

This resistance materializes in texts such as Blake's Milton, Percy Shelley's Triumph of Life, De Quincey's Suspiria de Profundis, Keats's Hyperions, Godwin's Caleb Williams or Mary Shelley's Mathilda. These texts, in one way or another, can be situated in the context of the various emergent psychologies that Richardson so carefully outlines. How might they tell a different story about this context, however? That is, these texts stage various psychoanalyses of the embodied subject, the knowability of which is situated on what Shelley in his essay "On Life" calls "the verge of . . . the abyss of how little we know" (478). A central concern of a New Psychology, then, would have to be a resistance to psychoanalysis, or at least a faith that, psychoanalysis having taken us only so far, neuroscience will now get us that much farther. One might be skeptical about the cognitive revolution's progressive enlightenment, especially as it promises ever more sophisticated models of the mind and especially as this promise is read back to Romanticism itself. Mapping the psychic reality of the brain's nervous adventures is hardly mere materialism, nor does Richardson have it this way. But it does evoke a neural rationalism that would make the mind's darkness visible, just as the Human Genome Project schematizes our biological determinism. Behind ever more comprehensive blueprints of the anthropos, both in the Romantic era and in our own, lies a philosophical and scientific--and masculinist--confidence, about which psychoanalysis, particularly in Romanticism, has much to tell us.

It's not that Richardson's book works entirely, or even too momentarily, in the spirit of this confidence. But one might find that it perhaps too easily conflates its methodology with--or rather, ties the drive of this methodology to--a telos the scientific and enlightenment confidence of which we might do well to suspect, as the Romantics themselves suspected it. As Frankenstein reminds us, science, as it outstrips literature's ability to imagine humanity's future, forgets how it is exceeded by its own imagination. Always challenging science's idealism is the subject's frequently monstrous spectrality that Romantic and post-Romantic literature frequently treats otherwise. The history of this psychosomatic body that is perhaps too easily embodied, and thus materialized for a future rationalization in brain science of Romanticism challenges philosophical or scientific positivism, indeed challenges history itself, at the same time that it demands imagination. One thinks of the Mesmerized body, for instance, which disputes in so many radical ways the circuitry of the nervous system, no matter how antithetically dynamic its functioning, and is one of the occult discoveries of an otherwise "legitimate" Romantic science of the mind haunting so much of Romanticism.

In discussing how the surgeon William Lawrence's work attempted to "wrest John Hunter's legacy from those who would use it to reconcile the new physiology with orthodox religious conceptions of an immaterial soul," Richardson writes: "Lawrence, to the contrary, argued that Hunter's work taught that the 'functions are an offspring of the structure--or the life is the result of the organization.' A key issue, then, would be to argue the dependence of thought, traditionally associated with the transcendent mind or immaterial soul, on the organization of the brain" (25). Isn't this, however, merely to substitute one map for another, and rather aptly to reflect what a return to Romantic brain science implies for our own mapping of Romanticism? For if the structure of thought determines its functioning, isn't the "organization of the brain" to impose how we map its cognitions, however complexly, onto our understanding of the Romantic mind, to assume that its structure somehow makes sense for us, without in turn realizing that how it makes sense is quite beyond our capacity to know? The darkness of this insight seems beyond the ken of Richardson's approach. Which is not to dismiss the deep importance of the discoveries this book does make, and of the fascinating connections drawn and contexts sketched. Which is also to say that this articulation of my response, and thus of my own re-thinking of what is at stake in working through the aftermaths of New Historicism as it has morphed into Cultural Studies, would not exist were it not for the startling insights of a book such as Richardson's British Romanticism and the Science of the Mind. For that debt, abundant recompense needs to be paid.

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Nicola Trott and Seamus Perry, eds. 1800: The New "Lyrical Ballads." Romanticism in Perspective: Texts, Cultures, Histories

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Nicola Trott and Seamus Perry, eds. 1800: The New "Lyrical Ballads." Romanticism in Perspective: Texts, Cultures, Histories, gen. eds. Marilyn Gaull and Stephen Prickett. Basingstoke/New York: Palgrave/St. Martin's, 2001. x + 245 pp. £60.00 (US$70) (Hdbk.; ISBN 0-333-77398-5).

Reviewed by
Alison Hickey
Wellesley College

"'1800' is not one of the most famous dates in English literary history, but it should be" (1), declares the Introduction to this outstanding collection of essays. The idea that the literary-historical importance of the 1800 Lyrical Ballads equals or even surpasses that of its "more celebrated rival of 1798" is not itself new, but it has never before been so convincingly borne out by sustained, multifaceted, and rigorous critical inquiry.

