Posts in category "Vol. 11 No. 1"

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Gordon Bigelow, Fiction, Famine, and the Rise of Economics in Victorian Britain & Ireland; Philip Connell, Romanticism, Economics, & the Question of Culture; & Maureen N. McLane, Romanticism & the Human Sciences: Poetry, Population, and the Discourse of..

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Bigelow, Gordon. Fiction, Famine, and the Rise of Economics in Victorian Britain and Ireland. Cambridge Studies in Nineteeth-Century Literature and Culture, no. 40. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. ix + 229pp. $43.00 (Pbk., 2007; ISBN-13: 9-780-521-03553-8).
Connell, Philip. Romanticism, Economics, and the Question of Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. xii + 338pp. $50.00 (Hdbk; ISBN-13: 9-780-199-28205-0).
McLane, Maureen N. Romanticism and the Human Sciences: Poetry, Population, and the Discourse of the Species. Cambridge Studies in Romanticism, no. 41. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. x + 282pp. $50.00 (Pbk., 2006; ISBN-13: 9-780-521-02820-2).

Reviewed by Alex J. Dick University of British Columbia

Most literary critics are familiar with economic terms like class, market, exchange, circulation, and production even if they aren't all that interested in economics. But people working in the field now called "literature and economics" or sometimes "the new economic criticism" are not primarily interested in using economic terminology to enhance readings of literary works. Nor are they particularly invested in using the tools of rhetoric or linguistics to challenge the ideological principles of academic economics, as even some economists have recently done. The new economic criticism, so called, is not really a branch of literary criticism at all. Rather it is part of a larger emerging field—discipline studies—that has attracted linguists, intellectual historians, anthropologists, and even economists and that is beginning to make headway in literature. Borrowing methodologies from discourse and systems analysis, the object of discipline studies is to understand when, how, and why literature and economics converge within institutional systems like the print marketplace or the University. These scholars share an interest in the way the different academic disciplines operate not discretely but in relation to one another. Disciplines formulate epistemologies by dismissing the usefulness or legitimacy of other competing epistemologies. At the same time, each discipline also adapts terms and ideas from others as part of their own disciplinary mandates. A good deal of discipline studies research is devoted to the history of the fields that now constitute the natural, social, and human sciences, including literature and economics. The Romantic period is vital to this story. Most of the disciplines that make up the social sciences and the humanities developed in the epistemological controversies that followed the fracturing of moral philosophy around 1800. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the familiar philosophical subjects (rhetoric, ethics, aesthetics) had become much more specialized and professionalized disciplines, including "English" and "Economics." One of the key insights of this history, however, is the way that these new disciplines continued to intersect with each other at the level of epistemology even as they were practiced in increasingly discrete ways. Such is the thesis of important recent works like the literary critic David Kaufman's The Business of Everyday Life (1995) and the economic historian Donald Winch's Wealth and Poverty: An Intellectual History of Political Economy in Britain 1790-1834 (1996). Romanticists will certainly know Clifford Siskin's The Work of Writing (1997) and Jon Klancher's The Making of English Reading Audiences (1989) both of which have examined the way the field now known as literature constituted itself as a profession first by distinguishing itself within popular and political writing as general and comprehensive and second by competing openly with other emerging disciplines (political economy prominently among them) for the right to claim arbitration over ultimate knowledge. Discipline studies also extends outside the realm of literature to encompass, for instance, political economy's troubled relationship to mathematics and statistics (as in Mary Poovey's A History of the Modern Fact [1998]) and the emergence of fields such as statistics, anthropology, and sociology. These studies are now joined by the three under review. Employing quite different approaches, all three consider the disciplinary intersection between literature and economics in the Romantic period and the significance of that intersection to the way both disciplines have developed since. Of the three, Gordon Bigelow's Fiction, Famine, and the Rise of Economics in Victorian Britain and Ireland is the most up front about its place in the new economic criticism. Most of the book is taken up by the third term in the title, "the rise of economics" or more precisely the transition in economic discourse from "political economy" to "economics." One of the most common mistakes made by scholars outside the field of the history of economic thought is the assumption that "political economy" and "economics" mean the same thing. They do not. Bigelow's book goes a long way to explaining how and why. But he also does away with the claim, common in much modern economics from Keynes on, that the two stages in the "rise of economics" are entirely distinct. Bigelow's main purpose, however, is to clarify how this transformation was prompted by a critique of political economy offered by philosophers, poets, novelists, essayists, and even other economists from the 1820s to the 1850s. This aspect of the study will be of most direct interest to Romanticists. Bigelow posits that the turn in economic discourse away from an attempt to devise systems of social governance (signified by the qualifier "political") and toward an attempt to rationalize universal principles of subjective desire was strongly influenced by the metaphysical and subjectivist strain of early-nineteenth-century philology. He thus begins with two long chapters covering the development of political economy from Adam Smith in the 1770s to Walter Stanley Jevons 100 years later. The focus here is on the way political economy assumed a theory of language. Smith, Bigelow argues in chapter 1, was profoundly influenced by the linguistic theories of the French philosophers Condillac and Rousseau: this influence is most strongly felt in Smith's early essay "Some Considerations of the First Formation of Languages" but it also apparent in The Theory of Moral Sentiments and Wealth of Nations. Inspired by the idea that human language was developing into an ever more perfect abstract system of representation, an idea he also cultivated in his early essays on language and discourse, Smith proposed that human psychology and, following it, economic exchange, would eventually become perfect abstract systems. In chapter 2, Bigelow shows how this abstract ideal changed over the course of the nineteenth century. First, political economists came under the sway of the notion of "national character," the idea that the economic potential of any culture or society is determined by geographical conditions and, in some instances, racial characteristics. Second, having isolated the etymological and philosophical roots of language in response to the mechanistic doctrines of the previous century, philological thinkers and critics from Horne Tooke to Kant, Coleridge, and De Quincey went on to posit a categorical ontology for human experience in the subject itself, or more specifically in subjective desire. The influence of such ideas on mainstream British thought, still profoundly empirical in its orientation, was not felt strongly until the 1830s and after. But Bigelow hints that once the case for subjective desire had convinced mid-century thinkers, it was hard to distinguish it from an empirical truth. And thus it came to be accepted among the new generation of economists. By the 1860s, presumptions about what human beings were capable of under certain conditions were so systematic that economic thinkers—notably Stanley Jevons—began to argue that the science of political economy should abandon philosophical questions about language and nationality and instead commit itself to making specific predictions based on available statistical evidence. Human desire and economic progress were not problems open to debate and dispute, but