Hero Worship, Discipleship, and the Romantic Imagination: On Spivak’s Aesthetic Education

“And so I go, asking the students to enter the 200-year-old idiomaticity of their national language in order to learn the change of mind that is involved in really making the canon change. I follow the conviction that I have always had, that we must displace our masters, rather than pretend to ignore them.” So writes Gayatri Spivak at the conclusion of a chapter entitled “The Double Bind Starts to Kick In” in her recent tome An Aesthetic Education in the Age of Globalization. Is Spivak too, I ask, such a master that we must displace if we are to abide by her own conviction? This is a question I want to pursue as I consider her treatment of British romanticism in this mammoth work. Continue reading

More Frankenstein(s): Cumberbatch, Miller, and the National Theatre

Like Arden, I, too, have been burning with curiosity about the recent critical reactions to several Frankenstein adaptations. But rather than valiantly sacrifice my time to the gods of Hollywood mediocrity as she so nobly does in her last post, I managed to escape the sub-par recreation of I, Frankenstein and instead turned my intrigue towards a much more mainstream and accepted performance: Danny Boyle’s 2011 National Theatre stage production of Frankenstein, featuring the incomparable Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch. Continue reading

On Locating the Gothic and International Conference Travel

6185508We came from France and England, Scotland and Italy. We came from South Africa and America, Mexico and Denmark. We came from New Zealand and Australia and Poland and, of course, from Ireland. Gothic scholars from all corners of the globe, relocating themselves for the Locating the Gothic Conference and Festival, October 22-25, in Limerick, Ireland. I debated whether or not to blog about this conference, not because it wasn’t a great event (it was), but because it focused more on contemporary Gothic than Romantic. That being said, the format of the conference expanded beyond simply panels and keynotes, and is worth discussing as a conference experience in itself. So I will spend half of this post giving it a brief review. In the second half, I want to broaden out into the topic of international conferences and the dos and don’ts that will help you survive them, especially considering our next NASSR will be more international for many (not for our Canadian readers, of course!). Much of this advice could apply to any conference to which you would have to do significant travel. Continue reading

Understanding the Past through Sculpture

I reach over my workdesk to find a suitable bookmark. I come up with a postcard of the Carlsbad Caverns, and I place it into the exhibition catalogue that I’m engrossed in. As a slight aside and a confession, I have stacks of old postcards. I’ve been collecting them since my teens. I have always loved their bygone-era designs, but now find that I’ve been literally taking pictures of places I’d hoped to see someday. Greek sculptures, highway motels, the desert southwest of the United States, and the White Cliffs of Dover are just some of the amassed places or experiences I’d hoped to have. Continue reading

Of Mountains and Media: Versions of the Sublime

A few years ago I got a chance to see Marc Handelman’s Archive for a Mountain in person, and it got me thinking about the category of the sublime in a new way. The conceit of the work is straightforward–Handelman assembled into a single book every piece of data he could find about the Untersberg–but the product is impressive. Weighing in at a hefty 740 archival-quality pages of maps, images, brochures, essays, scanned microfilm, screenshots of Wikipedia entries, and more, the book has an excessive materiality of its own. But it also—in the way it inevitably provokes us to imagine even more material that might have been included—foregrounds the incredible constrictions that are necessarily imposed upon any subject in the process of representation, even in those renderings that we are tempted to label exhaustive or comprehensive. Its gesture towards a kind of vast and awe-inspiring archival noumenal that exists beyond the capacity of any single human or technological interface to represent it (as well as its mapping of this limit onto such a traditional representative of sublime Nature) seems distinct to me from other contemporary notions of the sublime, and actually seems to hearken back to the original problematic of the eighteenth-century sublime: how to represent a mountain?

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On First Looking Into…Kubla Khan

The Orient as Other in Kubla Khan

By Lucille Starer Marshall

Orientalism, as defined by Edward Said, is a mode of knowledge production that sustains a basic distinction between the East and West. Orientalism produces cultural theories, political accounts, and literary representations of the Orient that maintain the world’s imbalances of power. At a time of Western imperialism and national cultivation, Romantic writers participated in constructing the image of the Orient. Through poetic style, diction, and narrative, authors established a distinct Other in order to assert the superiority of Western civilization. We encounter such Orientalism in Coleridge’s Kubla Khan. Continue reading

I Watch I, Frankenstein

This unapologetic lead balloon of a film has created controversy among Romanticists. What gives? I sacrificed myself to find out.

“He’s alive! But you might wish he wasn’t.”

For the last number of months, I’ve been surprised by how often I, Frankenstein has reared its malformed CGI head in discussions about Romanticism. The film, which came out in January 2014 and has a 3% approval rating among critics, seems oddly difficult to dismiss. The film’s “near viral” negative response has resulted in a curious sort of academic Whack-a-Mole, as dismayed scholars continually reject any influence of anything “like this” on their work and teaching. But like any supernatural villain, I, Frankenstein always comes back — and so, it is lamented, the film is bound to make an eventual appearance on some ill-fated undergraduate syllabus. Continue reading

Thoughts on Teaching Jane Austen

I am currently teaching a class with the very long title The Modern Self in the World: Literature and Art across Modernity, from Donne and Dürer to Baldwin and Cool Hand Luke. As with my other class (on American literature), I’ve used my teaching opportunities as a graduate student to escape the burden of academic and professional decorum. My classes, in other words, might be retitled, “books I like to read, want to read, and think you should read.” They are not lectures or surveys, but rather reading groups where my students and I try and make sense of the various texts we confront. Continue reading

On His Birthday: Dylan Thomas, Wordsworth, nostalgia and poetry.

Today is the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Dylan Thomas, my first and best love in poetry. Lionized by the culture industry but ignored by the academy, this milestone date will hopefully present an opportunity to reassess the value of Thomas’s work, which I feel is sadly neglected.

Dylan Thomas

It is something of a commonplace for Thomas to be associated with the ‘romantic’ tradition, or to be called a Romantic poet. Continue reading

Resources for Graduate Students of Romanticism