The essayists, among the most highly respected Wordsworth and Coleridge scholars now writing in the UK and the US, define 1800's "newness" in various ways, and their approaches range from "revisiting the title" (Zachary Leader) to delving into "Wordsworth's Loves of the Plants" (Nicola Trott). Yet the volume as a whole, for all its diversity, possesses a coherence not often found in collections of essays by multiple authors. The tension between unity and multeity, comparable to tensions in Lyrical Ballads itself (or "the" Lyrical Ballads "themselves"), gives the critical volume a rare integrity.

Several themes recur: singleness, doubleness, multiplicity, and their shifting relations to each other (including the perennial, still pertinent, question of the Ballads' "unity"); ambivalence about solitude and community; uncertainty, conflict, "dissension and disquiet" (4) as elemental constituents of Wordsworth's verse; the "hidden" Wordsworth of danger, desire, and buried depths; accidents, contradictions, bafflement, self-checkings, and about-faces; continuities and inevitabilities; lyric, narrative, and history; and the symbiotic relationship between "art" and "nature." The contextually informed close readings at the heart of almost all the pieces reinforce the sense of a shared endeavor. Whereas the recent collection 1798: The Year of the Lyrical Ballads, edited by Richard Cronin, was "not a bicentenary reading of Lyrical Ballads, but an exploration of their context,"[1] its 1800 counterpart (featuring several of the same contributors) brilliantly combines both modes. The "1800" of the title refers variously to the second edition of Lyrical Ballads, to the year, and to a longer biographical or cultural "moment."

As the Wordsworthian burden of the above inventory suggests, The New "Lyrical Ballads," with its overmastering emphasis on Wordsworth, brings home with particular force the salient difference between the anonymous 1798 edition and 1800, subtitled "Poems by W. Wordsworth." None of the present authors has felt the need to revisit the oft-told tale of Coleridge's marginalization, a story whose human drama has contributed to the marginalization of the second edition by drawing attention away from its other interesting aspects. Most of the essays treat 1800 as, essentially, the first Collected Poems of Wordsworth. Coleridge remains an important presence, but less often for his poems than for his thinking, so integral to Wordsworth's Wordsworthianism through and beyond 1800. More surprising is the paucity of references to Dorothy Wordsworth, despite her distinct influence on 1800. Were there no compelling "new" perspectives from which to consider her role in the making of the Ballads?

The first four essays in the volume consider the 1798 and 1800 editions together. John Beer discerns in 1798 a "unity" that dissipates before 1800. Wordsworth's and Coleridge's 1798 poems, Beer argues, solicit "a kind of double reading" that acknowledges the tension between "a previous state of disillusionment and hopelessness" and "some kind of positive stance" (10, 11-12) toward which the volume gradually builds. This shared "doubleness" unites the poets as long as the "positive" pole remains an incipient sense. When, however, they begin to define the "positive forces" (12) in distinct ways—with Wordsworth's "human heart" branching off from Coleridge's "One Life"—the special magnetism is lost. Since Beer's point is that the unity of 1798 depends on vaguely formulated ideas that leave out the particulars, the vague formulations in his own writing may be necessary to his argument. But they leave the reader unable to engage the essay's critical judgments except on a general level.

Revisiting the title of Lyrical Ballads, Zachary Leader finds that "[t]he 'known habits of association' of the words 'lyrical' and 'ballad' make their conjunction problematic" (38). Leader invokes Prometheus Unbound, proposing that the tension between the lyrical and the theatrical in Shelley's "Lyrical Drama" can help us to understand the analogous problematic conjunction of genres in Lyrical Ballads. The sublime or lyrical moments in the drama "[take] the subject out of time" (28) and turn the action inward. Despite Leader's awareness that "for some critics" (he cites Marjorie Levinson and Alan Liu) such ideas of lyric are associated with a "denial of history" (36, quoting Liu), he nevertheless emphasizes "static and inward" (30) lyric moments without acknowledging the vital relationship in Shelley between such moments and historical action, a relationship that depends on Shelleyan ideas of imagination as an agent or instrument of historical forces. Such ideas about history and imagination need to be interrogated, but to disregard them is, in its own way, to leave out history. Leader is on firmer ground when, returning to Lyrical Ballads, he acknowledges that "lyric intrusions" (37) into narrative do not necessarily repress "the social or the communal, or history": that, in fact, "halting or disrupting the story can be a way of facing social reality" (36).

