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Reviews

"This could very well be Susan Wolfson's best book to date. Romantic Shades and Shadows provides an ample demonstration of and reflection on the kind of intensive and creative reading that good writing demands and rewards. Wolfson wants to teach her readers how to read literature with the care and creativity that she brings to her own writing and reading."

"Wolfson wields a prose so lively it could wake the dead—and here does. This incandescent account of Romantic hauntings delivers revisionist literary history as an adventure in the Higher Gothic, with verbal ghostings and faux exorcisms played out on the uncanny, sedimented terrain of stylistic effects not just apparitional but revelatory."

"Susan J. Wolfson explores the apparitions and phantasms of romantic writing with challenging, often witty, intensity. Supernatural fictions and the material visuality of shades and shadows are less central to her argument than are the 'spectral verbal agencies' that reveal themselves within and between texts. She engages Derridean 'hauntology' while resisting any theoretical privileging of negation. Her brilliantly resourceful readings extend across a broad range of verse and prose that projects forward to take in Keats’s haunting of Yeats—and beyond. This is a superb achievement."

"In Romantic Shades and Shadows, Susan Wolfson has produced a tour de force of criticism. In her hands, the uncanny effects of literary language become not noise to be silenced but the heart of aesthetic experience. Every page models how vital a presence these ghosts of language become for a fine reader."

"Susan J. Wolfson demonstrates anew in Romantic Shades and Shadows why she is widely thought to be one of our keenest analysts of literature. In this brilliant book she tracks various Romantic writings as 'culture’s undead,' and gives a rigorously spirited account of the interplay of literary form and verbal meaning."

"With her inimitable attention to the turns and counterturns of ‘apparitional poetics’ as practiced by writers of the Romantic period, Susan Wolfson joins with her various subjects in the recognition and appreciation that ghosts are in fact quite real. And not just real but an aperture onto a present, a presence, that Romantic writing reanimates as something phantasmal precisely and paradoxically because it is anything but. We’ve long known that language is apparitional. But what Wolfson brings into unprecedented focus are the hauntings that for Wordsworth, Hazlitt, Byron, and others reach across language to writer and referent alike and to readers, finally, for whom wonder is no longer an end or a sensation in itself but the beginning, the very impress, of both someone and something."

"Susan Wolfson's 'Romantic Shades and Shadows' is as much a breathtaking work of critical imagination as it is a complex reading of linguistic ghosts. It is transcendent in the depth and richness with which it comes to terms with Romantic poetry's best words in their best order as well as the sources and resources of those words. Wolfson may write like a brilliant scholar, but she thinks like a poet."

"This challenging study of apparitional epistemology is not for the fainthearted. Including extensive and interesting page notes, this book is for specialists with a linguistic background."

"A magnificent achievement in verse reading—and prose reading—and, indeed, reading of a range of significant Romantic authorships in their historic moments. It should be welcomed by everyone with a ready eye."

"How supremely quotable Wolfson is. From beginning to end, Romantic Shades and Shadows is engrossing, challenging, and deeply rewarding, one of the very best books published on Romantic poetry this decade. It will haunt us all."

"There are treasures in all of these chapters."

"[Wolfson's] witty meditation on the complex textual admixture of the intentional and the unintentional reveals both how much various writers know and how much they don't seem to know (or remember) that they know. Consuming their work, the sentient reader (whom Wolfson models for us) grows ever more aware of the mind-bending complexity of the referentiality of words that have been used, abused, reused, refashioned, repurposed in ways that trace their shadowy prior lives in the wordy works of any writer's contemporaries and predecessors."

"The extensive critical and literary reach of Romantic Shades and Shadows is impressive... Wolfson is not alone in acknowledging the ghostliness of Romantic poetics. Yet her inventive readings of the spectral, its haunts, and hauntings do press upon us the necessity, as Nietzsche writes, of having 'friends as ghosts' if we are, as Wolfson's Afterword urges, to penetrate beneath the textual surface and hear the hauntingly instructive voices of past, present, and future shades."