Romanticism, Nationalism, and the Revolt Against Theory / Edition 2

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Overview

Why has Anglo-American culture for so long regarded "theory" with intense suspicion? In this important contribution to the history of critical theory, David Simpson argues that a nationalist myth underlies contemporary attacks on theory. Theory's antagonists, Simpson shows, invoke the same criteria of common sense and national solidarity as did the British intellectuals who rebelled against "theory" and "method" during the French Revolution.

Simpson demonstrates the close association between "theory" and "method" and shows that by the mid-eighteenth century, "method" had acquired distinctly subversive associations in England. Attributed increasingly to the French and the Germans, "method" paradoxically evoked images both of inhuman rationality and unbridled sentimentality; in either incarnation, it was seen as a threat to what was claimed to be authentically British. Simpson develops these paradigms in relation to feminism, the gendering of Anglo-American culture, and the emergence of literature and literary criticism as antitheoretical discourses. He then looks at the Romantic poets' response to this confining ideology of the cultural role of literature. Finally, Simpson considers postmodern theory's claims for the radical energy of nonrational or antirationalist positions.

This is an essential book not only for students of the Romantic period and intellectual historians concerned with the idea of "method," but for anyone interested in the historical background of today's debates over the excesses and possibilities of "theory." David Simpson is professor of English at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226759463
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/1993
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 254
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

David Simpson is the G. B. Needham Distinguished Professor of English at the University of California, Davis.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: A History for Theory 1
1 The Politics of Method 19
Peter Ramus, Martyr 19
The Method of the English Revolution 25
John Wesley, Methodist 32
2 The Culture of British Common Sense 40
Us and Them 40
Sticking to the Facts 43
The Trials of Reason 52
Burke, Coleridge, and the Method of Nature 57
3 The Myth of French Excess 64
A Nation of Philosophers 64
System and Sensibility: Rousseau 76
4 The Image of Germany 84
Conspirators and Freemasons 84
Scandal on the Stage 89
The Derangements of Theory 94
5 Engendering Method 104
The Case for Female Reason 104
A Revolution among Women 113
6 System and Literature 126
The Sublime: A Masculine Confusion 126
The Place of English Literature 131
A Theory of Imprecision: Utilitarianism 142
7 A Radical Literature? 149
Plotting the Middle Ground 149
The Wordsworth Question 152
The Struggle with Albion's Angels: William Blake 159
Eroticism and Futurity: Shelley and Keats 164
8 Thoughts on the Present Discontents 172
A Revolution That Will Not Finish 172
The Problem of Theory in the Postmodern 180
Notes 189
Bibliography 213
Index 237
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