This explicit substitution of a positive association between lyric and history for the notion of lyric as escapism is the nearest that any of these essays comes to mounting a polemical response to the (no longer new) "New Historicism." In the undefensively post-new-historical New "Lyrical Ballads," detailed attention to poetic texts coexists with, and is usually inextricable from, consideration of their cultural contexts.

Tim Fulford's "Primitive Poets and Dying Indians" examines one such context, the  literature by and about North American Indians that fed the public hunger for the "exotic" and the "primitive" in the eighteenth century. Fulford shows that factual narratives (some of which included Indian songs) and poems such as Joseph Warton's "Dying Indian" influenced Wordsworth's "Ruth" and "The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman" and Coleridge's "Foster-Mother's Tale"; Wordsworth and Coleridge, in turn, influenced not only other poets but, Fulford suggests, "the ideology of British colonialism," by perpetuating and promulgating a paternalist vision (69). That Fulford does not attempt to show how, precisely, this ideological influence worked allows the focus to remain on the poems themselves, both the Lyrical Ballads (seen in a new light) and the less familiar poems and travel narratives that make up a hitherto rarely examined aspect of the Ballads' cultural milieu. Fulford touches upon the ways in which discourses of colonialism, race, and gender operate in these texts, but his survey never slows down enough to provide a full reading of the complex interactions of these multiple discourses in any particular text. His essay performs a useful function in presenting this interesting "new" material, which merits further revisiting.

A different version of the primitive—that of folklore and the folktale—is the subject of Marilyn Gaull's "Wordsworth and the Six Arts of Childhood." Gaull's classifying impulse (reminiscent of Renaissance treatises such as George Puttenham's Arte of English Poesie) is somewhat perplexingly belied by her readiness to break down "artificial" boundaries. The only distinction she treats at length is that between the fifth art of "children's literature" (moral and didactic tales, histories, and adaptations) and the more exciting, perilous sixth art of the "lawless tales" (Prelude [1805], 5.548, qtd. p. 88) that profoundly influenced Wordsworth's childhood: Arabian Nights, fairy tales, adventure stories, folktales and folk songs. Invoking an array of well-known studies of the role these often cruel and violent forms of literature play in children's psychological development, Gaull examines the element of fear. Against the grain of scholars who view childhood fears as part of an education in sublimity, she emphasizes the equal importance of fear as a "socializing force" (83), reminding us that Wordsworth became known to the Victorians not through his evocations of sublime childhood experiences but through his artificial, formulaic, sentimental writings on children. In making this corrective Gaull risks downplaying the connection that persists between the "lawless tales" and forces of power, danger, and desire that are not "socializing." Her excerpt from the "lawless tales" passage omits the lines explaining that the writers of these tales are "friends" not because they wield "socializing force" but because they make us "feel / With what, and how great might they are in league, / Who make our wish our power, our thought a deed, / An empire, a possession" (Prelude [1805], 5.551-53).[2] Gaull's apparent ambivalence reflects Wordsworth's own as he attempts to attach social feelings to solitary experiences of power.

The next section of the book comprises essays that address the contents of 1800 more directly. Kenneth Johnston's admiring observation about Wordsworth in the Preface aptly describes his own depth of inquiry: "He often starts much further 'down', at the foundations of his subjects, than he needs to, or than most readers would expect" (114). In keeping with the theme of revisionary revisiting that the critical collection shares with its subject, Johnston's essay builds on his own great books. Like other contributors to this volume, he recognizes Wordsworth as a "dialectically contrary poet" (99) and attends to the poet's "ability to admit doubts and qualifications" (109). He reads Wordsworth at the "deepest autobiographical level," where the verse, the Preface, and the life come together in uncanny ways. Thus the minor local-color poem "The Idle Shepherd-Boys" anticipates the two crucial visionary self-recognition scenes [Simplon Pass and Snowdon] of The Prelude" (108), and Michael sounds like "The Mad Mother" or like the father in "The Last of the Flock"—"or like Wordsworth himself at the end of 'Lines written above Tintern Abbey', pleading with Dorothy to keep his life in her mind forever: 'save me', is the message" (120). In other hands, such connections might seem superficial or forced, but Johnston makes us feel that he has found hitherto undiscovered secret passages.

