Common Things: Romance and the Aesthetics of Belonging in Atlantic Modernity by James D. Lilley


365a90c155179b9-261x361.jpg Author James D. Lilley
Isbn 9780823255153
File size 8.45MB
Year 2014
Pages 256
Language English
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Category culture



 

fordham university press  new york 2014 commonalities Timothy C. Campbell, series editor CO M M O N T H I N G S Romance and the Aesthetics of Belonging in Atlantic Modernity james d. lilley Copyright © 2014 Fordham University Press All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other— except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher. “Henry Mackenzie’s Ruined Feelings: Romance, Race, and the Afterlife of Sentimental Exchange.” Copyright © 2007 New Literary History, The University of Virginia. This article first appeared in New Literary History Volume 38, Issue 4, Autumn, 2007, pages 649–66. “Studies in Uniquity: Horace Walpole’s Singular Collection” reprinted from ELH, vol. 80.1 (2013). Copyright © The Johns Hopkins University Press. Fordham University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party Internet websites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate. Fordham University Press also publishes its books in a variety of electronic formats. Some content that appears in print may not be available in electronic books. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Lilley, James D. (James David), 1971– Common Things : Romance and the Aesthetics of Belonging in Atlantic Modernity / James D. Lilley. pages cm. — (Commonalities) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-8232-5515-3 (cloth : alk. paper) 1. Literature—Philosophy—History. I. Title. PN45 .L467 801—dc23 2013009214 Printed in the United States of America 16 15 14 5 4 3 2 1 First edition A book in the American Literatures Initiative (ALI), a collaborative publishing project of NYU Press, Fordham University Press, Rutgers University Press, Temple University Press, and the University of Virginia Press. The Initiative is supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. For more information, please visit www.americanliteratures.org. co ntents Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vii Introduction: Common Things . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 1 Genre. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 A Singular Blend: Genre and the Aesthetics of Belonging . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Allegory, Romance, and the Idea of Genre. . . . 20 At Home with the Uncanny: Walpole and the Idea of History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Apology. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 2 Feeling. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 Romance, Race, Ruin: Henry Mackenzie and the Afterlife of Sentimental Exchange. . . . . 50 Jefferson and the Transatlantic Man of Feeling. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67 3 Property/Personhood. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75 Conjuring Community: Arthur Mervyn and the Aesthetics of Ruin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75 “My Extraordinary Duality”: The Metempsychosis of Modern Personhood in Sheppard Lee. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103 Cooper, Mesmerism, and the “Immaterial Substance” of Taste in The Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 112 4 Event/Hiatus. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120 The Aesthetics of American Idling. . . . . . . . . . . 120 Indian Removal and the Grimace of Ruined History. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 142 5 No Thing In Common. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 168 Studies in Uniquity: Horace Walpole’s Singular Collection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 168 Coda: Poe’s Allegories of Belonging. . . . . . . . . . 198 Notes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 209 Index. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 237 acknowledgm ents Born of the productive polarity between two necessary fictions—one of origins and origination, the other of closure and completion—what the acknowledgment first acknowledges is the mystery of belonging in and bearing witness to an experience, a history, a life. I owe my sense of this mystery—and my desire to explore its aesthetics of belonging—to many wonderful people, and I’d like to begin by acknowledging their singular influence over the work that follows. This book began to take shape at the University of Arizona, where I had the chance to work with Colin Dayan, Annette Kolodny, and Greg Jackson in the Literature Program. Colin continued to influence my studies when I moved to Princeton, and Common Things grew out of discussions that we had with Eduardo Cadava and Claudia Johnson. In Eduardo and Claudia, I was fortunate enough to find talented and generous advisors who supplement their inspiration and support with the trust and freedom to let their students learn from their own mistakes. In addition to their friendship and their skills as advisors, I also benefitted from superb courses that they offered on Emerson, the gothic romance, and the sentimental novel. And in other equally memorable courses and discussions at Princeton, I found my approach to and understanding of literature transformed by D. Vance Smith, Jeff Nunokawa, Michael Wood, April Alliston, Jennifer Greeson, Cornel West, and a number of extremely talented graduate students who helped to make these classroom experiences so rewarding. Princeton’s financial support also made it possible for me to study with Meredith McGill at Rutgers and Eric Cheyfitz at the University of Pennsylvania; and my stipend facilitated a vital, if somewhat precarious, existence in upper, upper Manhattan, rich in companionship and conversation thanks to fellow graduate students Evan Horowitz, Michael Sayeau, and Liesl Olson. Liesl and I became friends at the Huntington Library, and the four spectacular summers that I spent in San Marino with the Huntington’s special collections make their presence felt in both the form and the content of this work. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Susi Krasnoo and Mona Noureldin for helping me to get to know Horace Walpole; and to my other Huntington pals—especially Roberto Alvarez, Jennifer Hallam, and Roze Hentschell—I thank you all for your warmth, support, and continued kindness over the years. Over the past five years, the University at Albany, SUNY, has provided me with the intellectual and financial support necessary to complete this book. I am indebted to the advocacy of several department chairs—Mike Hill, Stephen North, and Randall Craig—as well as to grants from the English Department, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the United University Professions, for helping to foster the freedom necessary to think clearly. In both my graduate and undergraduate courses, remarkable students have accompanied me along some of the eccentric pathways in this book, enrichening its argument in countless ways. In Albany, I have been spoiled with the kindness and vibrancy of mind of so many friends and colleagues. To Branka Arsić, I owe an infinite debt of thanks for the precision of her guidance as Common Things began to take its final shape. Jennifer Greiman’s expertise and insight encouraged me to persist with certain lines of thought, while David Wills, Kir Kuiken, Bret Benjamin, Tom Cohen, and Paul Stasi helped me to grapple with ideas and prose as I moved through various stages of the book and its argument. I also send thanks to those colleagues whose friendship and hospitality at various dinner tables and other clean, well-lighted places have energized both my body and mind. In particular I toast Ed Schwarzschild, Laura Wilder, Helene Scheck, Elisa Albert, Liz Lauenstein, Richard Barney, Don Byrd, Patricia Chu, Eric Keenaghan, Tomás Urayoán Noel, and Ineke Murakami. Beyond Albany, I have enjoyed friendship and conversation with scholars who have altered, challenged, and inspired the work you are about to read. Among many others, I’m especially grateful to Andy Doolen, Duncan Faherty, Ruth Mack, John Miles, Hillary Emmett, Gabriel Cervantes, Michael Drexler, Toni Wall Jaudon, Angela Mullis, Ed White, Sophie Gee, John Funchion, Siân Silyn Roberts, Ed Cahill, and Paul Kelleher for the myriad ways in which they make my profession feel like my home. viii  Acknowledgments At Fordham University Press, I have been fortunate enough to work with Helen Tartar and a wonderful editorial staff who have skillfully and efficiently ushered this book to print. In particular I thank Timothy Campbell, Thomas Lay, Tim Roberts, Susan Murray, and the American Literatures Initiative for their support of and care with my work. Finally, to my family on both sides of the Atlantic, I thank you for having faith in me over the long, long years of graduate study during which this project began to take shape. To Lorraine, Spiro, Peter, and Suzanne I am forever grateful for the gift of our community; and while I dedicate Common Things to the memory of my parents, Brenda and David Lilley, I offer it to you both, Lauren and Jack, and to the singularity of our quest.   Acknowledgments  ix introduction Common Things t h e g r av i t y o f b e l o n g i n g In a powerful series of paintings composed between 2005 and 2008, the French artist Armelle Caron creates a set of decontextualized images of the modern cityscape (figure 1). On the left side of each image, the artist presents a familiar, monochromatic map of a major city—New York, Montpellier, or Paris, for example—while on the right side she identifies the units of the map and rearranges them in neat rows. She often exhibits these paintings along with wooden blocks, shaped in similar units, that are spread out on the floor underneath. Visitors to the exhibition are encouraged to rearrange these blocks and to form their own cityscapes.1 Caron’s work helps us to visualize a key problem that besets the study of community: the tendency to think of both its space and its function as if it were a repository for things-in-common. Her decontextualized cityscapes perform a similar analytical operation, reducing each urban community to a neat code, a system of atomistic hieroglyphs that stress the thing out of which community is composed. But what is lost in this itemization of the commonplace—in the reduction of its community to an inventory of universalized common things—is precisely the gravity of belonging that holds these parts together in their unique urban constellations. Without addressing this other dimension of the experience of community, these individual, essentialized units—the common things so central to our understanding of modern politics and personhood—become what Jean Luc-Nancy has called “merely the residue of the experience of the dissolution of community. By its nature . . . the [modern] individual reveals that 1. Armelle Caron, Paris;Armelle Caron, Berlin. Courtesy of the artist: http://www.armellecaron.fr/art/. figure it is the abstract result of a decomposition.”2 While many scholars of the commonplace have embarked on the analytical journey from the left to the right of Caron’s image, what remains