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Gordon Bigelow, Fiction, Famine, and the Rise of Economics in Victorian Britain & Ireland; Philip Connell, Romanticism, Economics, & the Question of Culture; & Maureen N. McLane, Romanticism & the Human Sciences: Poetry, Population, and the Discourse of..

Sunday, April 20, 2008 - 06:35
Bigelow, Gordon. Fiction, Famine, and the Rise of Economics in Victorian Britain and Ireland. Cambridge Studies in Nineteeth-Century Literature and Culture, no. 40. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. ix + 229pp. $43.00 (Pbk., 2007; ISBN-13: 9-780-521-03553-8).
Connell, Philip. Romanticism, Economics, and the Question of Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. xii + 338pp. $50.00 (Hdbk; ISBN-13: 9-780-199-28205-0).
McLane, Maureen N. Romanticism and the Human Sciences: Poetry, Population, and the Discourse of the Species. Cambridge Studies in Romanticism, no. 41. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. x + 282pp. $50.00 (Pbk., 2006; ISBN-13: 9-780-521-02820-2).

Reviewed by Alex J. Dick University of British Columbia

Most literary critics are familiar with economic terms like class, market, exchange, circulation, and production even if they aren't all that interested in economics. But people working in the field now called "literature and economics" or sometimes "the new economic criticism" are not primarily interested in using economic terminology to enhance readings of literary works. Nor are they particularly invested in using the tools of rhetoric or linguistics to challenge the ideological principles of academic economics, as even some economists have recently done. The new economic criticism, so called, is not really a branch of literary criticism at all. Rather it is part of a larger emerging field—discipline studies—that has attracted linguists, intellectual historians, anthropologists, and even economists and that is beginning to make headway in literature. Borrowing methodologies from discourse and systems analysis, the object of discipline studies is to understand when, how, and why literature and economics converge within institutional systems like the print marketplace or the University. These scholars share an interest in the way the different academic disciplines operate not discretely but in relation to one another. Disciplines formulate epistemologies by dismissing the usefulness or legitimacy of other competing epistemologies. At the same time, each discipline also adapts terms and ideas from others as part of their own disciplinary mandates. A good deal of discipline studies research is devoted to the history of the fields that now constitute the natural, social, and human sciences, including literature and economics. The Romantic period is vital to this story. Most of the disciplines that make up the social sciences and the humanities developed in the epistemological controversies that followed the fracturing of moral philosophy around 1800. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the familiar philosophical subjects (rhetoric, ethics, aesthetics) had become much more specialized and professionalized disciplines, including "English" and "Economics." One of the key insights of this history, however, is the way that these new disciplines continued to intersect with each other at the level of epistemology even as they were practiced in increasingly discrete ways. Such is the thesis of important recent works like the literary critic David Kaufman's The Business of Everyday Life (1995) and the economic historian Donald Winch's Wealth and Poverty: An Intellectual History of Political Economy in Britain 1790-1834 (1996). Romanticists will certainly know Clifford Siskin's The Work of Writing (1997) and Jon Klancher's The Making of English Reading Audiences (1989) both of which have examined the way the field now known as literature constituted itself as a profession first by distinguishing itself within popular and political writing as general and comprehensive and second by competing openly with other emerging disciplines (political economy prominently among them) for the right to claim arbitration over ultimate knowledge. Discipline studies also extends outside the realm of literature to encompass, for instance, political economy's troubled relationship to mathematics and statistics (as in Mary Poovey's A History of the Modern Fact [1998]) and the emergence of fields such as statistics, anthropology, and sociology. These studies are now joined by the three under review. Employing quite different approaches, all three consider the disciplinary intersection between literature and economics in the Romantic period and the significance of that intersection to the way both disciplines have developed since. Of the three, Gordon Bigelow's Fiction, Famine, and the Rise of Economics in Victorian Britain and Ireland is the most up front about its place in the new economic criticism. Most of the book is taken up by the third term in the title, "the rise of economics" or more precisely the transition in economic discourse from "political economy" to "economics." One of the most common mistakes made by scholars outside the field of the history of economic thought is the assumption that "political economy" and "economics" mean the same thing. They do not. Bigelow's book goes a long way to explaining how and why. But he also does away with the claim, common in much modern economics from Keynes on, that the two stages in the "rise of economics" are entirely distinct. Bigelow's main purpose, however, is to clarify how this transformation was prompted by a critique of political economy offered by philosophers, poets, novelists, essayists, and even other economists from the 1820s