Michael O'Neill's "Lyrical Ballads and 'Pre-Established Codes of Decision'" (the quoted phrase, from the 1798 Advertisement, refers to contemporary assumptions about poetic value) locates the interest and value of the Ballads in their resistance to such codes, their overturning of expectations, and their ways of "involving the reader in what he or she cannot wholly comprehend" (124). The satisfying readings that result examine the play between the many and the single, the communal and the solitary, the general and the specific, the public and the private.  In his memorable discussion of "Michael," O'Neill singles out the devastating line "And never lifted up a single stone." "'Truly expressive' the line may be," he writes, taking up Matthew Arnold's appreciative judgment, "yet what it is truly expressive of is the screened-off unreachability of specific experience" (133), an unreachability found in many other Wordsworth poems. O'Neill's analysis of this and kindred "singular" lines in Wordsworth stands alone in its power to move, yet it also gains power from and lends power to the many other readings in the book that acknowledge a similar dynamic. Johnston's essay, immediately preceding O'Neill's, ends by touching on the same line. Such resonances, which the editors wisely allow to speak for themselves, bring the pieces closer together.

Trott's fascinating piece analyzes Wordsworth's "complicating resistance" to the totalizing, optimistic, Coleridgean view of nature expressed in  the plan of The Recluse (144). Trott identifies two natures straining against each other in the "hybrid form" (155) of the Lyrical Ballads: an innocent nature "immersed in Coleridgean theology" and "another, racier, love of plants" (146), a sexualized, sometimes violent, nature influenced by Erasmus Darwin. Delving into the fertile cultural soil of 1790s botany (which as she notes was involved in "the ongoing ideological crossfire" of that decade [148]), Trott shows how the Ballads sprang from this ground. The co-presence of two natures, she explains, is not generally recognized because Wordsworth soon "marginalizes or moralizes one of them almost out of existence" (156)—though clandestine traces of the sexual content remain. The fecundity of Trott's subject is matched by the vitality of her writing, its sentences sprouting with metaphors, its rhythms expressing potent intellectual charge and release.

Bringing to a close the middle group of essays and interweaving strands from several of them (Johnston, O'Neill, Trott), Perry examines the idea of "accident" in Coleridge's critique of Wordsworth in the Biographia, according to which Wordsworth fails to live up to the Aristotelian principle "that poetry as poetry is essentially ideal, that it avoids and excludes all accident" (qtd. 170). Perry traces a "secret Coleridgean history of inevitability as a criterion of poetic excellence, and accidence as a mark of poetic failure" back to its roots in Coleridge's "theological-cum-political thought of the 1790s" (172), specifically his enthusiasm for the doctrine of historical inevitability. This enthusiasm, communicated by the "always-contagious" Coleridge to his friend (173), forms an important background for Wordsworth's lyrical experiments in the last years of the eighteenth century and the first years of the nineteenth (171).

The story (like those told by Johnston and Trott) is intertwined with that of The Recluse: as Wordsworth continued to fail to write the epic that Coleridge had proposed for him, "[t]he millennial confidence that Coleridge had hoped to enjoy vicariously through his friend's epic was fraying into a new kind of lyric art which explored instead the counter-forces of accidence, contingency, and circumstance" (177). Interesting and insightful as always, Perry traces the uninterrupted path from Coleridge's idea of historical inevitability to his subsequent, more "purely aesthetic" criterion of "the necessity of poetry" (191), the standard by which Wordsworth is repeatedly judged and found wanting in the Biographia. But Coleridge himself is, not surprisingly, inconsistent on the matter: although he continues to criticize Wordsworth for failing to attain the ideal, he sometimes celebrates the characteristically Wordsworthian "hybrid art" of ideal and real, poetic and unpoetic, necessary and accidental (193).

"There is a chaunt in the recitation both of Coleridge and Wordsworth, which acts as a spell upon the hearer, and disarms the judgment," writes Hazlitt in "My First Acquaintance with Poets" (qtd. 200). Lucy Newlyn fascinatingly explores the complex linguistic significance of chanting in Hazlitt's essay, contextualizing it within the politically-charged eighteenth-century dispute about the relative merits of chanting and "plain speaking." Chanting, Newlyn explains, "could claim kinship with the ballad tradition, and with a distinctly progressive notion of primitivism. But it could also attach itself to the more oracular authority of the Anglican church": this doubleness "accounts for the later divergence of Wordsworth's 'natural conversation of men under the influence of natural feelings'" from (that strain again) "Coleridge's Aristotelian belief that 'poetry is essentially ideal'" (202). For Hazlitt this divergence was secondary to the fact that both poets were chanters. Deeply suspicious of the mystifying power of such chanting—and, by extension, of the enchantments of poetry itself—Hazlitt suggests that the chanting and the mutual enchanting of Wordsworth and Coleridge are to blame for "each poet's relinquishment of an authentic radical voice" (200) and for their adoption, as conservative members of the Anglican Church, of increasingly exclusive language. Hazlitt, meanwhile, remained true to "the cause of 'colloquial freedom' in the unambiguously public forum of the periodical press and his medium was always prose" (220). Newlyn's absorbing essay makes two familiar issues new by examining their complex relationship in intriguing detail.