largely unthought is the gravitational force required to voyage from right to left, the no-thing that constellates these various elements into their singular galaxies of community. Common Things begins this voyage by revisiting recent and classic work in political philosophy and literary aesthetics. If the study of community is to address the qualitative force of immanent relationships holding the whole together as well as to itemize its common stuff, then one of the tools literary studies can bring to contemporary analyses of the commonplace is its attention to the inessential, aesthetic dimensions of expression. Dedicated to the promise of this relay between the form of community and the aesthetics of literature, this book is driven by the following question: What are the relationships between the books we read and the communities we share? In particular, it explores the ways in which the romance novel influences and is influenced by new systems of community that begin to emerge in the   Introduction eighteenth century. While much recent and prominent work in political theory and U.S. and British literary studies has focused on one or two of these systems—the imagined communities of race or nation, for example—this book treats the relationship between literature and community as a question of universal aesthetic form as well as a problem of particular, imagined content.3 Instead of approaching the romance novel as a mere repository for collective images or as a passive medium through which to convey mutual ideals, Common Things shows how it also promotes a distinctive aesthetics of belonging, a mode of being-in-common that is shared across a variety of modern systems of political, biological, temporal, and economic community. Drawing on foundational texts in the transatlantic traditions of Gothic, sentimental, and historical romance, I trace the development of a powerful aesthetic regime that renders visible new qualities that inhere within the singular and secure its connection with the common. Each chapter focuses on one of these common things—the stain of race, the “property” of personhood, ruined feelings, the genre of a text, and the event of history—and demonstrates how these elusive and interrelated qualities of the singular work to sustain the coherence of their respective commonplaces. Furthermore, I show how these same common things and their shared aesthetics of belonging help give birth to the mysterious figure at the heart of Western political communities: the liberal, rights-bearing subject. From Washington Irving’s tales of American idling to the adventures in exchange punctuating James Fenimore Cooper’s Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief, Common Things revisits and reinterprets the famous signatures of modern romance. It reads the processes of feeling, contagion, metempsychosis, mesmerism, commodification, alienation, and ruin that animate its pages as amplifications of the thingifying logic already at work in key rhetorics of U.S. and British democracy. As such it intervenes in debates concerning the rise of the romance novel and the birth of the modern, biopolitical subject by reading these two phenomena as mutual, coproductive processes. After all, as Jacques Rancière has recently argued, aesthetics and politics both bring to light a certain distribution of the sensible, establishing the parameters of what can be seen and who gets to be counted. It is the goal of Common Things to illuminate this peculiarly modern distribution of community.4 Introduction   t h e s u b j e c t i v i z at i o n o f a e s t h e t i c s It is tempting to explain the power and prestige enjoyed by the modern things of community in terms of the rise of commodity culture and the ideological influence of capitalism in the eighteenth century. While Marx is very much alive and well in the pages that follow, it soon became clear to me that the commodity form—so famously described in Capital—is part of the problem that I wanted to investigate rather than its underlying cause. After all, what better example of a thing-in-common than Marx’s commodity, circulating within an economy that treats its value as both an abstract, universalized quantity and a totally private, singular property that inheres within it? To be sure, the forces of industrialization and the imperatives of capitalism encourage and reinforce the structures of belonging that this study takes as its focus; but, as Marx understood, the commodity is involved in such an intimate, dialectical relationship with these “real” material conditions that its private form is never easily separated from the public effects that it ostensibly causes. Rather than seek out a first cause, I chose instead to trace a genealogy of belonging that brings forward the dialectical mutuality of concepts such as “public and private,” “spiritual and material,” and “liberty and servitude”—concepts that we often take for granted and that are so vital to our modern systems of community. In Common Things I use the language of aesthetics, rather than the methods of historical materialism, to explore what is happening to the common at its most fundamental level. My central aesthetic claim, developed in chapter 1, is that during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the idea of allegory is eclipsed by the logic of the symbol. While allegory (literally “other speaking,” from its Greek etymological roots) establishes immanent relationships of meaning between singular objects merely as an effect of the relative, gravitational tension between each other, the logic of the symbol relies on the singular object’s direct and