incontrovertible, rudimentary facts. The discipline has never been the same since. Bigelow's test case for the influence of national character and Romantic philology on economics is the Irish famine. Before the famine Ireland had a distinctive agriculture, a successful banking industry, and its own "Dublin School" of political economy, highly critical of the labor theory of Ricardo and his followers (63). By contrast, policy makers in England still held to the labor theory of value as well as to the principle of "atonement." This was a popular Christian idea that hardships endured on earth are repaid with reward in the hereafter. To Charles Trevelyan, Assistant Secretary to the Treasury, the Irish were a primitive people who had developed neither the means nor the aptitude for proper economic development. The famine was a sign that only sound trade and industry policies would produce a healthy economy; now that the truth of Ireland's backwardness was known, the right economic policies could be introduced. Other witnesses to the famine argued that economists should moderate their commitment to the labor theory of value with an awareness of Ireland's particular economic conditions, its "national character." Others suggested that the famine was the result of a faulty monetary system based on the potato rather than precious metals. Still others insisted that Ireland must be governed under a "new domestic economy" that used "the domestic household as a model of economic efficiency, tempered and motivated by sentimental feeling" (135). The different perspectives on the famine, English and Irish, bureaucratic and literary, helped produce new forms of economic thought. The chapter (4) on the Irish famine is, I think, the most important in the book. Whereas the other four chapters all consist of readings of relatively familiar works of fiction and theory, this one considers a range of original archive materials including government documents, private letters and memoranda, and notebooks and diaries, many of which have never been studied before. Bigelow presents a selection of the materials; an examination of more of these documents would make a very stimulating and important study in itself. For what they show, importantly, is how the discipline of economics was transformed under the pressure of competing epistemologies which it then adapted into its own general methodology. This is precisely the kind of process that defines the formation and evolution of the disciplines. Ireland plays some part in the literary chapters. Much is made, for instance, of Dickens' caricatures of Irish immigrants. By and large, however, the literary chapters offer new readings of well-known mid-Victorian novels, Dickens' Bleak House and Gaskell's Mary Barton, Cranford, and North and South, that further document the transformation in mid-century economic thought from mechanism to subjectivity. As a corollary to this transformation, Bigelow introduces yet another term in his account of the rise of economics: gender. Bigelow considers the contemporaneousness and conjunctions of this novel with one of the essays in Dickens' journal Household Words, "The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street." Here, Dickens provided his readers with an overview of the Bank of England as a parade through its gothic architecture, solid and secure, in spite of its empty coffers. It is not gold or wealth as such that sustain the market economy, but rather the subjective desire of the participants. Credit is merely the imaginary instrument that propels and inspires that desire. Dickens' point, Bigelow argues, is not to humanize but rather to feminize the marketplace. Dickens employs a similar strategy in Bleak House. While the foggy labyrinth of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce is meant to encapsulate the ceaseless and intolerable grinding of the mechanistic universe imagined by political economists, the new subjectivist economics is allegorized in the novel in the figure of Esther Summerson. Like the Old Lady of Dickens' essay, Esther propels the action of the novel by stimulating the subjective desire of the male characters. Bigelow covers the entire century (1770–1870) during which political economy evolved. In Romanticism, Economics, and the Question of Culture Philip Connell considers the implications of a particular moment in that development: the anonymous publication of Thomas Robert Malthus' An Essay on the Principle of Population in 1798. Malthus' Essay sparked one of the most crucial controversies of the period, the question of whether human beings are motivated purely by physical want or whether they can curtail their desires through moral reflection. Connell debunks the idea, well accepted among Romantic scholars, that Malthus and the Romantics were ideological and temperamental opposites by outlining in the first chapter the similarities in their educational and philosophical backgrounds. Malthus was a Cambridge-educated Anglican minister whose skepticisms about Paleyite theology and Godwinian perfectibility prompted him to point out the physical limitations on human intellectual and social advancement. Malthus' views on suffering and self-awareness were similar to the young Romantics' and might well have endeared him to them, or at the very least, not have antagonized them. Many of Wordsworth's and Coleridge's early writings have a decidedly Malthusian bent, and neither of them ever stated their opposition to the population principle outright. So where did the Romantics' "opposition" to Malthus come from? For Connell, it was simply a matter of political expediency. The second edition of the Essay appeared just as hostilities against France resumed in 1803. The country was in the grips of yet another invasion alarm; national unity was the order of the day. While it was greeted with cheers from Malthus' own Whiggish intellectual set, the Essay's grim conclusions about poverty and population were not the best antidote to the malaise of war. Many former radicals redefined their views in patriotic terms. To defend or agree with Malthus at such a time risked further calumny. So in his review of the second edition of the Essay in the Analytical Review, using Coleridge's notes on the subject, Southey lambasted it for suggesting that overpopulation is a matter of scientific inevitability and not moral choice. Malthus' population principle implied that faith in a benevolent God, or more to the point, pride in one's country and the progressiveness of its institutions, would have little effect on the cause of national unity. Such views would effectually "starve the poor" (cited in Connell 40) and thus encourage social division. Southey sidestepped the fact that Malthus had addressed this question in the 1803 edition in much the way that Southey and Coleridge wanted, by suggesting that religious leaders might encourage "moral virtue," i.e., sexual restraint. But, Connell claims, the theory of population, with its moral and philosophical assumptions, was simply not the point of Southey's attack. By attacking Malthus, Southey (and indirectly Coleridge) could at once establish their credentials with the governing Pittite party (who were not necessarily opposed to Malthus anyway) and, at the same time, refashion their democratic radicalism to suit the moderate Whiggism of wartime. Expanding on his remarks about the importance of the press in chapter 1, Connell's main argument in the rest of the book is that whatever differences there were between the economists and the Romantics tended to settle on the question of how to improve and reform education in the wake of Britain's massive commercial, industrial, and population expansions. Tracing the development of British education reform from Stewart's lectures at the University of Edinburgh, through his students, James Mill, Francis Jeffrey, and Henry Brougham, to prominent philanthropic entrepreneurs like Samuel Bailey and William Roscoe, Connell shows that the number one issue for political economists throughout the country was how to establish the intellectual principles that would keep the people from falling into the malaise that over-population would, on its own, induce. Malthus supported the establishment of state-wide primary education (at the very least) because a sound understanding of the basic principles of growth and restraint fundamental to the population principle were, Malthus argued, the best means of counteracting it. James Mill contended that the establishment of permanent principles of commerce and economy was the final, crucial stage in the process of