to the 1850s. This aspect of the study will be of most direct interest to Romanticists. Bigelow posits that the turn in economic discourse away from an attempt to devise systems of social governance (signified by the qualifier "political") and toward an attempt to rationalize universal principles of subjective desire was strongly influenced by the metaphysical and subjectivist strain of early-nineteenth-century philology. He thus begins with two long chapters covering the development of political economy from Adam Smith in the 1770s to Walter Stanley Jevons 100 years later. The focus here is on the way political economy assumed a theory of language. Smith, Bigelow argues in chapter 1, was profoundly influenced by the linguistic theories of the French philosophers Condillac and Rousseau: this influence is most strongly felt in Smith's early essay "Some Considerations of the First Formation of Languages" but it also apparent in The Theory of Moral Sentiments and Wealth of Nations. Inspired by the idea that human language was developing into an ever more perfect abstract system of representation, an idea he also cultivated in his early essays on language and discourse, Smith proposed that human psychology and, following it, economic exchange, would eventually become perfect abstract systems. In chapter 2, Bigelow shows how this abstract ideal changed over the course of the nineteenth century. First, political economists came under the sway of the notion of "national character," the idea that the economic potential of any culture or society is determined by geographical conditions and, in some instances, racial characteristics. Second, having isolated the etymological and philosophical roots of language in response to the mechanistic doctrines of the previous century, philological thinkers and critics from Horne Tooke to Kant, Coleridge, and De Quincey went on to posit a categorical ontology for human experience in the subject itself, or more specifically in subjective desire. The influence of such ideas on mainstream British thought, still profoundly empirical in its orientation, was not felt strongly until the 1830s and after. But Bigelow hints that once the case for subjective desire had convinced mid-century thinkers, it was hard to distinguish it from an empirical truth. And thus it came to be accepted among the new generation of economists. By the 1860s, presumptions about what human beings were capable of under certain conditions were so systematic that economic thinkers—notably Stanley Jevons—began to argue that the science of political economy should abandon philosophical questions about language and nationality and instead commit itself to making specific predictions based on available statistical evidence. Human desire and economic progress were not problems open to debate and dispute, but incontrovertible, rudimentary facts. The discipline has never been the same since. Bigelow's test case for the influence of national character and Romantic philology on economics is the Irish famine. Before the famine Ireland had a distinctive agriculture, a successful banking industry, and its own "Dublin School" of political economy, highly critical of the labor theory of Ricardo and his followers (63). By contrast, policy makers in England still held to the labor theory of value as well as to the principle of "atonement." This was a popular Christian idea that hardships endured on earth are repaid with reward in the hereafter. To Charles Trevelyan, Assistant Secretary to the Treasury, the Irish were a primitive people who had developed neither the means nor the aptitude for proper economic development. The famine was a sign that only sound trade and industry policies would produce a healthy economy; now that the truth of Ireland's backwardness was known, the right economic policies could be introduced. Other witnesses to the famine argued that economists should moderate their commitment to the labor theory of value with an awareness of Ireland's particular economic conditions, its "national character." Others suggested that the famine was the result of a faulty monetary system based on the potato rather than precious metals. Still others insisted that Ireland must be governed under a "new domestic economy" that used "the domestic household as a model of economic efficiency, tempered and motivated by sentimental feeling" (135). The different perspectives on the famine, English and Irish, bureaucratic and literary, helped produce new forms of economic thought. The chapter (4) on the Irish famine is, I think, the most important in the book. Whereas the other four chapters all consist of readings of relatively familiar works of fiction and theory, this one considers a range of original archive materials including government documents, private letters and memoranda, and notebooks and diaries, many of which have never been studied before. Bigelow presents a selection of the materials; an examination of more of these documents would make a very stimulating and important study in itself. For what they show, importantly, is how the discipline of economics was transformed under the pressure of competing epistemologies which it then adapted into its own general methodology. This is precisely the kind of process that defines the formation and evolution of the disciplines. Ireland plays some part in the literary chapters. Much is made, for instance, of Dickens' caricatures of Irish immigrants. By and large, however, the literary chapters offer new readings of well-known mid-Victorian novels, Dickens' Bleak House and Gaskell's Mary Barton, Cranford, and North and South, that further document the transformation in mid-century economic thought from mechanism to subjectivity. As a