The closing essay by Nicholas Roe surveys Wordsworth's reception in popular editions, commentaries, and memoirs in the years since 1798/1800. Roe sees this varied, lively, and at times bizarre "low" tradition both as an index of the ballads' popularity and, even more important, as a key to their continued vitality. He laments the dwindling of this tradition  in the "high" Romantic criticism of Frank Kermode, Geoffrey Hartman, M.H. Abrams, and Harold Bloom, which bring about the ascendancy of Wordsworth as "poet-prophet of the Coleridgean tradition" (235). (Again Coleridge is held responsible for more than half-creating Wordsworth as we know him.) Roe expresses hope that the recent overturning of the Romantic canon, in calling attention to popular writing of the 1800 moment, will revive the debate over where to locate the life of Lyrical Ballads. He suggests not that the "low" can or should replace the "high" but that, if scholars wish to renew the Ballads for a third century of readers, they need to remember that "the most lively arena" of Wordsworth reception over the past two centuries has been the popular one. Roe sees continued life for the Ballads in renewed debate over the question of the "popular" versus the "artificial" Wordsworth.

Renewing this debate is not the same as restoring Lyrical Ballads to the popular "arena." To the extent that scholars can ever hope to revive the Ballads as (if not a "popular" text) a text capable of appealing to a general readership, we must help to create the taste by which this wider audience can appreciate them. In the undergraduate classroom, where encounters between "high" and "low" readers (in Roe's sense) most often take place, the upending of the canon and the inclusion of popular discourses contemporaneous with the Ballads (and, for that matter, current popular discourses) may help to create new interest. Too often, however, the language that is meant to give expression to the newly rediscovered "popular" aspect works more to exclude than to invite an audience beyond the high-academic one. To cultivate a new readership for Ballads (and even to renew it for an academic audience), scholars must embrace an accessible language. What could be a more fitting way to honor the Ballads as they enter their third century? The real language of reader speaking to reader, as this book so beautifully demonstrates, need not sacrifice newness, nuance, complexity, sophistication, depth, interest, or insight. Far from reducing the poems' difficulty, it can offer more direct access to their enduring opacity, a source of their power and their ability to generate new interpretations.

The hybrid approach of The New "Lyrical Ballads" will make it a boon to scholars and students alike. It revisits old questions and makes them new again. It provides stimulating new perspectives, contexts, and arguments. It extends, deepens, and refines critical understanding of the poems. At the same time, in its authors' eloquent articulation of bafflement in the face of  power or blankness, it reminds us that any attempt to transmit the poems can at best only approach, but never fully explain, the hiding places of their power.[3]

[1]. Tim Fulford, "Richard Cronin, ed. 1798: The Year of the 'Lyrical Ballads ,'" Romanticism On the Net 15 (August 1999), 18 January 2005.  <>
[2]. William Wordsworth, The Prelude: 1799, 1805, 1850, ed. Jonathan Wordsworth, M.H. Abrams, and Stephen Gill (New York: Norton, 1979), p. 180. [back]
[3]. See Peter J. Manning, "On Failing to Teach Wordsworth," Approaches to Teaching Wordsworth's Poetry, ed. Spencer Hall with Jonathan Ramsey (New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1986), pp. 39-53.

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Julia M. Wright, Blake, Nationalism, and the Politics of Alienation

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Julia M. Wright, Blake, Nationalism, and the Politics of Alienation. Athens: Ohio UP, 2004. xxxiii + 230. Illus: 5 b&w. $44.95 (Hdbk; ISBN: 0-8214-1519-0).

Reviewed by
R. Paul Yoder
University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Julia M. Wright's Blake, Nationalism, and the Politics of Alienation is a well-researched study that situates Blake in the political struggle to define an English (or sometimes British) national identity. Wright is less concerned with "Blake's ideology" per se than with "the formal and rhetorical strategies with which he sought to propagate that ideology," and so she limits her discussion, "almost exclusively, to Blake's printed works" (xxvi), as opposed to Blake's letters, notebooks and manuscripts. The book has a sort of chiastic structure: Wright devotes Chapter 1 to Laocoön and Chapter 6 to Jerusalem (both late works), part of Chapter 2 and all of Chapter 5 to Milton, and all but one section of Chapters 3 and 4 to America and Europe; shorter discussions of Poetical Sketches, Visions of the Daughters of Albion, The Song of Los and The [First] Book of Urizen fill out the remaining pages. There is little or no mention of Thel or The Book of Los, and only passing reference to the Songs, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and the Book of Ahania. Wright's topic is "not the 'liberating potential of discursive practices,' but the pan-ideological competition to control the representation of the individual and, more crucially, the community through which the individual is defined" (xxiii). That is, Wright focuses more on competing rhetorical strategies than on the different systems those strategies serve, a distinction that is often difficult to maintain. Nevetheless, the chapters on Laocoön, America and Europe, and Jerusalem are especially strong, and Wright offers some good insights on the social implications of some of Blake's key images.

