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Romantic Sobriety

, 384 pages

5 halftones

August 2011


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Romantic Sobriety

Sensation, Revolution, Commodification, History

Winner, 2011 Jean-Pierre Barricelli Prize, International Conference on Romanticism

This book explores the relationship among Romanticism, deconstruction, and Marxism by examining tropes of sensation and sobriety in a set of exemplary texts from Romantic literature and contemporary literary theory.

Orrin N. C. Wang explains how themes of sensation and sobriety, along with Marxist-related ideas of revolution and commodification, set the terms of narrative surrounding the history of Romanticism as a movement. The book is both polemical and critical, engaging in debates with modern thinkers such as Paul de Man, Jacques Derrida, Walter Benn Michaels, and Slavoj Žižek, as well as presenting fresh readings of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century writers, including Wordsworth, Kant, Shelley, Byron, Brontë, and Keats.

Romantic Sobriety combines deeply complex, close readings with a broader reflection on Romanticism and its implications for literary study. It will interest scholars who study Romanticism from a number of perspectives, including those interested in bodily and social consumption, the roles of addiction and abstinence in literature, the connection between literary and visual culture, the intersection of critical theory and Romanticism, and the relationships among language, historical knowledge, and political practice.

Orrin N. C. Wang is a professor in the Department of English and the Comparative Literature Program at the University of Maryland and author of Fantastic Modernity: Dialectical Readings in Romanticism and Theory, also published by Johns Hopkins. He is the series editor of the electronic Romantic Circles Praxis Series.

"A trenchant critique of the narratives of sobriety that, from the Romantic period itself to our own time, have tried to dampen Romanticism’s most powerful energies in the name of a greater maturity or enlightenment. Wang not only provides provocative readings of a range of literary texts but also makes an argument that will be hard to ignore for the continuing metatheoretical importance of Romanticism in the field of literature and knowledge more generally."

"A panoramic view of the theoretical options open to the self-aware American academic critic wanting to write about Romanticism."

"Wang examines the relationship of key concepts involved in understanding of British andEuropean Romanticism... The themes of sensation and its counterpart sobriety are central terms in the discourse around the concept of Romanticism as a movement."

"To read Romantic Sobriety is to become freshly aware of the disciplinary stakes involved in thinking through the conflicted historicity of what Wordsworth called "sensations sweet, / Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart.""

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