corollary to this transformation, Bigelow introduces yet another term in his account of the rise of economics: gender. Bigelow considers the contemporaneousness and conjunctions of this novel with one of the essays in Dickens' journal Household Words, "The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street." Here, Dickens provided his readers with an overview of the Bank of England as a parade through its gothic architecture, solid and secure, in spite of its empty coffers. It is not gold or wealth as such that sustain the market economy, but rather the subjective desire of the participants. Credit is merely the imaginary instrument that propels and inspires that desire. Dickens' point, Bigelow argues, is not to humanize but rather to feminize the marketplace. Dickens employs a similar strategy in Bleak House. While the foggy labyrinth of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce is meant to encapsulate the ceaseless and intolerable grinding of the mechanistic universe imagined by political economists, the new subjectivist economics is allegorized in the novel in the figure of Esther Summerson. Like the Old Lady of Dickens' essay, Esther propels the action of the novel by stimulating the subjective desire of the male characters. Bigelow covers the entire century (1770–1870) during which political economy evolved. In Romanticism, Economics, and the Question of Culture Philip Connell considers the implications of a particular moment in that development: the anonymous publication of Thomas Robert Malthus' An Essay on the Principle of Population in 1798. Malthus' Essay sparked one of the most crucial controversies of the period, the question of whether human beings are motivated purely by physical want or whether they can curtail their desires through moral reflection. Connell debunks the idea, well accepted among Romantic scholars, that Malthus and the Romantics were ideological and temperamental opposites by outlining in the first chapter the similarities in their educational and philosophical backgrounds. Malthus was a Cambridge-educated Anglican minister whose skepticisms about Paleyite theology and Godwinian perfectibility prompted him to point out the physical limitations on human intellectual and social advancement. Malthus' views on suffering and self-awareness were similar to the young Romantics' and might well have endeared him to them, or at the very least, not have antagonized them. Many of Wordsworth's and Coleridge's early writings have a decidedly Malthusian bent, and neither of them ever stated their opposition to the population principle outright. So where did the Romantics' "opposition" to Malthus come from? For Connell, it was simply a matter of political expediency. The second edition of the Essay appeared just as hostilities against France resumed in 1803. The country was in the grips of yet another invasion alarm; national unity was the order of the day. While it was greeted with cheers from Malthus' own Whiggish intellectual set, the Essay's grim conclusions about poverty and population were not the best antidote to the malaise of war. Many former radicals redefined their views in patriotic terms. To defend or agree with Malthus at such a time risked further calumny. So in his review of the second edition of the Essay in the Analytical Review, using Coleridge's notes on the subject, Southey lambasted it for suggesting that overpopulation is a matter of scientific inevitability and not moral choice. Malthus' population principle implied that faith in a benevolent God, or more to the point, pride in one's country and the progressiveness of its institutions, would have little effect on the cause of national unity. Such views would effectually "starve the poor" (cited in Connell 40) and thus encourage social division. Southey sidestepped the fact that Malthus had addressed this question in the 1803 edition in much the way that Southey and Coleridge wanted, by suggesting that religious leaders might encourage "moral virtue," i.e., sexual restraint. But, Connell claims, the theory of population, with its moral and philosophical assumptions, was simply not the point of Southey's attack. By attacking Malthus, Southey (and indirectly Coleridge) could at once establish their credentials with the governing Pittite party (who were not necessarily opposed to Malthus anyway) and, at the same time, refashion their democratic radicalism to suit the moderate Whiggism of wartime. Expanding on his remarks about the importance of the press in chapter 1, Connell's main argument in the rest of the book is that whatever differences there were between the economists and the Romantics tended to settle on the question of how to improve and reform education in the wake of Britain's massive commercial, industrial, and population expansions. Tracing the development of British education reform from Stewart's lectures at the University of Edinburgh, through his students, James Mill, Francis Jeffrey, and Henry Brougham, to prominent philanthropic entrepreneurs like Samuel Bailey and William Roscoe, Connell shows that the number one issue for political economists throughout the country was how to establish the intellectual principles that would keep the people from falling into the malaise that over-population would, on its own, induce. Malthus supported the establishment of state-wide primary education (at the very least) because a sound understanding of the basic principles of growth and restraint fundamental to the population principle were, Malthus argued, the best means of counteracting it. James Mill contended that the establishment of permanent principles of commerce and economy was the final, crucial stage in the process of human civilization, whereby