human civilization, whereby the spread of ideas made possible by commerce, industry, and technology would be codified into "a 'common stock . . . one vast engine' of intellectual improvement" (82). In contrast to Mill's optimism, Francis Jeffrey's "historical sociology of literature and learning . . . was concerned above all with the progressive erosion of the conditions under which serious literary and intellectual endeavour might be fostered" (93-94). Jeffrey's reviews of the Romantic poets are not, in Connell's estimation, merely sneering witticisms. They express Jeffrey's general dismay at the collapse of the Scottish enlightenment ideals of engaged, comprehensive knowledge in the wake of an increasingly diffuse and fragmented field of publications that produced "superficial literary forms united only by their transient mediocrity" (95). But though Malthusian education reform played a major part in the growth of the secular Whig ideology, it also strongly influenced Christian Toryism. Malthus had always claimed that his proposals for political and intellectual reform in the wake of the population principle were fundamentally Christian. Since government itself could do little to stop the tide of overpopulation, and the Universities were beyond the means of most citizens, the responsibility for communicating the harmful effects of and possible remedies for sexual license must fall to the institution already entrusted with the moral welfare of the nation: the Church. Among the most important Christian Malthusians was Thomas Chalmers. A prominent Presbyterian minister, Chalmers believed strongly in the benefits of a healthy commercial state. But he also campaigned vigorously on behalf of a Christian doctrine that could teach people how to cope with the effects of commercial and industrial expansion. For Connell, Chalmers represents an important precedent for the "liberal Toryism" of Coleridge's and Southey's later writings on such questions as national education, public debt, and Catholic Emancipation. Coleridge, for instance, supported the Liverpool government's continuation of the suspension of cash payments because he believed that national debt fostered the circulation of the "symbols" of rank, achievement, and Christian reason that sustained the nation. Following Burke, Coleridge did believe that the responsibility for harnessing the potential of commerce must lie with an aristocratic class who were already empowered by birth with the trust of the nation's intellectual and economic heritage, that is, honor and land. Coleridge's ambition to turn this heritage into the foundation for a class of intellectual elite—what he called the "national Church" and later the "Clerisy"—resembles Chalmers' Malthusian mandate for putting the education of the country in the hands of the Ministry. Coleridge's abstract hermeneutics is not, therefore, the antithesis of political economy, in spite of Coleridge's remonstrations against materialism. Rather, Coleridge was working in the tradition of political economy itself, offering another version of the national education program that was its intellectual motivation. Connell's work is primarily archival. The light that Connell sheds on the Romantics' interest in political economy will, I think, have a profound impact on the way Romanticism is understood as a political and pedagogical movement. This is, however, primarily a work of intellectual history. Connell does little in the way of close reading other than to confirm how Romantic writing engages with larger economic concerns. For instance, Connell argues that Wordsworth's Excursion is a crucial document for understanding Romantic contributions to educational reform, but he barely touches on Wordsworth's poetics, the complexities of which have been shown by a number of critics to engage the epistemological and hermeneutic conundrums of economic thinking. That said, the historical point about literary Romanticism's close proximity to political economy is made so clearly that it must surely change the way we regard our own disciplinary assumptions as well as those of the Romantics themselves. By contrast, in Romanticism and the Human Sciences: Poetry, Population, and the Discourse of the Species, Maureen McLane reads in great detail the dialectic encounter between Romantic poetry and the epistemological problems of Malthusian political economy. Of the three books, McLane's is the most theoretically intricate and ambitious. Connell and Bigelow knit the economists and the poets together in a historical web of scholarly and political connections. McLane tries to theorize the web itself: she addresses not only how the debate between Malthusian political economy and Romantic poetry inspires questions of writing, orality, identity, and agency, but also how those questions define present anxieties in the academy about the relations among the humanist disciplines. But like Bigelow and Connell, McLane is out to challenge preconceived notions about the distinctiveness of literature from the other disciplines of the human sciences—most particularly political economy—and about the superiority of literary or humanistic understanding that such preconceptions tend also to imply. All three writers insist that in order to remain relevant, the Romantics had to address matters of current political, social, and economic concern: money, famine, population, education. But this argument goes beyond historical context. It postulates that the significance of literary history lies in its appreciation of the epistemological encounter between literature and economics at the moment of their respective formation as academic disciplines. The literary history of the Romantic period, then, has as much to do with understanding the relevance—or possibly the irrelevance—of literature today as it does with understanding the relations between literature and other forms of knowledge 200 years ago. An analogy for the dilemma of the humanities is the one suggested repeatedly by McLane herself: the struggle between Victor Frankenstein and his creation. Much of the material on Frankenstein in the book expands upon McLane's own award-winning study of Mary Shelley's novel, "Literate Species: Populations, 'Humanities,' and Frankenstein" (ELH 63) which won the Keats-Shelley Association of America Essay Award in 1997. In that essay, and in the sections of the book dealing with Frankenstein, McLane argues that the novel allegorizes the debate between Malthus and Shelley's father William Godwin that had originally inspired Malthus' Essay in the first place and which continued until Godwin's Reply to Malthus was published in 1820. Their failure signifies, in turn, the pyrrhic victory of "species logic" represented by Malthusian population theory. Both Victor and the Creature relish humanistic learning as the source of their ideal self-conception as pan-European "man." With Walton, both Victor and his Creature are failed poets of a kind. Certainly all believe in the power of the poetic imagination over and above the reproductive capacity of writing. Cosmopolitanism is here confounded by the fact of national difference or, in Bigelow's terms, "national character." The ambiguity of European-ness is itself a symbol for the problem of human-ness. Humanism itself is trumped by the competitivness and "misery" as Malthus called it, of physical "species being." At the end of the day, the creature asks Victor to make him a mate. And while the intentions are good—he wants them to live in "native" exile in South America—it is chemistry that must do the dirty work. And even though his tearing apart of the female monster helps him to re-enter the "human social body," the monster's vengeance encapsulates the constant pressure on that humanism by the fact of production and reproduction. Thus, McLane argues, the novel stages an encounter between competing modes of being-in-the-world. Alongside Frankenstein, McLane reviews other crucial statements of poetic autonomy of the period: Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads (as read and re-read by Coleridge) and Shelley's Defence of Poetry. Following Alan Bewell's Wordsworth and the Enlightenment (Yale University Press, 1989), McLane sees in Wordsworth's poetry a further attempt to formulate the "logic of Man": that is, an anthropology or "anthropologic." Like Shelley's Malthusian controversy, Wordsworth's anthropologic is a paradox: in the discovery of "other" humans (children, rustics, natives, "savages"), European man is confronted with his own potential species-ness, and thus the question of the distinctness of his humanity. The