In Chapter 1, "The Line of Progress: Blake's Laocoön and Classicist Theories of Art," Wright argues that in the unconventional presentation of the text in the Laocoön engraving, with lines running vertically and horizontally, as well as following the contours of the drawing of the statue, plus the use of three languages and several "fonts," Blake "forces the recognition that we do not read the same way twice and that our access to the text is not transparent, but depends on certain rules" (24). These rules include linearity and various types of order that "conventionally govern our contact with the text but do not totalize it" (24). She connects Blake's Laocoön to an argument between Johann Winckelmann and Gotthold Lessing about the formal limitations of the painting and poetry in classical art, an argument which Blake would have known from his friend Henry Fuseli. The statue of Laocoön played a key role in this argument, and Blake's use of the statue for his own piece signals, according to Wright, his work's participation in the discussion. The most interesting aspect of her discussion is the survey of how Laocoön has been handled in the various editions of Blake's work, a survey that demonstrates very well her point that Blake's disruption of linearity makes available a wide range of arrangements/interpretations/readings of the engraving's text.

In Chapter 6, "'Artfully Propagated': Hybridity, Disease, and the Transformation of the Body Politic," Wright focuses on images of disease in Jerusalem to argue that Blake moves from the virtual "nihilism" of Orc in America, for example, to positing a system of his own in Jerusalem. She identifies a "vital/viral" opposition in the poem, and suggests that with Jerusalem, Blake moves from a "purgative" (146) or "sterilizing" (152) model of national reform to a "vaccination" model. In other words, whereas in America Blake had envisioned the obliteration of systems in Orc's vision of broken religion that like a "torn book" would never be gathered, in Jerusalem Blake "characterizes his own work as a vaccine that will purge the political body of destructive errors that are often figured as cancerous" (146). It is a good point despite the unfortunate conjunction of the supposedly opposed purging and vaccinating in that particular formulation. The point Wright makes about this poem-as-vaccine, that "Jerusalem is rhetorically homologous to the works it condemns" (147), however, will hardly seem new to any close reader of the poem. Nor does the point seem as limited to Jerusalem as Wright implies; after all, Blake has been using books to battle books, ideas to battle ideas from the very beginning. What is new and I think exciting in Wright's discussion of Jerusalem is her use of the image of the polypus to describe one of the ways that Blake connects the various Prefaces to the chapters they introduce. The relationship between the Prefaces and the chapters proper has never been adequately explained, and while Wright does not claim to explain that relationship fully, there is an important and potentially useful insight in her suggestion that "The Polypus of each chapter is explicitly identified with the quality that Blake's corresponding preface establishes as the error of the group under scrutiny" (156).

Chapters 2 and 5 are closely related in their focus on Milton and their more direct discussion of issues of nationalism and the rhetorical mechanisms that support particular forms of it. In Chapter 2, "'Whence Came They': Contesting National Narrative," Wright addresses Blake's response to the myth of British national progress. As Wright describes it, the linearity that we saw Blake rejecting in Laocoön combines with chronology to create a nationalist narrative characterizing British history as a "linear progress toward 'civilization'" (29). In particular, the epic based on classical models was used to justify England's imperial ambitions.  Blake's response to this narrative is to locate "historical change not in the linear progress toward 'civilization' but in the apocalyptic and epiphanic transcendence of such a construction through the instantaneous casting off of error—change arises from revolutionary prophecy rather than evolutionary epic" (28). The instrument of such apocalyptic transcendence is a "hybrid" figure combining the biblical prophet and traditional bard, whose "task is to forge a connection between a latent national character and the lost culture in which that character enjoyed its full expression" (35). The prophet/bard accomplishes this task by creating apocalyptic and epiphanic "ruptures" in the linear historical narrative, revealing the true national character that has been covered over by the narrative of cultural historical progress from classical times to Blake's. Progressive evolution is revealed to be hegemonic oppression. By questioning the "universalizing impetus of the imperial march toward civilization," Blake turns instead "toward localized, disjunctive models of communal identity" (31). In Milton Blake's response to the imperial narrative reaches a sort of climax, replacing "narrative linearity" with a series of fractal iterations, "shattering the communal perspective in favor of individual epiphany" so that the poet may "evade the national narrative that he helped to produce—primarily, the paradigmatic tale of the national hero who dies for his nation" (55).