the spread of ideas made possible by commerce, industry, and technology would be codified into "a 'common stock . . . one vast engine' of intellectual improvement" (82). In contrast to Mill's optimism, Francis Jeffrey's "historical sociology of literature and learning . . . was concerned above all with the progressive erosion of the conditions under which serious literary and intellectual endeavour might be fostered" (93-94). Jeffrey's reviews of the Romantic poets are not, in Connell's estimation, merely sneering witticisms. They express Jeffrey's general dismay at the collapse of the Scottish enlightenment ideals of engaged, comprehensive knowledge in the wake of an increasingly diffuse and fragmented field of publications that produced "superficial literary forms united only by their transient mediocrity" (95). But though Malthusian education reform played a major part in the growth of the secular Whig ideology, it also strongly influenced Christian Toryism. Malthus had always claimed that his proposals for political and intellectual reform in the wake of the population principle were fundamentally Christian. Since government itself could do little to stop the tide of overpopulation, and the Universities were beyond the means of most citizens, the responsibility for communicating the harmful effects of and possible remedies for sexual license must fall to the institution already entrusted with the moral welfare of the nation: the Church. Among the most important Christian Malthusians was Thomas Chalmers. A prominent Presbyterian minister, Chalmers believed strongly in the benefits of a healthy commercial state. But he also campaigned vigorously on behalf of a Christian doctrine that could teach people how to cope with the effects of commercial and industrial expansion. For Connell, Chalmers represents an important precedent for the "liberal Toryism" of Coleridge's and Southey's later writings on such questions as national education, public debt, and Catholic Emancipation. Coleridge, for instance, supported the Liverpool government's continuation of the suspension of cash payments because he believed that national debt fostered the circulation of the "symbols" of rank, achievement, and Christian reason that sustained the nation. Following Burke, Coleridge did believe that the responsibility for harnessing the potential of commerce must lie with an aristocratic class who were already empowered by birth with the trust of the nation's intellectual and economic heritage, that is, honor and land. Coleridge's ambition to turn this heritage into the foundation for a class of intellectual elite—what he called the "national Church" and later the "Clerisy"—resembles Chalmers' Malthusian mandate for putting the education of the country in the hands of the Ministry. Coleridge's abstract hermeneutics is not, therefore, the antithesis of political economy, in spite of Coleridge's remonstrations against materialism. Rather, Coleridge was working in the tradition of political economy itself, offering another version of the national education program that was its intellectual motivation. Connell's work is primarily archival. The light that Connell sheds on the Romantics' interest in political economy will, I think, have a profound impact on the way Romanticism is understood as a political and pedagogical movement. This is, however, primarily a work of intellectual history. Connell does little in the way of close reading other than to confirm how Romantic writing engages with larger economic concerns. For instance, Connell argues that Wordsworth's Excursion is a crucial document for understanding Romantic contributions to educational reform, but he barely touches on Wordsworth's poetics, the complexities of which have been shown by a number of critics to engage the epistemological and hermeneutic conundrums of economic thinking. That said, the historical point about literary Romanticism's close proximity to political economy is made so clearly that it must surely change the way we regard our own disciplinary assumptions as well as those of the Romantics themselves. By contrast, in Romanticism and the Human Sciences: Poetry, Population, and the Discourse of the Species, Maureen McLane reads in great detail the dialectic encounter between Romantic poetry and the epistemological problems of Malthusian political economy. Of the three books, McLane's is the most theoretically intricate and ambitious. Connell and Bigelow knit the economists and the poets together in a historical web of scholarly and political connections. McLane tries to theorize the web itself: she addresses not only how the debate between Malthusian political economy and Romantic poetry inspires questions of writing, orality, identity, and agency, but also how those questions define present anxieties in the academy about the relations among the humanist disciplines. But like Bigelow and Connell, McLane is out to challenge preconceived notions about the distinctiveness of literature from the other disciplines of the human sciences—most particularly political economy—and about the superiority of literary or humanistic understanding that such preconceptions tend also to imply. All three writers insist that in order to remain relevant, the Romantics had to address matters of current political, social, and economic concern: money, famine, population, education. But this argument goes beyond historical context. It postulates that the significance of literary history lies in its appreciation of the epistemological encounter between literature and economics at the moment of their respective formation as academic disciplines. The literary history of the Romantic period, then, has as much to do with understanding the relevance—or