European Romantic Review 32 (5-6):519-534 (2021)

Kirill Chepurin
National Research University Higher School of Economics
This essay proposes to rethink Romanticism through the concept of bliss. I suggest not only that bliss is a core Romantic concept but also, more speculatively, that Romanticism as both a project and tendency is generated out of an antagonistic entanglement between bliss and the world of Western modernity. As the state of immediate fulfillment, free of alienation or negativity, bliss is what modernity at once promises and endlessly defers—and so bliss erupts in Romanticism against the modern world. In bliss, the world is dissolved as in water, consumed as in fire, so that nothing remains except the ecstasy of the world’s annihilation or termination. Romanticism seeks to inhabit the utopia of bliss immanently; however, the world re-mediates bliss into a long-lost past or an unreachable future, because it is through this re-mediation that the world reproduces and justifies itself. As a result, Romanticism falls into endless approximation, into nostalgia and longing—and bliss becomes infinitely not-yet, fragmented, defused by the world. This essay moves through German and British Romanticism so as to collect the scattered fragments of bliss, and to re-assemble Romantic bliss in its a-worldly immanence, its post-Copernican cosmic infinity, and its (often violent) clash with the world.
Keywords Romanticism  bliss  beatitude  modernity  utopia  F. W. J. Schelling  William Wordsworth  Novalis  S. T. Coleridge
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