consequence of this encounter is a reformulation of the idea of "man" as a dialectical encounter between reason, which is unique to the "human," and sensibility, which is fundamental to human being. Neither is distinct—just as in Wordsworth's poems no "native" is ever "inhuman"—but neither can possibly be one and the same as the other. Wordsworth's poetry stages these encounters between different kinds of humanity. In "We Are Seven," which McLane reads brilliantly, the child does not represent savagery as such (as perhaps the "master" understands her), but rather a form of sociability that for the poem's readers confounds the master's autocratic mathematizing. At the same time, though, the poem leaves the master's enlightenment prejudices very much intact. For McLane, the poem depicts not an encounter between rustic and thinker, but rather a "simulacrum" (61) of such an encounter, an apparently vain attempt to merge the universes of orality and writing together without recognizing (as Wordsworth's poem seems to do) that these universes also exist in quite distinct dimensions. In "Ruth," Wordsworth throws into relief the effects of contact on Europeans (represented by the Youth) and the "fantasies and experiences of primitivity" that "disperse themselves throughout the home world" (78). Such poetic encounters are preludes to a reformulation—one that Coleridge identified in the Biographia—of the concept of "man" as fundamentally at odds with itself. For Coleridge, Wordsworth's idea of sympathy is flawed. It might seem to be the impetus for the successful encounter between peoples and thus a composite definition of man. But all it produces is the image of a previous conception mounted onto the object-body of the other. Lurking behind this dialectic is the Romantics' own uneasy relationship to Malthus, very much in the spirit of the tension that Connell outlines. Malthus's Essay, like Lyrical Ballads (with which it is almost exactly contemporary) stages an encounter between abstract human being (represented by Godwin and Condorcet) and physical species being (represented by the population principle) which it can never wholly reconcile. Obviously, though, McLane's reading of the Malthusian controversy is very different from Connell's. Connell argues that the Romantics' interest in Malthus proves that their thoughts on education and the imagination are fundamentally in line with classical political economy. McLane contends that it was precisely this intense engagement with Malthus that drove the Romantics to try to reform literature into a wholly new and distinct entity called "poetry." Whereas Connell's Malthus is very much a flesh-and-blood presence, McLane's is a rather ghostly figure, an emanation of the Romantics' own desires to affect social change but one against which they struggle to achieve autonomy at the same time. In this way, Malthus comes to stand for the bugbear of the "human sciences," that strange multi-disciplinary entity that we all want to conjoin and that at the same time makes us tremble with fear and loathing. A good way to clarify this difference is to note the strikingly dissimilar ways Connell and McLane read Percy Shelley. McLane's Shelley is not, to be sure, a wide-eyed idealist. What characterizes Shelley as a thinker is his consciousness of "historicity"; that is, his uncannily Malthusian sense of the necessary demise of systems of thought at the hands of physicality, violence, and hunger. Yet, McLane also sees in Shelley what she calls "radicalized" or "critical hope" (124-125). In contrast to the historical consciousness that sees the future only in terms of the predilections of the present, Shelley's futurity "re-cognizes and re-imagines" the future as a wholly different state and consciousness that it also understands, Malthus-like, to be without hope under present conditions. McLane's main frame of reference for this argument is Laon and Cynthia. Her thesis might be summarized equally well with reference to Prometheus Unbound: the joyous masque that takes up all Act IV, I have always taken to be a restaging of Act I as if the events of the play—the punishment of Prometheus, the rise of the Jupiter, and, by implication, the history of the entire world—had never actually happened. Prometheus' freedom releases time from one history (ours) and replaces it entirely with the history that should have been, the celebration of nature, imagination, and love with which the play concludes. However, Connell finds Shelley's efforts at reform to be more or less in line with mainstream Whig thought, including Malthusianism and later utilitarianism, especially that of Jeremy Bentham. Connell reminds us, importantly, that the Philosophical View and the Defence of Poetry were written at very different moments in Shelley's life and career and on very different occasions. Nowhere in the Defence, Connell insists, does Shelley attack Malthus; in fact, on the question of the adverse effects of machinery (which Shelley does address in the Defence) they are actually in agreement (213). The proper context for understanding the political significance of the Defence is the "complex and extensive network of social relationships linking the philosophical radicals and the Hunt circle" (214). Bentham's critiques of the legal system, his attacks on royal prerogative, his distaste for the church, and his calls for Parliamentary reform were applauded by Hunt and other London radicals. Bentham visited Hunt in prison following his conviction for libel against the Regent. Bentham and Shelley were more alike intellectually than their differing temperaments and reputations have hitherto indicated. Shelley's adoption of the "Hermit" persona in his pamphlets and particularly Laon and Cyntha (which McLane reads so persuasively) owes much to the Enlightenment tradition of the philosophe also adopted by Bentham. And the View itself, beyond its anti-Malthusian bent, is fundamentally Benthamite in its symptomatic analysis of the rise of commerce as alienating and isolating. Like Shelley, Bentham regarded the body as the primary site of moral right (the famous pleasure-pain principle) and of genuine sympathy. And Shelley's demand that poetry play a fundamental role in legislative reform at a global level, in spite of its Godwinian (and thus anti-Malthusian) idealism, is in line with Bentham's view that constitutional change can only occur at the fundamental level of the individual mind and, at the same time, on a global scale. "Shelley's Philosophical View," Connell concludes, "should in fact be viewed as a contribution to a larger debate within the Hunt Circle, sparked by Bentham's growing influence as a legislator and a radical, and centred on the relationship between the literary culture of poetry and the practicalities of political and constitutional reform" (225). A Defence of Poetry is not, in Connell's reading, a mandate for poetry's moral superiority to politics, but a demand for poetry's continuing relevance to politics. Which of these readings of Shelley is correct? Which more appealing? It is hard to tell. The difference between them is really methodological. Connell relies on historical documents to build an outstanding case for Romanticism's investment in political economy. McLane reaches beyond historical connections, so brilliantly established by Connell, to unravel the philosophical and psychological dynamics of the engagement between poetry and the new human sciences. As different as these readings might appear, they are in other ways similar. Both interpret Shelley's case for poetry as an attempt to clarify the general significance of literature over and above the narrow limitations of political economy even as it also acknowledges that economic necessity tends to trump any possible claim for the authority of humanistic understanding. This ambiguity, and Shelley's poetics with it, is crucial to the process of discipline formation. While neither as detailed nor as energetic as either McLane's or Connell's book, Bigelow's study also reminds how us much the political economy of the early nineteenth century was engaged with the issues of autonomy, language, nationality, and destiny that Romantic and later Victorian writers confronted and how much that confrontation—sometimes sympathetic, sometimes antagonistic—shaped the two disciplines accordingly. Moreover, Bigelow's move into the Victorian period allows us to see how the later economists' embrace of the Romantic critique of political economy in turn produced a new discipline—economics—that was at once profoundly humanistic and an antagonist of the humanities.