unmediated participation in a transcendent, common meaning: from the perspective of the symbol, each singularity possesses its own (albeit mysterious) link to the common. For Angus Fletcher, then, allegory is associated with a nominalist approach to signification: in an allegorical community of signs, he argues, there will be no ideas in a strict sense, no meanings segregated to a “higher” place on the interpretive side of the wall. The so-called   Introduction [allegorical] ideas of virtue and vice, good and evil, happiness and misery, fame and fortune will no longer be read as referring to universal notions. They will be mere functions of a shared human speech and language, mere conventions, mere names and their grammar. The allegory without ideas could make no appeal to universals and hence could never legitimately establish belief in imagined higher values.5 During the transition to modernity, however, the universalizing logic of the symbol swallows up this “allegory without ideas,” monopolizing its claim on the aesthetics of belonging and debasing allegory into the shallowest of symbols.6 In tandem with this aesthetic revolution—what Gadamer calls the “subjectivization of aesthetics”7 and Walter Benjamin describes in terms of the “destructive extravagance” of Romanticism8 —the way that the singular is imagined to relate to the common is transformed in modern systems of belonging. Rather than imagine the force of inessential, allegorical relationships between singularities, these systems begin to treat belonging solely as an essential, if ultimately elusive, private quality—a common thing that inheres symbolically within the singular: the human body is shaped by the stain of race that courses through its veins; the political identity of the citizen is linked to the inalienable possession of rights or the exercise of private sympathies and feelings; the generic text is stamped by the specific nature and function of its symbols; and the historical narrative is transformed into a collection of symbolic and singular events. By outlining how these private qualities of the singular both sustain and frustrate the emerging British and U.S. nations and their romance revivals, Common Things traces the transatlantic aesthetic origins of our modern systems of belonging.9 on the borders of belonging Like Rancière, I use the term “aesthetics” to refer to particular distributions of the sensible—textual regimes of visibility that bring to light a certain manner of being-in-common or that establish the rules of community in a specific way. As such, aesthetics and politics are always intimately related. “Political conflict,” notes Rancière, “does not involve an opposition between groups with different interests. It forms an opposition between logics that count the parties and the parts of the community in different ways.”10 By exploring how literature helps to found, support, and Introduction   challenge these logics of the common, this book’s approach to the “politics” of the romance novel differs from much recent work in political philosophy and literary studies. In an effort to redraw the imagined contours of our modern political, national, and racial communities, literary critics are currently engaged in a number of fascinating and important projects aimed at “remapping” terrains of extranational influence and “posthuman” topographies of belonging. When I began work on this book, for example, the concept of “border literature”—and the practice of “border studies” that these texts facilitated—was generating considerable critical excitement.11 While the expansive, hybridized space of the borderlands appeared to challenge the idea of a monolithic U.S. culture, I grew concerned that literary critics were taking for granted its inherently subversive topography.12 We see this same tendency in the practice of “transatlantic studies,” with its desire to read literature and culture beyond the traditionally distinct disciplinary borders of “American” and “British” literature. In a 2011 special issue of New Literary History dedicated to the question of the transatlantic (one of many special issues that have been spawned in the name of literary transnationalism in recent years), Winfried Fluck describes the alluring “flow and flexibility” of a newly liberated subject/critic no longer bound by the topography or the sovereignty of a single nation.13 He argues that literary critics have embraced this kind of “turbotransnationalism” in response to an impasse that prior approaches in American studies had reached. Analyses of American society and culture by . . . Americanists had been carried to a point where subjection by means of interpellation through the nation-state seemed to be all pervasive, so that resistence had to resort to ever more marginalized subject positions as possible sources of disinterpellation. At this point, transnationalism could become the logical next step in what may be seen as a story of continuous retreat. . . . Since the search for subject positions that would not yield to the power-effects of interpellation had already led to border regions and intercultural spaces, why not go beyond the border altogether into spaces like the Southern hemisphere, the Pacific Rim, or the transatlantic world, or still even further, to reconfigure the object of analysis as global or planetary?14   Introduction Rather than a radical departure from earlier forms of American studies, Fluck’s analysis helps us to see how the transnational has “merely extended long dominant paradigms beyond borders.”15 In particular, he is here thinking “of the tendency to reduce questions of power to questions of