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Romantic Narrative

, 312 pages
November 2010



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Romantic Narrative

Shelley, Hays, Godwin, Wollstonecraft

Open Access Edition Available at Project MUSE

Often identified with its lyric poetry, Romanticism has come to be dismissed by historicists as an ineffectual idealism. By focusing on Romantic narrative, noted humanist Tilottama Rajan takes issue with this identification, as well as with the equation of narrative itself with the governmental apparatus of the Novel. Exploring the role of narrativity in the works of Romantic writers, Rajan also reflects on larger disciplinary issues such as the role of poetry versus prose in an emergent modernity and the place of Romanticism itself in a Victorianized nineteenth century.

While engaging both genres, Romantic Narrative responds to the current critical shift from poetry to prose by concentrating, paradoxically, on a poetics of narrative in Romantic prose fiction. Rajan argues that poiesis, as a mode of thinking, is Romanticism’s legacy to an age of prose. She elucidates this thesis through careful readings of Shelley’s Alastor and his Gothic novels, Godwin’s Caleb Williams and St. Leon, Hays’ Memoirs of Emma Courtney, and Wollstonecraft’s The Wrongs of Woman.

Rajan, winner of the Keats-Shelley Association's Distinguished Lifetime Award and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, is one of Romanticism’s leading scholars. Effective, articulate, and readable, Romantic Narrative will appeal to scholars in both nineteenth-century studies and narrative theory.

Tilottama Rajan is Distinguished University Professor and Canada Research Chair at the University of Western Ontario, where she was also previously Director of the Centre for Theory and Criticism. She is the author of several books, including, most recently, Deconstruction and the Remainders of Phenomenology: Sartre, Derrida, Foucault, Baudrillard.

"This is first-rate, indeed exemplary work, polished and elegant in conception, unfailingly cogent in execution, meticulously researched, and presented in impressively readable diction."

"With philosophical sophistication and extraordinary critical intelligence, Rajan also presents complex and original readings."


"A quiet sensation of a book... The concision and sparkling lucidity of Romantic Narrative tends to be something much more than a theory of narrativity. As a larger argument about the epistemic and disciplinary questions that emerged out of the 18th century arguments about acculturation, institutionalization, and theory, Rajan brilliantly excavates the fractures in various Enlightenment projects of progress and assimilation, and illuminates a negativity that colors Romanticism through and through."

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