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Ian Baucom, Specters of the Atlantic

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Ian Baucom, Specters of the Atlantic. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005. x + 387pp; illus. $84.95 (Hdbk; ISBN-10: 0-8223-3558-1; ISBN-13: 978-0-8223-3558-0); $23.95 (Pbk; ISBN-10:0-8223-3596-4; ISBN-13: 978-0-8223-3596-2).

Reviewed by
S. Adair Rispoli
Greg Pierrot, Shawna Ross, David Jefferson, Dustin Kennedy, Laura Collins,
Tyler Hollet, Esther Deutsch, Paul Johnston, Brian Neff
Pennsylvania State University

Ian Baucom's stimulating and rigorous Specters of the Atlantic: Finance Capital, Slavery, and the Philosophy of History provides a philosophically sophisticated account of the role of slavery within the development of Western capitalism. Borrowing from Walter Benjamin's angel of history and Giovanni Arrighi's The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power, and the Origin of Our Times (Verso, 1994), Baucom advances the notion that "now" is never simply the present but rather an accumulation of history, which also moves through alternating cycles of economic development. Slavery, then, is no issue of the past, but one with the most salient consequences in the present, not only because the past has gathered itself within the present, but also because, according to Baucom, our era of high finance capitalism is comparable to that which arose out of the consolidation of the slave trade in the eighteenth century. Through a minutely detailed analysis of the 1781 Zong incident—in which one hundred and thirty-three slaves were thrown overboard in order to collect insurance—he shows how slaves as physical merchandise became at that historical moment the equivalent of finance capital: a potential, abstract and impersonal medium of exchange.

Though centered on the Zong incident, Baucom's argument locates this shift not only in the status of slaves, but also in Western epistemology more generally. The slave trade required new ways of thinking about the economy and the people who ran it. European thought shifted to a credit-based system, a process that combined rational calculations and imaginative speculation in order to judge character, know types, and trust abstractions. Meanwhile, private society and its literature also became a speculative affair, where one had to learn how to trust the unknown. To supplement his argument about this literary turn, Baucom frequently turns to Catherine Gallagher's Nobody's Story: The Vanishing Acts of Women Writers in the Marketplace 1670-1820 (University of California Press, 1994) and to Deirdre Lynch's The Economy of Character: Novels, Market Culture, and the Business of Inner Meaning (University of Chicago Press, 1998), both of which help explain the connection between credit and the task of the novel to "teach" people how to interact with new types.

Despite his astonishing range of reference—from Jameson to Zizek, from Benjamin to Derrida, from Pocock to Lynch—what Baucom perhaps misses is not the theoretical side of the argument, which he explains with depth, clarity, and sophistication, but instead its material conditions and exceptions to his brilliant rules. Where, for instance, is resistance? Where are the voices of the slaves themselves? His imaginative reconstruction of the Zong event effectively re-silences the slaves, burying their bodies a second time in the Atlantic. Naturally, the already broad range of his book perhaps makes these issues appear peripheral or irrelevant, yet his erasure of the slaves' voices and presences overstates his argument. This review, therefore, examines the omissions in Spectres of the Atlantic as well as demonstrates how Baucom's argument easily accommodates such considerations.

Baucom demonstrates cannily that the famous abolitionist lawyer Granville Sharp structured the court cases for the Zong in a performative fashion, using the pages of his indictment to reproduce the exact number of slaves murdered. Sharp organized his document so that of 138 total pages, six were blank, leaving 132 printed pages, the number of slaves killed. If we include the index, the number of pages is 133, or the total number of slaves thrown into the ocean. When Baucom describes the total number of slaves sold (9,914) by the Zong's owners, who died during the middle passage, he halts his discussion; an asterisk impedes the reading. Baucom then continues: "Nine thousand, nine hundred and fourteen of the human beings who were taken aboard ships Gregson either owned or co-owned did not reach the Americas alive. All of them, and none of them, typical human beings" (49). Another asterisk follows as Baucom returns to his primary discussion. This bathos positions Baucom on his own reiterative chain wherein the human actors in the tale (including the slaves, Sharp, the ship owners, etc.) become theoretical, textual constructs, and philosophical abstractions.

For Baucom, Sharp's textual maneuver "imitates both the form of the event it seeks not so much to describe as to surrogate and the form of appearance of this event as a quasi-Benjaminian, quasi-Kantian, quasi-Badiouvian truth event" (133). Similarly, Baucom formats his own text so that his discussion of Sharp's "reiterative submission" falls on pages 132 and 133 of Specters of the Atlantic. Baucom is himself the author of a reiterative submission. But what exactly does he reiterate? The dual layers of reiteration serve two functions. First, Baucom's text enacts his theory of history's accumulative nature; his text is a reformed and intensified repetition of Sharp's document. Secondly, through Baucom, both the Zong massacre and Sharp's document become quasi-truth events. Baucom's performance risks a potential reenactment of finance capital's disembodiment of the victims of the Zong massacre.

"Why does Sharp," Baucom asks, "force his readers to encounter and reencounter and reencounter this shock, this horror, this violent impression on the mind?" (131). The obvious is stated: Sharp employs a specific method in order to "reproduce the shock of the event as an affect of reading, to cultivate in the minds of the belated 'spectators of his event' not . . . a 'universal yet disinterested sympathy for the players . . . '" but, rather, "'a universal and interested sympathy'" (131). Baucom thereby imitates Sharp's method for the readers of Specters of the Atlantic. Sharp forces his readers to absorb the effects of each individual jettisoned over the side of the Zong; Baucom fragments his text in similar fashion to achieve similar effects. Baucom's use of Sharp's methodology saves him from being an author who becomes lost in theoretical babble, which would fail to establish Sharp's "universal and interested sympathy": this is theory with a facelift. In other words, Baucom's book departs from a purely theoretical approach, and instead novelizes its performances. By doing so, Specters of the Atlantic becomes a kind of novel whose discourse enters a "theoretical realism" to produce a type of Zong slave/situation (43) for twenty-first-century readers.

Blurring the lines between archival research and his own performance in redacting the Zong through his fragmented approach, Baucom moves between poetry, history, and literature. Chapter epigraphs taken from Trinidad-and-Tobago-born M. NourbeSe Philip's poetry collection Zong! echo his text to move the reader. For example, Chapter Six, "Frontispiece," begins with this:
frontispiece poem
By including Philip's work as epigraph, Baucom wants to call attention to the words on the page and their placement. Each epigraph shapes his text in some manner. The presence of wordless spaces impacts the readers by disconnecting them from an education that has taught normative reading skills: from left to right. This disconnect encourages readers to assess their own relationship to both poet and author, while bearing full responsibility for their readings.

As a result, the Zong massacre and Sharp's document and even Baucom's book become quasi-truth events. Capitalism's marginalized people (e.g., slaves, low wage-labours, freed slaves, etc.) were made into instruments of production in a frightening way, which capitalism made look almost natural. Baucom finds a source for this naturalization in the formal attributes of European literature, specifically the novel. Historical causality thus becomes a matter of form itself, as form becomes an historical actor and actually makes things happen because it makes certain forms of capitalism epistemologically imaginable. Nodding to Jameson's Marxism and Form (Princeton University Press, 1972), Baucom avoids a crude base-superstructure model of analysis, yet he uncharacteristically neglects outlining particularly one end of this relationship—what he refers to as the "novelistic imagination." What seems missing to us is neither economic analysis nor intellectual history but rather attention to the nature of "theoretical realism" in literature.