identity formation [and] of the tendency to reduce identity-formation to racialization and engendering, perhaps because these are phenomena where the concept of interpellation can be most extensively applied.”16 Understandably preoccupied with the ways in which discourses of race and gender work to exclude bodies from membership in the national common, American and transatlantic studies thus tend to contribute to a “mythology of the marginalized and excluded who have become exemplary reference points for envisioning disidentificatory mobility and subject-positions ‘in-between.’”17 Although the newly expanded and dynamic spaces of the borderlands and the transatlantic certainly bring into question who the nation can count among its members, they often fail to address key political “questions of power” involving the rules of membership—the aesthetics of belonging—that govern how each member is to be counted and included. In her own interrogation of transatlantic studies, Robyn Wiegman notes that “while exclusions [involving race and gender, for example] have particular histories, exclusion as a category of politics and knowledge . . . is historical.”18 “Any recognition,” she continues, “of its centrality to the rise of the nation-state and the liberal constitutional forms that have attended it would require not simply an account of who and what is excluded, but an engagement with why and how “exclusion” has become such a singularly important affective discourse, interpretive strategy, and political idiom in modern U.S. life.”19 And as Hannah Arendt and Giorgio Agamben point out, even political and literary communities organized around universalizing concepts such as “human rights,” “multiculturalism,” and “transnational citizenship” share the same rules of membership, the same logic of exception, that fuels the evils of the nation-state. How can such concepts address the central political dilemma of modernity—the plight of the nonhuman and noncitizen refugee—when their own status as legitimate “human” concepts rests on the exclusion of precisely these same categories of non-subject? “The paradox,” as Agamben points out, is that precisely the figure that should have embodied human rights more than any other—namely, the refugee—mark[s] instead the radical Introduction   crisis of the concept. The conception of human rights based on the supposed existence of a human being as such, Arendt tells us, proves to be untenable as soon as those who profess it find themselves confronted for the first time with people who have really lost every quality and every specific relation except for the pure fact of being human.20 What is needed is a new way of thinking citizenship, a new way of belonging in the political common, that does not, however unintentionally, help to fuel our modern biopolitical systems of exclusion—replacing one common thing (our race, our nation, or our gender, for example) with yet another property such as “human rights” that is somehow to be possessed and held in common among a discrete and identifiable community.21 Étienne Balibar poses the problem as follows: As long as we are working from an exclusively logical point of view, it seems difficult to escape the dilemma: either the emergence of a particular community that “gathers” a multiplicity of individuals . . . under a common denominator [and that] must exclude from its unity . . . those who do not “participate” as full-fledged members, or else multiplicity, differences, even conflict remain irreducible, placing us before the paradox of a community that could not clearly distinguish the inside from the outside or unity from division. But this logic, precisely, is only logic, founded on the formal schema of all or nothing (either belonging, or else nonbelonging). It is by no means certain that it applies in an absolute way to social and political realities. In any case, it calls for a close discussion of the modalities of its application.22 Common Things participates in these debates by tracing the genealogy of our modern modes of being-in-common. For as Balibar suggests—and as the literature that I study below demonstrates—our “either-or” logic of belonging has not always enjoyed a monopoly on the commonplace. Its air of inevitability and conceptual force are ideological victories that had to be won; and the romantic literature of the emerging British and U.S. nations proved a vital aesthetic battleground in which to imagine and debate these proper modes of belonging. Rather than challenge the nation-state by highlighting its hidden, repressed content—the ghosts of the slaves, the poor, and the indigenous peoples who helped to create it, for example—I argue   Introduction that we must also historicize the development of its form, its grammars of belonging. To approach the question of national community from this formal, aesthetic perspective is, as Jonathan Culler argues, to rethink the relationship between literature and politics. This relationship, he argues, “is not one of identity of content but of homology of form: it is the formal organization of literary works, the operations for the production of meaning at work in literature, which relate directly to society, and what they relate to is not the content of social life but the operations which produce social and cultural objects, the devices which create a world charged with meaning.”23 To be sure, studies that challenge the nation-state by increasing the size, the diversity, and the content of its community can assist us in remembering the ideological repressions and political exclusions that helped the U.S. and British nations to emerge. But as Werner