Romantic Theory: Forms of Reflexivity in the Revolutionary Era

Overview

This original study explores the new idea of theory that emerged in the wake of the French Revolution. Leon Chai sees in the Romantic age a significant movement across several broad fields of intellectual endeavor, from theoretical concepts to an attempt to understand how they arise. He contends that this movement led to a spatial treatment of concepts, the primacy of development over concepts, and the creation of metatheory, or the formal analysis of theory.

Chai begins with P....

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Overview

This original study explores the new idea of theory that emerged in the wake of the French Revolution. Leon Chai sees in the Romantic age a significant movement across several broad fields of intellectual endeavor, from theoretical concepts to an attempt to understand how they arise. He contends that this movement led to a spatial treatment of concepts, the primacy of development over concepts, and the creation of metatheory, or the formal analysis of theory.

Chai begins with P. B. Shelley on the need for conceptual framework, or theory. He then considers how Friedrich Wolf and Friedrich Schlegel shift from a preoccupation with antiquity to a heightened self-awareness of Romantic nostalgia for that lost past. He finds a similar reflexivity in Napoleon's battle plan at Jena and, subsequently, in Hegel's move from substance to subject. Chai then turns to the sciences: Xavier Bichat's rejection of the idea of a unitary vital principle for life as process; the chemical theory of matter developed by Humphry Davy; and the work of Évariste Galois, whose proof of the solvability of equations using radicals ushered in the age of metatheory.

Chai concludes with reactions to theory: Coleridge's proposal of the conflict between reason and understanding as a model of theory, Mary Shelley's effort to replace theory with a different kind of relationship to external others, and Hölderlin's reflection on the limits of representation and the possibility of fulfillment beyond it.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

French Studies - James Carey

I would unhesitatingly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in how the history of thought impinges on current theoretical concerns.

BARS Bulletin and Review - G. Todd Davis

An excellent monograph, which should be required reading for those interested in the theoretical underpinnings of the Romantic period as well as Romantic scholars in general.

Red Orbit - Thomas Pfau

Fine new study... Chai's book makes a valuable contribution to the study of Romanticism.

Monatshefte - Brian Tucker

Chai's book will quickly occupy a place among those prominent recent works that have shaped the understanding of both Romanticism and our relationship to it.

Comparative Literature Studies - Brad Prager

Quite refined, and from such scholarship readers will surely benefit.

Canadian Review of Comparative Literature - Stuart Peterfreund

Leon Chai has produced an impressive study of European Romantic theory and theorizing that helps to place the current state of critical throy in historical perspective.

French Studies
I would unhesitatingly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in how the history of thought impinges on current theoretical concerns.

— James Carey

BARS Bulletin and Review
An excellent monograph, which should be required reading for those interested in the theoretical underpinnings of the Romantic period as well as Romantic scholars in general.

— G. Todd Davis

Red Orbit
Fine new study... Chai's book makes a valuable contribution to the study of Romanticism.

— Thomas Pfau

Monatshefte
Chai's book will quickly occupy a place among those prominent recent works that have shaped the understanding of both Romanticism and our relationship to it.

— Brian Tucker

Wordsworth Circle

This is a difficult but rewarding book. It will make its mark even on those readers least prepared to assent to Chai’s arguments, and it is likely to instigate an intriguing debate.

Comparative Literature Studies
Quite refined, and from such scholarship readers will surely benefit.

— Brad Prager

Forum of Modern Language Studies

Highly thought provoking study.

Canadian Review of Comparative Literature
Leon Chai has produced an impressive study of European Romantic theory and theorizing that helps to place the current state of critical throy in historical perspective.

— Stuart Peterfreund

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801883965
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2006
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.04 (d)

Meet the Author

Leon Chai is a professor of English and comparative literature at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
1 The Triumph of Theory 1
2 Forms of Nostalgia 21
3 The Movement of Return 52
4 The House of Life 88
5 Beyond Radical Empiricism 113
6 Galois Theory 133
7 Toward a Definition of Reflection 153
8 The Dream of Subjectivity 167
9 The Limits of Theory 187
Conclusion 213
Epilogue 221
Notes 235
Bibliographic Essay 263
Primary Sources 275
Index 277
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