The realist novel accepts many imperfect substitutions—characters for people, descriptions for objects, etc.—yet if the novel does "teach" its readers how to act in new socioeconomic realms, the real suspension of belief occurs through neutralizing or neglecting the non-equivalence of exchange (in Zizek's terminology). In other words, readers learn socioeconomic lessons (i.e., how to identify and deal with new "types") not through content but through form. More particularly, they learn faith in the credit system that creates these new "types" in the first place. The belief that the novel can teach lessons through representation is itself a form of credit—a willful decision to believe, say, the narrator of a triple-decker novel. A strange reversal of agency is effected here, however, as there is a difference between what happens with credit and what happens with the novel: in the financial world, responsibility is dispersed among shareholders and underwriters, but in a novel's world, responsibility is typically focused and concentrated on one specific though unseen narrator, a metaphoric attempt to return to a time when one could identify someone actually responsible for one's financial stability (the father, the banker, the landlord).

As the realist novel teaches its readers specific socioeconomic lessons, it also scripts and circulates a particular way of understanding history. In the novel's conventional form, the narrator is the source of all discourse—from their singular points of view, characters are defined, and a story is told in a way that implies a linear chronology of events with definite beginnings and ends. In this classic European form, one voice has the authority to reconstruct historical events. These events exist in a concrete and unalterable reality—reality as the narrator knows and writes it. In Specters of the Atlantic, Baucom recreates an understanding of history in the European literary tradition. He offers a version of the Zong story. But he does not attempt to recover counter-narratives. His voice usurps all others. Voices belonging to the bodies thrown off the Zong remain mute—as perhaps they must—but must all the voices of all slaves? If Specters of the Atlantic is literature, then this puts Baucom in a hard place. He is attempting to do history in a novelistic form, and, interestingly enough, his attempt to displace the reader to render a more effective absorption of the Zong incident requires us to fill in with heart where Baucom cannot put it in himself.

* * * *

Baucom's book largely argues that finance capital was a major impetus behind modernity and, by extension, behind the development of slavery. Using the example of twenty-first-century international corporations such as Nike—although he does not say it in so many words—Baucom claims that we are still in many ways within the system that could insure humans as commercial goods. Yet while Specters of the Atlantic shows how insurance and finance capital shed a new light on the philosophy of history and the "reading" of modernity in relation to slavery, it makes no mention of the court case brought against the Aetna Insurance Company, among other companies, in 2002. That year, Attorney Deadria Farmer-Paellmann initiated a reparations law suit against Aetna Insurance for making incredible profits on slavery in its earlier, eighteenth-century incarnation. Aetna originally apologized to the African American community and made vague promises about pursuing initiatives to eliminate disparities in health care and in health status. Nothing happened, of course. Moral behavior also has a market value: Aetna paid lip-service to the "human interest" side of the issue because it looked like it might threaten their financial interests. In the process, they showed themselves as detached from the human side of the trade in Zong slaves as their forebears were. This Baucom sees clearly: it is all a matter of capital. Yet by focusing on financiers, he himself loses sight of the people whom he means to vindicate, the Zong slaves. We cannot bring them back, goes the time-old argument, and of course, that much is true, but only because they never left. They are not specters so as much as anonymous figures denied agency entered in the accounting books of finance capital. Baucom is keenly aware of this process, exposes it and yet fails to extend his own writing practice beyond it. By refusing to see beyond the accounting book, Baucom condemns the Zong slaves to remain forever ghosts.

Why does Baucom not construe all bodies (owners, slaves, wage-workers) as subject to the rule of finance capital, extending its perversion beyond the White/Black dichotomy? By using his sense of the financial revolution as the prime mover of trans-Atlantic culture to cross-contaminate ethnic absolutism, we could locate similar collisions in contemporary accounts of slave society. John Stedman's 1796 Narrative of a Five Years' Expedition Against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam, in Guiana, on the Wild Coast of South America, from the year 1772 to 1777 advances Baucom's argument beyond the silent Zong slaves. Stedman (1744-1797), a half-Scots, half-Dutch ship captian driven by curiosity to enlist himself in a military party embarking to Surinam to quell a slave insurrection, kept a journal during his expedition. Stedman's narrative enacts a symbiotic, pathological relationship between meandering trans-Atlantic identities through its transvaluations of Black/White spheres. Stedman comes to represent the nexus of Black/White ethnic spheres as a source of hybridity rather than antagonism. It is precisely the effects of cross-contamination that show these two seemingly antagonistic spheres have multiple punctures that permit them to bleed together. In fact, the cross-contamination of White and Black can even occur via finance capital.

Stedman, for instance, secures a loan to purchase manumission for his mulatto lover, Joanna. She locates her agency within the terms of finance capital by voicing her stubborn desire to stay in Surinam until every farthing for the loan has been paid in full, despite Stedman's pleas to do otherwise. Instead of reading the refusal to leave before the loan is paid off as a self-deprecating response, she responds as an effect of capitalism that has intertwined debts with the market value of morality. Joanna's agency defies the silence of slaves in Baucom's work. Granted, her response may not capture the same revolutionary drive for freedom as her contemporaries, the Maroons, but both of these slave agencies are responding to the same conditions of capital Baucom reads purely.

Slaves and displaced people are, in fact, radicals who often turned against the force of finance capital. The financial revolution provided the occasion for an eclectic underground culture to develop, offering rich material for any attempt to recover a counter-history. Only once does Baucom acknowledge Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker's The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (Verso, 2000), when this text ought to be a primary source of material for Baucom's counter-history. The Many-Headed Hydra encapsulates a motley array of voices antithetical to the beneficiaries of capitalism. This text demonstrates richly what Specters of the Atlantic might have realized, but Baucom refrains from recognizing what Linebaugh and Rediker already knew: in the "history of modern Atlantic revolutionary movements" there is chatter everywhere (Baucom 227). And it undermines Baucom's silencing of the Zong slaves. Neither text can recover a whole counter-history on its own, but through a concerted approach both texts can help modernity better discern meaning within the chatter.

Global capitalism has since left slavery behind, but its effects on the bottom-most position of coerced labor are still with us. Ultimately, Specters of the Atlantic underestimates that:

It takes human capital to fuel the capital machine
It takes human capital to man the arms of war
It takes human capital to build the ships
It takes human capital to sail the ships
It takes human capital to claim the land
It takes human capital to clear the forests
It takes human capital to spread humanity
It takes human capital to produce human capital.

The way Baucom elides issues of class is perhaps most obvious in the use he makes of the very symbolic building, the Liverpool Exchange. Built in 1754, the Exchange was also the city's town hall and became the crowning achievement of a series of constructions throughout the city, the symbol of Liverpool's "novel" wealth. Describing the friezes on the building's façade, Baucom isolates representations of "what had generated the vast amounts of money circulating through Liverpool and accumulating within it: a set of African heads, circling the Exchange" (52). Later, he mentions a 1784 masquerade ball on the same premises in which "the principal families of the city would have found themselves performing . . . their moment, their city, and their city's shared sovereignty over its moment" (79).