Hamacher argues, even the ideas of an expanded multicultural community or a transnational citizenry share the same conceptual form, the same grammar as the nation-state that they hope to supplant: “[T]he concept of cultural diversity, and especially the concept of its desirability, itself has a relatively precise historical context: it belongs, like the concept of democracy, to the European-American cultures and has, to my knowledge, never appeared as a descriptive category nor, even less, as an imperative, in any other culture. The word ‘multiculturalism’ speaks a European language.”24 For Hamacher, as for Agamben, Arendt, and Balibar, there is something about the logical structure of such universalist language—the grammar of abstract concepts such as human rights—that necessarily objectifies, colonizes, and enslaves the singular human subject at the same time that it espouses their fundamental freedoms and their inalienable right to autonomy. This is why freedom and slavery, as David Kazanjian has argued, are not to be thought of as discrete and antithetical ideas but, rather, should be examined in terms of their mutuality and coproduction.25 In what follows, I show how the conceptual grammar, the logic of the “either-or” that ties these ideas together, functions by producing a series of interrelated (and ultimately illusory) common things. The “things” that I highlight—genre, feeling, race, personhood, property, taste, and event— are by no means the only peculiar properties of the common that begin to emerge during the period that I study. However, by foregrounding their Introduction   similarities in form I hope to bring into focus the complex aesthetic-political forces at work in our modern systems of community. common things In order to register the mutuality of these literary and political distributions of the sensible, Common Things establishes a diverse archive of primary texts. It explores the strange, universal property “planted” in Lockean personhood; the “voluptuousness” of sentimental ruin shared by Henry Mackenzie’s men of feeling; the “black of the negro” that, for Thomas Jefferson, stamps and singularizes this race by forever veiling its affections; the contagious “pest” that devastates public space and delimits personal identity in Charles Brockden Brown’s romance of yellow fever; and the idle hiatus that, for Washington Irving, fragments the experience of modernity and consigns the Native American to the ruined, manifest annals of history. Because these peculiar qualities of time, race, feeling, and personhood continue to animate our own commonplaces, and because our political horizons remain restricted by their forms of belonging, this book is propelled by the urgent need to both identify and to rethink their aesthetic regime. This is why I begin and end by analyzing the work of two writers, Horace Walpole and Edgar Allan Poe, who describe new forms of relationship between the singular and the common. Instead of communities grounded in the notion of a shared similarity or a timeless essence that each of its members somehow possesses, these writers develop an aesthetic practice that celebrates and collects the “uniquity” of the singular—a term invented by Walpole and, later, resurrected by Poe in order to identify inessential vectors of relation and fleeting forces of tendency and “effort.” At stake in their work is what Eureka, Poe’s enigmatic romance of cosmological origins, calls a new “brotherhood among the atoms,” an active mode of being-in-common that establishes fugitive connections “among”—rather than the passive, common essentials “of”—unique singularities.26 In chapter 1, I read the preface to Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764)—the first work of modern fiction to identify itself as a romance—in order to discuss the ways in which the singular text belongs in communities of genre. In particular, I argue that Otranto rejects the essentializing, symbolic logic that produces the common, generic things of the modern collection. While antiquarians and poets plumb the relics of ancient poetry   Introduction

Author James D. Lilley Isbn 9780823255153 File size 8.45MB Year 2014 Pages 256 Language English File format PDF Category Culture Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare What are the relationships between the books we read and the communities we share? Common Things explores how transatlantic romance revivals of the eighteenth and nineteenth century influenced–and were influenced by–emerging modern systems of community. Drawing on the work of Washington Irving, Henry Mackenzie, Thomas Jefferson, James Fenimore Cooper, Robert Montgomery Bird, and Charles Brockden Brown, the book shows how romance promotes a distinctive aesthetics of belonging–a mode of being in common tied to new qualities of the singular. Each chapter focuses on one of these common things–the stain of race, the “property” of personhood, ruined feelings, the genre of a text, and the event of history–and examines how these peculiar qualities work to sustain the coherence of our modern common places. In the work of Horace Walpole and Edgar Allan Poe, the book further uncovers an important–and never more timely–alternative aesthetic practice that reimagines community as an open and fugitive process rather than as a collection of common things.     Download (8.45MB) The Road to Monticello: The Life and Mind of Thomas Jefferson Imagining Methodism in Eighteenth-Century Britain Transferential Poetics, from Poe to Warhol Early Modern Poetics in Melville and Poe London Fog: The Biography Load more posts

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