In Chapter 5, "'A State about to be Created': Modeling the Nation in Milton," Wright contends that for Blake, Milton "not only functions as a representation of a poet, but as a symbol for the neoclassical national culture to which Milton is iconically related" (112). Blake thus seeks to free Milton from "his representation as the hero of Protestantism and English liberty," a representation that supported a "nationalism that restores England's status as the seat of Protestant liberty and values sacrifice for the national good" (114). It was necessary to liberate Milton from this representation because he had been "appropriated to serve an English, Protestant iconography that was disseminated and promoted to support a nationalist agenda that included militarist expansion and commercial exploitation" (114-115). That is, according to Wright, Milton had been implicated in a classically-based rhetoric that represented self-serving aristocratic and commercial interests as self-sacrificing for the good of the nation. To make this case Wright must distinguish between the "self-sacrifice" she says Blake sought to overturn and the "self-annihilation" he valorizes in Milton; she manages this by arguing that

Blake draws a clear distinction between self-annihilation and self-sacrifice. Self-annihilation is entirely personal; it is the individual's destruction of selfhood for the good of that individual. Conversely, self-sacrifice posits a social system of exchange in which 'one must die for another,' demanding the destruction of the self for a good that the sacrificed individual cannot realize but someone who has not abnegated selfhood can realize through a national economy (120).

I am not sure that the distinction between personal and public will withstand much scrutiny—Blake clearly intends Milton's self-annihilation to have an impact well beyond the earlier poet's personal redemption. (Other readers may recall the cry of the Living Creatures in Jerusalem that "General Good is the plea of the scoundrel hypocrite & flatterer," but even there the point is how best to "do good to another" [55.60-61].)  The more important distinction lies in other terms embedded in Wright's formulation—the distinction between the "selfhood" that is annihilated and the "self" that is sacrificed, a distinction taken up, for example, in Wallace Jackson's 1983 study, Vision and Re-Vision in Alexander Pope (oddly enough). Nevertheless, Wright is surely correct that Blake believed that at least as it had been represented in British imperialist propaganda, "Milton's self-sacrifice was a terribly classical thing to do—and thus not, for Blake, very English" (128). Wright is also surely correct in arguing that "Blake does not limit his critique to the content of the propaganda but also condemns its forms, particularly the epic" (129), and that his concerns include the "modeling of the perceptual domain through cultural artifacts" (133).

The core of Wright's book is the two chapters devoted to America and Europe. Chapter 3, "'How Different the World to Them': Revolutionary Heterogeneity and Alienation," examines the alienation of Oothoon in Visions, of the narrator in Europe, and of the reader in America. Her point is that alienation, as a "defamiliarizing" strategy, is not necessarily a bad thing. For example, Oothoon, says Wright, "is alienated from cultural systems and therefore in a position to offer another view of them" (63), positioning Oothoon as the sort of prophet/bard described in Chapter 2. Oothoon's position "between [and outside of] the enslaving, hierarchical world of Bromion and Theotormon and the sympathetic one of the Daughters of Albion" has the effect of "alienating the reader from the prevailing ideologies, which Bromion and Theotormon represent, by inviting identification with Oothoon" (67). The discussions of Europe and America then explore first the narrator's and then the reader's position in relation to the none-too-firm boundary line between history and myth. Both sections pay rather more attention to the boundary line than to either the narrator or the reader, but in the final section of the chapter Wright pulls it all together:

The reader has access to the Visions' 'three-sided soliloquy,' eavesdropping on the speeches unheard by characters within the text, while the reader in Europe is placed outside the mythological and historical domains that the narrative perspective tries to separate. In America, the reader is even more alienated by the constantly marked, but never limiting, boundaries between myth and history, as well as the reversals of power that reveal the symbolic, rather than essential, nature of authority (86).

All this alienation, Wright argues, is designed to place "the reader in a potentially liberating place," a "liberation from the perspective of others" (88).