There is much insight in Baucom's reading, but it ignores a few signs on that façade: in one of Baucom's sources—Richard Brooke's Liverpool as It Was During the Last Quarter of the Eighteenth Century, 1775 to 1800 (London: J. Mawdsley & Son, 1853)—we learn that "[m]ore than one of the marks of the cannon balls fired at the Exchange [were] even yet visible" in 1853 (342). Between 1754 and 1784, the Exchange was damaged in at least two massive riots. During the sailors' riot of 1775, "one of the most extraordinary and dangerous riots that occurred in England [in the eighteenth century]" (qtd. in Brooke 74), a mob attacked the Exchange with guns and cannons, bombarding the building. This riot had started over wage disputes between slave traders and sailors working on their ships; after attacking several "Guineamen" in the harbor, the sailors ransacked houses belonging to slave merchants, "threaten[ing] hostile visits to all the merchants engaged in the Guinea trade" (342); they eventually met them with demands at the Exchange, where the merchants were barricaded and defended by a militia. Thus, the masquerade ball can be seen in a different light when we realize that the Exchange was as much a fortification for finance capital as it was a monument to its glory. Therein lies the strength and the weakness of Baucom's work: his study concentrates on the elites, and in the same movement ignores the masses; it focuses on finance capital but bypasses the labor that produces it. Baucom's Specters of the Atlantic, for being thought-provoking and thorough-going as it is, addresses one side only of the Guinea coin.

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James Najarian, Victorian Keats: Manliness, Sexuality, and Desire

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James Najarian, Victorian Keats: Manliness, Sexuality, and Desire. New York: Palgrave, 2003. x + 240pp. $110.00 (Hdbk; ISBN-10: 0-333-98583-4).

Reviewed by
Peggy Dunn Bailey

In Victorian Keats: Manliness, Sexuality, and Desire, James Najarian traces the influence of Keats upon the ways that male sexuality came to be understood and expressed in the Victorian era. One of the most valuable and insightful elements of Najarian's discussion, however, is that he extends his analysis beyond the Victorian era to the World War 1 era poetry of Wilfred Owen and to appropriations of Keats's "story" by contemporary artists struggling to find a language for the horrors of HIV/AIDS and its legacy, especially for the gay community. Doing so solidifies his point that Keats became, and continues to be, a phenomenon of sorts, not just because of his poetry but because of the ways in which the poet himself was turned into a symbol of transgressive sexuality and a commentary on its manifestations and potential consequences. Najarian is careful to point out that Keats's "influence" was transmitted not just by his poetry but also by biographies and conceptions of the "doomed," "sensuous," "effeminate" poet and to make clear that his goal is not to uncover the "real" John Keats but to examine the legacy of "Keatsianism" (2). Will we understand Keats and his poetry better if we "prove"/"know" him to have been a latent homosexual instead of (or, titillatingly, in addition to) a frustrated heterosexual? Not necessarily. Najarian astutely points out that late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century attempts to categorize would be unwise for practical and theoretical reasons; we would do well to remain vigilant regarding the dependability of our knowledge of the sexual proclivities and practices of human beings in a culture and a time within which the discourse of sexuality was so very different from our own. Furthermore, such attempts to "out" Keats, the man, are irrelevant to Najarian's project. In the Introduction, Najarian candidly announces his text as "unashamedly a literary history" (2).

In the Introduction, Najarian acknowledges his text's intellectual relationship to Gay and Lesbian Studies and Queer Theory, but also points out the primary ways in which it differs from them: his afore-mentioned, conscious focus on literary rather than cultural studies, and his significant hesitation about imposing contemporary labels on Victorian people and practices. He recognizes the scholars whose work has informed and inspired his own: from Foucault and his ideas of the "creation" of the homosexual, to Hans-Robert Jauss and his emphasis on reception history, to scholars working specifically in sexuality and nineteenth-century culture—Linda Dowling, Richard Dellamora, and Joseph Bristow, for example. Najarian claims in his introduction that what his book contributes to the discussion of nineteenth-century culture and literature is "a sense of the literariness of Victorian sexuality" (5). Through his life and his death, as they were depicted in biographies and letters and imagined by those who applauded or abhorred him, and through his poetry, Keats became the means by which others came to understand, define, and express their sexuality.

Chapter One does not begin with a discussion of Victorian people or events, however. It begins by noting the extent to which Keats's "story" has been "deployed in the representation of HIV/AIDS" in contemporary writing (11). Beginning in this way is, as I have already suggested, a particularly effective strategy by which Najarian shows, from the beginning, that Keats, through his life, his death, and his poetry, has become something more than a "major poet" to be anthologized and studied in the classroom. Najarian shows that there is such a thing as "Keatsianism"—a cluster of ideas, attitudes, and characteristics that suggest objectless desire, prolonged eroticism, pleasure that seems irrevocably tied to pain, and blurred gender boundaries. After a discussion of contemporary uses of Keats's life and poetry, Najarian takes us back to the first biographies of Keats, Richard Monckton Milnes's two-volume edition of Keats's Life (1848) and the biographies written by Sidney Colvin and William Michael Rossetti (both published in 1887), and details the nineteenth-century preoccupation with the "effeminate" Keats. The discussion of the distinction between "effeminate" and "feminine" in the nineteenth century is particularly helpful. "Effeminate" was not synonymous with "homosexual" in most of the nineteenth century but seems to have been associated primarily with weakness, self-involvement, and moral and civic irresponsibility; "feminine" might suggest culturally approved qualities associated with the female such as purity and fastidiousness (23). The cultural connotations of the disease of "consumption" that Najarian details are also of interest, as consumption was seen as a physical manifestation of spiritual/emotional "infection" (39) and/or the final result of "thwarted desire" (29). This perception of the nature and the power of desire, the ways in which it might, literally, consume us, is at the heart of the fascination that readers had, and still have, with Keats.

The writers upon which Najarian chooses to focus—Tennyson, Arnold, Hopkins, Symonds, Pater, and Owen—responded to Keats in different ways intellectually, emotionally, and poetically, but they did all respond, for it was Keats who provided them with the language whereby they might work through their own emotional/sexual conflicts. Ultimately, Najarian argues, Keats and his poetry helped to create the language of male desire in the nineteenth century. Chapter Two is devoted to an exploration of Tennyson's use of Keats to suggest a language of intimacy, particularly male-to-male intimacy (68). There is an insightful discussion of sections of In Memoriam which shows Tennyson "out-Keatsing Keats" with his lush language and imagery (67), and a fascinating reading of one of the poems Tennyson chose to suppress, "O Darling Room," which echoes Keats's "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer" and suggests male-to-male intimacy (emotional, if not physical) as it was written about a room shared by Tennyson and Hallam. Chapter Three, with its discussion of Arnold's "manipulation" (86) of Keats's poetry in order to distance, display, and elegize parts of himself is particularly well-argued. The "anxiety about masculinity" that led Arnold to repudiate Romanticism (72-73) has been noted by other scholars, but Najarian's observations of the ways in which Keats's poetry informs Arnold's poetry and criticism, even as Arnold most vehemently tries to critique and distance himself from it, are particularly insightful, as is the discussion of the ways that the Keats constructed by nineteenth-century readings of his life and work may have served as a model for Arnold's behavior as a young "dandy." Although Hopkins labeled Keats "unmanly," Najarian demonstrates through a close reading of Hopkins's poetry and journals that Hopkins's attitude toward Keats was more complex than some have configured it. Najarian claims that Hopkins found in Keats an ally in the struggle with the sensuous world (101) and that Hopkins at once identified with, judged, and exonerated his Romantic predecessor. Of course, Keats and Hopkins struggled with the sensuous world for different reasons (Keats obviously did not share Hopkins's profound Christian convictions regarding the sinfulness of sensuous enjoyment), so Najarian's comment that Hopkins would "re-create and re-form the work of Keats in a specifically Christian context" is particularly important (124; my emphasis).

