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Article

While the relationship between humans and environment in Australia stretches back some 50,000 years, the colonization of the continent by Europeans in the late 18th century dramatically altered Australia’s ecology. Creative literature has responded variously to the encounter that colonization precipitated. In particular, modulations appear through successive epistemological and ideological paradigms: Enlightenment rationality, romantic sensibility, nationalist celebration, and ecological alarm. While early conservationist impulses are visible in the colonial period, in the middle of the 20th century, the birth of the modern ecological consciousness understands that not only particular species or habitats are at risk, but the entirety of nature seems to suddenly face a historically unprecedented vulnerability. In this sense, it is methodologically useful to separate Australian environmental texts between those that are “pre-ecological” and those that are “post-ecological.”

Article

James Chandler

“Sentiment” is a term that signifies differently in its different English forms (sentiments, sentimental, sentimentality, sentimentalism), and these forms themselves signify differently at different times and in different languages. In French, whence it derives, the verb sentir means “to feel” or “to sense,” and a relatively clear distinction can be made in that language between sentir and penser (“to think”), and likewise between un sentiment and une pensée. In English, however, especially in the 18th century when the notion of the sentiment became central to empiricist moral philosophy, the term tends to straddle thought and feeling. In the accelerated development of the concept in the work of David Hume and his friend Adam Smith, sentiment might best be understood as feeling reflected in thought, which later figured centrally in William Wordsworth’s account of the poetic process. Even before Wordsworth, Laurence Sterne had deployed the recently coined English adjective sentimental, and he exploited this new understanding to develop a new and massively influential mode of ambivalence in fiction. Such an understanding also helped to underwrite the fully elaborated 1795 theoretical intervention of the Anglophile German writer Friedrich Schiller, who had to invent the German adjective sentimentalisch from the Anglo-French term. Schiller distinguished the sentimental mode in poetry from the naive on the dual grounds, already established in British writings on the subject, that the sentimental involved “mixed feelings” born of an act of “reflection.” Even as this more technical understanding of the sentimental mode was being developed, however, critique of “sentimentality” in a strictly pejorative sense was underway. In modernist literary theory, certainly, much energy is mobilized around this critique, as is clear from a foundational work in the institution of “practical criticism” by I. A. Richards at Cambridge, who produced a full taxonomy of the forms of sentimentality, a deviant kind of emotional responsiveness he opposed to another, which he called “inhibition.” The modernist intolerance of what it called “sentimentality” would be taken up as part of a broader and more programmatic critique of commercialized culture under capitalism in later work by Frankfurt School theorists Max Horkheimer and T. W. Adorno and by Jean Baudrillard.

Article

From the 1750s until the 1840s, the interest in Icelandic manuscripts of mythology and heroic sagas, as well as various forms of Nordic folklore, entered a new phase. One of the central reasons for this was an emergent attention to vernacular, national, and even primitive literature associated with the rise of Romanticism. Investigations of the Nordic past had been carried out before this time, and a popular craze for all things “Viking” came later in the 19th century, but the Romantic period marks a major juncture in relation to providing the Old North with cultural meaning. If the intellectual history of rediscovering Old Norse texts (i.e., poetry and prose written in the North Germanic language until the 14th century, known primarily from Icelandic manuscripts) and medieval Nordic folklore (found in medieval ballads, sagas, and heroic legends) differed in various European countries, there was also a remarkable sense of common aim and purpose in the reception history as it developed during the Romantic period. This was because European scholars and writers had come to see medieval Nordic texts as epitomizing the manners and literature of a common Germanic past. In particular, Old Norse texts from Icelandic manuscripts were believed to preserve the pre-Christian religion, as this was once shared by Scandinavians, Anglo-Saxons, Germans, and the Franks. Thus, interest in such texts circulated with particular intensity between Scandinavia, Germany, and Britain, as well as, to a lesser degree, France. Paradoxically, if medieval Nordic texts were seen as wild and unwieldy pieces, unaffected by classical learning and sophistication, they were also sought out as triumphant records of the vernacular and national. In addition to this, the untamed use of fantastic and sublime elements in these texts fitted into a new Romantic emphasis on the primitive and imaginative resources of literature. There are three interrelated areas in which Nordic texts made an impact. The first of these was in the field of antiquarian studies. Scholars had taken an interest in the texts and culture of the Nordic past beginning in the 17th century, publishing their findings primarily in Latin. But efforts were redoubled after Paul Henri Mallet, a professor at Copenhagen, published a popular history of the Old North (1755) and a selection of Norse poetry (1756) in French. These works gained wide European traction and influenced the reception history in fundamental ways during the Romantic period. The second area of impact was the acceleration of translations and/or adaptations of original manuscript texts that began to appear in modern European languages. But, in effect, a relatively small body of texts were repeated and reworked in various national languages. The third area in which the interest in Nordic literature asserted its impact was among writers and poets, who trawled antiquarian works on Norse history and mythology as an ore to be mined for the purpose of creating—or rather reviving—a national literature. This was a literature that consciously broke with classical models and decorum to provide a new poetic orientation that was both more vernacular and imaginative. The celebration of medieval Nordic literature cannot be treated in isolation, as if it were an independent phenomenon; it was part of a wider revival of ancient national/vernacular literary forms around Europe. To a significant degree, the attention to Old Norse texts was propelled by the phenomenal success that the Gaelic Ossian poetry enjoyed across Europe. Norse poetry was harnessed as a Germanic parallel that could match both the vigor and purported ancientness of the Ossian tradition. Sometimes the Nordic past was invoked as a larger legacy that represented a shared ethno-cultural past; at other times, it was used with a more focused nationalist aim. But, whatever the intent in individual circumstances, the rediscovery of the Old North took place through the circulation of ideas and key texts as part of a wider European exchange.