The payoff for Chapter 3 comes in Chapter 4, "'And None Shall Gather the Leaves': Unbinding the Voice in America and Europe."  Here Wright discusses the "homology" of biological and bibliographical reproduction, in which the female is viewed in the dominant gender code as the site of passive reproduction, comparable to the implied reader of the mass produced book as the "passive receptacle" of an authoritarian text. Focusing on the sexual violence enacted in the Preludiums of both poems, Wright argues that "the females of the preludiums resist that assimilation [into the dominant gender codes] by complicating their identities through the addition of a voice that is productive in ways that exceed, and are alien to, gender codes," thus generating a "destabilizing hybridity" (89). That is, the females in America and Europe fragment their identities in ways that force the recognition of a "personhood" that exceeds their "sexual utility" (92). Similarly, Blake resists creating a potentially passive reader by "splitting his texts into an assemblage of textual and visual parts with varying significatory interests" (90). Thus, Blake creates a non-authoritarian text that demands that its reader shift from being a passive reader to an active reader. In the creation of a non-authoritarian text, the author necessarily surrenders a certain amount of control, and Wright correctly notes that "the text need not be a coherent expression of the author's position; and the reader need not yield to the author's dictates" (91). All of this leads to Wright's point that Blake wants his readers to be active readers rather than passive receptacles of his texts. This point should not come as news to readers of Blake, but what Wright contributes here is the connection between the liberating fragmentation of female identity and Blake's fragmenting of his own texts. Moreover, although she does not take up this notion, Wright's remarks on the "distinction between the corporeal and incorporeal" as a "discursive vehicle" (93) provide a valuable way of thinking about Blake's notorious (and not well understood) distinction between "Corporeal Understanding" and "Intellectual Powers." (See, for example, Vincent de Luca's unquestioning use of the terms in relation to the sublime in Words of Eternity.)

At the outset I said that Wright's book is well researched, but I'm not sure how well that research finally serves her case. Rather it tends to obscure what is at bottom a fairly straightforward, easily visualizable argument. The core image of the book is that of a straight line that represents a view of narrative, history and identity as unified, linear, progressive, chronological and classically based. In Blake's work this line is repeatedly interrupted, and Wright argues that for Blake these interruptions not only enable positive revolutionary change, but also allow leakage between whatever it is that the line separates, creating a hybrid that runs counter to the nationalist notion of a unified culture, of which the individual  is simply an extension. Blake, she says, rejected this unified, linear system and the rhetorical forms it supposedly implies, in favor of a system and forms based on fragmentation, apocalypse and personal epiphany. The prophet/bard, himself a hybrid figure, both creates and represents these revolutionary interruptions. This emphasis on fragmentation climaxes in Milton, after which Blake offers an alternative system of his own in Jerusalem, a system that for Wright looks "uncomfortably" like the system he opposes. I think this is all more or less correct, and the argument about fragmentation and linearity is certainly consistent with current critical thinking about Blake. For the record, I disagree with some of the formal implications concerning Blake's rejection of linearity, but Wright's image of the leaky fragmented line provides a powerful way to think about the problem.

However, it is very difficult to see this image because it is buried under Wright's often dense prose and piles of criticism that as often as not lead us away from Blake. Especially in the early chapters, Wright will introduce a good point about Blake's work, but when she moves to support that point, she turns not to Blake, but to critics, and very often to critics who are not talking about Blake. To be sure, Wright stipulates that she is more concerned with issues of representation than with Blake's system—"At issue here is not Blake's ideology, but the formal and rhetorical strategies with which he sought to propagate that ideology" (xxvi)—but nonetheless her argument would be stronger and more clear if it were connected more securely to Blake's work. Moreover, part of Wright's argument is that ideology and formal and rhetorical strategies are inherently related, a point that raises questions about whether Wright's own rhetorical distinction between ideology and forms of representation is consistent with the rest of her argument.

There is also a range of smaller but still distracting problems: for example, a typo, twice, confusing Jerusalem's second and third Prefaces (161); a confusion between passive voice and intransitive verbs at a key point in the discussion of The Song of Los (46-47); an offhand and wholly unnecessary remark that assumes the overall unity of the Bible, a point more controversial than Wright apparently realizes (45). None of these instances, and there are others, invalidates the larger points Wright is making at the time, but they distracted me, at least, from the development of her argument. Moreover, Wright's comment on the unity of the Bible, for example, opens other questions about the already problematic nature of fragmented forms, questions that go unaddressed.

Julia Wright does a good job of mapping much that we know about Blake onto a larger discussion of emerging English nationalism in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The strongest parts of her discussion are the moments when she looks closely at the imagery of Blake's texts, and I especially like the discussion of images of biological and bibliographic reproduction in America and Europe, and of the function of the polypus image in Jerusalem. There is much that is both insightful and useful in her book, but those insights are often difficult to see, even for an active reader.

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