possibly the irrelevance—of literature today as it does with understanding the relations between literature and other forms of knowledge 200 years ago. An analogy for the dilemma of the humanities is the one suggested repeatedly by McLane herself: the struggle between Victor Frankenstein and his creation. Much of the material on Frankenstein in the book expands upon McLane's own award-winning study of Mary Shelley's novel, "Literate Species: Populations, 'Humanities,' and Frankenstein" (ELH 63) which won the Keats-Shelley Association of America Essay Award in 1997. In that essay, and in the sections of the book dealing with Frankenstein, McLane argues that the novel allegorizes the debate between Malthus and Shelley's father William Godwin that had originally inspired Malthus' Essay in the first place and which continued until Godwin's Reply to Malthus was published in 1820. Their failure signifies, in turn, the pyrrhic victory of "species logic" represented by Malthusian population theory. Both Victor and the Creature relish humanistic learning as the source of their ideal self-conception as pan-European "man." With Walton, both Victor and his Creature are failed poets of a kind. Certainly all believe in the power of the poetic imagination over and above the reproductive capacity of writing. Cosmopolitanism is here confounded by the fact of national difference or, in Bigelow's terms, "national character." The ambiguity of European-ness is itself a symbol for the problem of human-ness. Humanism itself is trumped by the competitivness and "misery" as Malthus called it, of physical "species being." At the end of the day, the creature asks Victor to make him a mate. And while the intentions are good—he wants them to live in "native" exile in South America—it is chemistry that must do the dirty work. And even though his tearing apart of the female monster helps him to re-enter the "human social body," the monster's vengeance encapsulates the constant pressure on that humanism by the fact of production and reproduction. Thus, McLane argues, the novel stages an encounter between competing modes of being-in-the-world. Alongside Frankenstein, McLane reviews other crucial statements of poetic autonomy of the period: Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads (as read and re-read by Coleridge) and Shelley's Defence of Poetry. Following Alan Bewell's Wordsworth and the Enlightenment (Yale University Press, 1989), McLane sees in Wordsworth's poetry a further attempt to formulate the "logic of Man": that is, an anthropology or "anthropologic." Like Shelley's Malthusian controversy, Wordsworth's anthropologic is a paradox: in the discovery of "other" humans (children, rustics, natives, "savages"), European man is confronted with his own potential species-ness, and thus the question of the distinctness of his humanity. The consequence of this encounter is a reformulation of the idea of "man" as a dialectical encounter between reason, which is unique to the "human," and sensibility, which is fundamental to human being. Neither is distinct—just as in Wordsworth's poems no "native" is ever "inhuman"—but neither can possibly be one and the same as the other. Wordsworth's poetry stages these encounters between different kinds of humanity. In "We Are Seven," which McLane reads brilliantly, the child does not represent savagery as such (as perhaps the "master" understands her), but rather a form of sociability that for the poem's readers confounds the master's autocratic mathematizing. At the same time, though, the poem leaves the master's enlightenment prejudices very much intact. For McLane, the poem depicts not an encounter between rustic and thinker, but rather a "simulacrum" (61) of such an encounter, an apparently vain attempt to merge the universes of orality and writing together without recognizing (as Wordsworth's poem seems to do) that these universes also exist in quite distinct dimensions. In "Ruth," Wordsworth throws into relief the effects of contact on Europeans (represented by the Youth) and the "fantasies and experiences of primitivity" that "disperse themselves throughout the home world" (78). Such poetic encounters are preludes to a reformulation—one that Coleridge identified in the Biographia—of the concept of "man" as fundamentally at odds with itself. For Coleridge, Wordsworth's idea of sympathy is flawed. It might seem to be the impetus for the successful encounter between peoples and thus a composite definition of man. But all it produces is the image of a previous conception mounted onto the object-body of the other. Lurking behind this dialectic is the Romantics' own uneasy relationship to Malthus, very much in the spirit of the tension that Connell outlines. Malthus's Essay, like Lyrical Ballads (with which it is almost exactly contemporary) stages an encounter between abstract human being (represented by Godwin and Condorcet) and physical species being (represented by the population principle) which it can never wholly reconcile. Obviously, though, McLane's reading of the Malthusian controversy is very different from Connell's. Connell argues that the Romantics' interest in Malthus proves that their thoughts on education and the imagination are fundamentally in line with classical political economy. McLane contends that it was precisely this intense engagement with Malthus that drove the Romantics to try to reform literature into a wholly new and distinct entity called "poetry." Whereas Connell's Malthus is very much a flesh-and-blood presence, McLane's is a rather ghostly figure, an emanation of the Romantics' own desires to affect social change but one against which they struggle to achieve autonomy at the same time. In this way, Malthus comes