Article

Walter Benjamin (1892–1940) was situated among a constellation of early-20th-century radical Jewish thinkers delving into questions of German culture and philosophy in Mitteleuropa. Within this Jewish Central European radical culture, a complex network of links, of “elective affinities,” as Johann Wolfgang Goethe called them, brought together romanticism, Jewish messianism, anti-bourgeois cultural rebellion, and revolutionary (socialist and anarchist) utopias. This messianism is not the one of Jewish orthodoxy but a new, highly political version, seen through the lens of German romanticism. Benjamin should thus be viewed as a religious atheist with anarchist leanings, who only discovers Marxism in the mid-1920s, following the lectures of Georg Lukacs’s that were published as History and Class Consciousness in 1923. He became the first Marxist to break radically with the ideology of progress. Benjamin’s thinking has a distinct critical quality that sets his apart from the dominant and official forms of historical materialism and gives him a formidable political and intellectual superiority as a Marxist critic. This philosophical peculiarity comes from his ability to incorporate into the body of Marxist revolutionary theory insights from Jewish messianism and from the German Romantic critique of modern civilization.

Article

Michael Saler

In the early 20th century, the German sociologist Max Weber famously argued that Western modernity was “disenchanted.” He meant that modernity was defined by the growth of rationalization, which evacuated the shared spiritual meanings and purposes that had characterized premodern societies oriented toward supernatural worldviews. Rather than relying on “mysterious, incalculable forces,” Weber maintained that modernity relied on reason, science, and bureaucracies to manage existence. Weber’s disenchantment paradigm influenced thinkers throughout the 20th century, but since the turn of the 21st century, it has been substantially revised. Critics note that traditional “enchanted” worldviews continued to thrive within modernity, and varieties of specifically modern “re-enchantments” arose as well, consistent with the rational, secular, and consumerist currents of the modern world. Critics also observe that the paradigm was too one-sided in its stress on rationalization as the guiding principle of modernity. The paradigm’s binary opposition between reason and the irrational, or the dialectical transformation of the former into the latter, have been largely replaced by an emphasis on the complementary nature of reason and the imagination. (Indeed, contrary to Weber’s assertion, the imagination itself is now perceived as a “mysterious, incalculable force” within modernity, appealing to the secular and the religious alike.) The new paradigm highlights the intertwined nature of the Enlightenment and Romanticism, reason and the imagination, disenchantment and enchantment. Modernity is characterized less by outright disenchantment than by “disenchanted enchantment.”

Article

McKenzie Wark

The concepts of spectacle and détournement are closely associated with the Paris-based postwar avant-garde movement known as the Situationist International. Spectacle is meant to work as a concept that critiques not this or that aspect of media culture, but its totality. It reveals the spectacle as the double, in the world of consumption, of capitalist commodity production. Détournement is the practice which opposes spectacle by refusing all forms of private property in the production of cultural works. While the Situationist International expired as a movement in 1972, these concepts were subsequently taken up by others, although most often shorn of the revolutionary impulse their linkage was meant to forge. This is why it is important to stress the origins of these concepts in both Western Marxism and also in the radical avant-garde movements of the prewar period. Guy Debord, a central animating presence in the Situationist International, was drawing on militant Marxist thinkers such as Georg Lukács and Henri Lefebvre, as well as the lesser-known Belgian branch of the Surrealist avant-garde. Understood as keys to a unified critical theory and practice, spectacle and détournement can be retrieved from merely descriptive studies of literature and media, and also from more narrowly formalist avant-garde literary practices.

Article

Deidre Lynch

The notion that theoretical inquiry and the love of literature are at odds is a tenacious one, likewise the related account of the theorist as heartless killjoy. This article, however, challenges the notion that theory is necessarily down on love. It surveys the several strains of theory that since the turn of the 21st century have made it possible for practitioners of theory to acknowledge more readily that concept-driven intellectual work inevitably has an affective undertow. But it also looks further back, to the late 18th-century origins of the literary studies discipline, so as to understand why the love question cannot be confined to the sphere of amateurism but instead hovers persistently around what literature professors do in their classrooms: what does that persistence say about the place of ethical and affective norms in the discipline’s intellectual enterprise? And just why and how does aesthetic receptivity get defined as “love” in the first place?

Article

Adam Hammond

The concept of remediation, as elaborated by Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin in Remediation: Understanding New Media (1999), is premised on the notion that media are best understood in interaction rather than in isolation. Every artistic medium, they argue, orients itself in relation to another medium, whether respectfully—as in the case of an online literary database that seeks to provide easy access to faithful facsimiles of manuscripts—or competitively—as with a videogame that seeks to replace the linearity and passivity of print with open-ended interactivity. Bolter and Grusin describe individual media in turns of two basic impulses: immediacy, or the attempt to erase the mediating function and present the illusion of directly represented reality; and hypermediacy, or the attempt to foreground the mediating function, exposing the impossibility of direct representation. They employ the same vocabulary to describe the interaction of media. Every act of remediation—every representation of one medium in another—necessarily involves both immediacy and hypermediacy. A digital edition of a literary text grants access to the words of the original print artifact (immediacy), yet by including audio readings and video commentary draws attention to its digital-specific affordances (hypermediacy). A digital archive gathers together high-resolution, color-accurate reproductions of materials scattered in rare-book libraries around the world (immediacy), yet by granting free and instantaneous access to these precious, fragile objects, fundamentally transforms the experience of engaging with their analog originals (hypermediacy). Insisting that one approach media through interaction, Bolter and Grusin’s theory of remediation positions the movement of content from one medium to another as a form of translation—a transformative act in which much is lost as well as gained.