Romantic Dialectics and the Politics of the Subject

Dissertation, Saint Louis University (1997)

Abstract
This work begins with two related premises: that dialectical thoughts are apparently predominant in Romantic writing, and that recent anti-dialectical discourses describing the human subject recast our relationship to the writings and philosophies of the Romantic age. The first premise is typified in M. H. Abrams' claim that Wordsworth is the exemplary poet of Romanticism who traces the affinities between British Romanticism and German, post-Kantian dialectical thought. The second premise is more complicated because it asks us to reevaluate our understanding of Romantic writers and our critical tradition with respect to these writers. This reevaluation allows us to see that, despite its apparent affinity with dialectical conceptualizations, Romantic poetry pushes toward radical presentations of human subjectivity and autonomy. ;The dissertation divides thematically between the opening chapters on Romanticism and its dialectical heritage and the concluding readings which suggest that alternative, heterodox models of history and consciousness provide politically enabling descriptions of the human subject. The work describes a Romantic subjectivity unfettered by the ideals of a guiding; consciousness: a type of Romantic subject that resists a synthesizing relationship with its object . Consequently, two types of Romantic politics from Blake and Shelley suggest a subjective consciousness built on anti-dialectical concepts and movements. For Los, it is a consciousness of self-annihilation, a nomadic movement between points of encounter. For Prometheus, the subject position is settled into an historical notion of community in which the heteroglot voices of a dissenting culture sound. While these readings move toward varied conclusions, they share the common effect of departing from a totalizing dialectical conception of history and self. In part, then, this study contributes to an understanding of Romanticism as complex and heterogeneous, historically definable and currently legitimate
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