to stand for the bugbear of the "human sciences," that strange multi-disciplinary entity that we all want to conjoin and that at the same time makes us tremble with fear and loathing. A good way to clarify this difference is to note the strikingly dissimilar ways Connell and McLane read Percy Shelley. McLane's Shelley is not, to be sure, a wide-eyed idealist. What characterizes Shelley as a thinker is his consciousness of "historicity"; that is, his uncannily Malthusian sense of the necessary demise of systems of thought at the hands of physicality, violence, and hunger. Yet, McLane also sees in Shelley what she calls "radicalized" or "critical hope" (124-125). In contrast to the historical consciousness that sees the future only in terms of the predilections of the present, Shelley's futurity "re-cognizes and re-imagines" the future as a wholly different state and consciousness that it also understands, Malthus-like, to be without hope under present conditions. McLane's main frame of reference for this argument is Laon and Cynthia. Her thesis might be summarized equally well with reference to Prometheus Unbound: the joyous masque that takes up all Act IV, I have always taken to be a restaging of Act I as if the events of the play—the punishment of Prometheus, the rise of the Jupiter, and, by implication, the history of the entire world—had never actually happened. Prometheus' freedom releases time from one history (ours) and replaces it entirely with the history that should have been, the celebration of nature, imagination, and love with which the play concludes. However, Connell finds Shelley's efforts at reform to be more or less in line with mainstream Whig thought, including Malthusianism and later utilitarianism, especially that of Jeremy Bentham. Connell reminds us, importantly, that the Philosophical View and the Defence of Poetry were written at very different moments in Shelley's life and career and on very different occasions. Nowhere in the Defence, Connell insists, does Shelley attack Malthus; in fact, on the question of the adverse effects of machinery (which Shelley does address in the Defence) they are actually in agreement (213). The proper context for understanding the political significance of the Defence is the "complex and extensive network of social relationships linking the philosophical radicals and the Hunt circle" (214). Bentham's critiques of the legal system, his attacks on royal prerogative, his distaste for the church, and his calls for Parliamentary reform were applauded by Hunt and other London radicals. Bentham visited Hunt in prison following his conviction for libel against the Regent. Bentham and Shelley were more alike intellectually than their differing temperaments and reputations have hitherto indicated. Shelley's adoption of the "Hermit" persona in his pamphlets and particularly Laon and Cyntha (which McLane reads so persuasively) owes much to the Enlightenment tradition of the philosophe also adopted by Bentham. And the View itself, beyond its anti-Malthusian bent, is fundamentally Benthamite in its symptomatic analysis of the rise of commerce as alienating and isolating. Like Shelley, Bentham regarded the body as the primary site of moral right (the famous pleasure-pain principle) and of genuine sympathy. And Shelley's demand that poetry play a fundamental role in legislative reform at a global level, in spite of its Godwinian (and thus anti-Malthusian) idealism, is in line with Bentham's view that constitutional change can only occur at the fundamental level of the individual mind and, at the same time, on a global scale. "Shelley's Philosophical View," Connell concludes, "should in fact be viewed as a contribution to a larger debate within the Hunt Circle, sparked by Bentham's growing influence as a legislator and a radical, and centred on the relationship between the literary culture of poetry and the practicalities of political and constitutional reform" (225). A Defence of Poetry is not, in Connell's reading, a mandate for poetry's moral superiority to politics, but a demand for poetry's continuing relevance to politics. Which of these readings of Shelley is correct? Which more appealing? It is hard to tell. The difference between them is really methodological. Connell relies on historical documents to build an outstanding case for Romanticism's investment in political economy. McLane reaches beyond historical connections, so brilliantly established by Connell, to unravel the philosophical and psychological dynamics of the engagement between poetry and the new human sciences. As different as these readings might appear, they are in other ways similar. Both interpret Shelley's case for poetry as an attempt to clarify the general significance of literature over and above the narrow limitations of political economy even as it also acknowledges that economic necessity tends to trump any possible claim for the authority of humanistic understanding. This ambiguity, and Shelley's poetics with it, is crucial to the process of discipline formation. While neither as detailed nor as energetic as either McLane's or Connell's book, Bigelow's study also reminds how us much the political economy of the early nineteenth century was engaged with the issues of autonomy, language, nationality, and destiny that Romantic and later Victorian writers confronted and how much that confrontation—sometimes sympathetic, sometimes antagonistic—shaped the two disciplines accordingly. Moreover, Bigelow's move into the Victorian period allows us to see how the later economists' embrace of the Romantic critique of political economy in turn produced a new discipline—economics—that was at once profoundly humanistic and an antagonist of the humanities.