Deftly probing the ambivalence of Romantic writers on the subjects of 'passion' and 'beauty,' Robinson shows how this ambivalence is also central to the experience of the modern critic in Western society. Is the reader's experience of beauty in art an escape from troubling reality? Or does desire for beauty spur social criticism and reform? Does the representation of erotic passion, as a sign of social critique, exist to be transcended for disinterested spirituality? Or is such passion the very site of the struggle for individual and class rights? Robinson explores the problematic place of passion and beauty in Romanticism's radical sentiments and reformist politics. Tracing the intertwining of desire and disturbance, of eros and subversion, his meditations encompass poems, novels, diaries; key terms (such as Rousseau's 'sentiment of existence'); writers' characteristic forms of expression or habits of mind (Wordsworth's 'or'-grammar); figures in literary works (Goethe's Werther, Byron's Lambro); problems of genre (the relationship of the Romantic poem and the Romantic essay, the problem of closure, the nature of a 'scene'); and larger political questions (feminism in Romantic literature, erotic passion and representations of radicalism). Evoking the original meaning of 'essay' as experiment, Robinson has essayed a topography of the Romantic landscape. 'This book is daring and it is brilliant. I also think it is right.' - James R. Kincaid, University of Southern California
Jeffrey C. Robinson is professor of English at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is the author of Radical Literary Education, also published by the University of Wisconsin Press, and of The Walk: Notes on a Romantic Image. He is the editor of Keats: The Myth of the Hero by Dorothy Van Ghent.