“Romanticism Now” Working Group Proposal for MLA 2019 Convention
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We propose the “Romanticism Now” Working Group to tap into the various strategies
Romanticists are using to posit historical relations as non-linear and entangled, but also to explore how romanticism, as an aesthetic and political movement, might help literary scholars rethink historical methodologies. Romanticism in both its theoretical and literary investigations, from Britain and the Americas to Europe, intersects with the historical unfolding of eventfulness in ways that inter-act with how we are experiencing the unfolding of politics and crises today. These literatures are deep resources for thinking through today’s eventfulness; they need to be brought into dialogue as a kind of parataxis that then becomes a site of potentiality. Indeed, the playfulness of paralogic and its usefulness in confronting paradox, might be useful here, since logic is at a standstill when “facts” and “truth statements” are said not to align.
Our claim is that the idea of romanticism is cross-temporal without being universalizing; its applicability to today is apparent not only in similar patterns of political forestalling, but in similar patterns of collective debate and collective action. Various ways of thinking about historicity recently are relevant to our project, from historicism, parataxis, activism, and pedagogy to ahistoricism, transhistoricism, and postcritique. While we are mindful of V21’s efforts to re-instill historicism into Victorian studies as a counter to post-historicism, we also take into account the recent attention to the social entanglements of literature that move beyond its political entanglements in the Marxist or the strictly historicist sense.
Despite deeply held beliefs among some romanticists that because we are not and have never been Romantics, experiments in historical parallelism should be avoided and therefore historical periods need to be chronologically differentiated from our own age, we believe this verity does not detract from the resources history avails us of thinking eventfulness in our current national and international experience. The relevance of romanticism to today is being made all the more apparent through the various events organized around the bicentennials of major British romantic works, as well as the attention paid in public arenas to the bicentennials of Frankenstein and Keats poems.
We particularly view the classroom as a site where the paralogic of juxtaposition in the
myriad relations between romantic-period texts, events, and social institutions and our contemporary texts, events, and social institutions can be multiply productive. The paralogical classroom cannot only help us understand our time’s tendency to erase history but might also provide us with important tools for navigating political action and rethinking historical methodology itself. We take pedagogy in this context to be a non-linear means of positing historical relations, creating entanglements between history and the histories that get made in the classroom.
We anticipate that the ten pre-circulated papers and five-minute presentations in each of the two sessions will allow for a free flow of ideas across historical and ahistorical approaches, and produce a productive conversation about the deep connections between experiencing texts and participating in eventfulness. Our goal is to produce two kinds of projects: a special issue of scholarly articles, and a pedagogy project that includes both a special issue of pedagogical essays including affiliated syllabi and more public-facing student interventions such as course blogs.
The first session considers questions related to historiography, the anthropocene and object theory. Participants consider the entanglement of history with questions of materiality as a site of global politics and climate change.
The second session considers media, form, and poetics in romanticism and the romantic now; three of the papers take Keats as a poet of the romantic now.
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