Chapters Five and Seven, devoted to Symonds and Owen, respectively, are especially clear and convincing. In Chapter Five, Najarian presents virtually undeniable textual evidence from Symonds's writing that Keats provided this particular Victorian with a way to conceptualize as well as express his desire for other men because Keats's poetry "exhibits a peculiar combination of sensuousness and reticence, of excitement and incompletion, of prolonged desire without consummation" (127-28). Ultimately, Najarian argues, Keats showed Symonds how sexuality can be experienced, not just expressed (135). This particular chapter does much to solidify Najarian's claim in Chapter One that Keats played a significant role in the "invention of the homosexual" (25). The discussion of Wilfred Owens's poetry and letters in Chapter Seven is, as mentioned earlier, particularly clear and convincing. Najarian zeroes in on textual evidence to support his claims that Keats helped Owen place his sexuality in a literary context. Doing so helped him define and own it in affirmative ways, as Najarian illustrates, showing that Owens's concept of "erotic sympathy" (the idea that erotic bonds between men nurture sympathy and prevent recurring violence) derives in great part from Keats's Endymion. Of all the chapters, Chapter Six, devoted to Pater, seems the most murky in its attempts to demonstrate the ways in which Pater can be read as Keats's "inheritor" (136). The argument is not, taken in its entirety, unconvincing, but it is more tenuous, as Najarian's language reveals: "In 'Diaphaneitè' and 'Winckelmann,' Pater explores the ways in which negative capability and Keatsian disinterestedness enjoin an aesthetics that requires intellectual and sexual impassiveness-a detachment from gender norms that incidentally implicates or includes same-sex sexuality" (136; my emphasis). Or this on "Diaphaneitè"'s classical references and its audience (Oxford dons): "I think [not even "I would argue"] that Pater uses these references to this culture in order to explore the sexual ramifications of romantic aesthetics rather than to score any polemical point. He is hinting at the sexual possibilities that disinterestedness might suggest and require" (151; my emphasis).

Ultimately, Victorian Keats is an impressive and effective combination of close reading of primary texts and informed discussion of critical/theoretical scholarship. It is remarkable for its skillful, judicious use of other scholars' theories and readings, but it never becomes utterly dependent on them, unnecessarily pugnacious in its response to them, or merely derivative. The chapters treat separate authors and make distinct but always connected arguments, as Najarian helps us throughout to see how a claim about one author's indebtedness to Keats relates to a previous argument about a previous author's indebtedness. There is throughout the text an unswerving focus on the historical specificity of texts, lives, and concepts. In Victorian Keats, Najarian stays true to his purpose of writing a literary history. He makes a valuable contribution to our understanding and appreciation of Keats and his influence, not just on the Victorians and their conceptualization and expression of gender, sexuality, and desire, but on ours as well.

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David Perkins, Romanticism and Animal Rights & Christine Kenyon-Jones, Kindred Brutes: Animals in Romantic-Period Writing

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David Perkins, Romanticism and Animal Rights. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Cambridge Studies in Romanticism, no. 58. xvi + 210pp. $95.00 (Hdbk; ISBN-10: 0-521-82941-0; ISBN-13: 978-0-521-82941-0); $37.99 (Pbk.; ISBN-13: 978-0-521-04598-8).
Christine Kenyon-Jones, Kindred Brutes: Animals in Romantic-Period Writing. Aldershot, England: Ashgate Publishing, 2001. The Nineteenth-Century Series. viii + 229pp; illus. (10 halftones). $99.95. (Hdbk: ISBN: 0-7546-0332-6).

Reviewed by
Janelle A. Schwartz
Loyola University, New Orleans

In A Memoir of Thomas Bewick by Himself, we are told that the Farmer (well-known to the 12-year-old Bewick), proposing to have "a bit more sport" with a captured hare, broke "one of its legs, and then again [set] the poor Animal off, a little before the Dogs" (qtd. in RR 15). Thinking that the Farmer would help to save the life of the hapless hare, the young Bewick gave the animal into what he thought would be beneficent hands. To his surprise, the Farmer's intervention served only to exacerbate the already brutal scene of the fox hunt. This vignette encapsulates the key figures and concepts in David Perkins' Romanticism and Animal Rights and Christine Kenyon-Jones' Kindred Brutes: Animals in Romantic-Period Writing; both texts present comprehensive, sustained studies of how and why animals appeared in the literature of the Romantic era. Seeking to draw attention to contemporary and modern ecological concerns, both Perkins and Kenyon-Jones couch their arguments in the multitude of discourses about animals in the eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. Ranging from the didacticism of children's literature and the practice of keeping pets to contemporary debates surrounding hunting and vegetarianism, as well as parliamentary debates on the rights of animals and the encyclopaedic texts produced on the subject, these discourses not only highlight the presence of animals in English culture, but they also demonstrate the inextricable link between animals and humans. Romanticism and Animal Rights and Kindred Brutes, therefore, reveal the essential, and often times varied, role of the animal to aid in an understanding of the human.

In ways similar to Harriet Ritvo's provocative book, The Platypus and the Mermaid, Perkins and Kenyon-Jones orient themselves within "a large and complex society" in order to demonstrate how "animals performed many different functions and stood (or flew or swam) in relation to many different groups of people" (Ritvo xii). Whereas Ritvo focuses her study around those exotic and aberrant animals feverishly discovered and collected by Victorian society, Perkins and Kenyon-Jones concentrate on the everyday animals that were underfoot, under the gun, in the pasture, in the street, or on the dinner plate of a slightly earlier era. Such animals readily represent what Perkins deems the obvious subjects "in the campaign for humanity to animals" (115), as well as what Kenyon-Jones states is the "central place in any system which seeks to relate humans to the natural environment" (141). As a result, both Romanticism and Animal Rights and Kindred Brutes complicate accepted approaches to animals and the natural environment by looking closely at the poetry and prose written in and about the familiar setting of eighteenth and early-nineteenth century life.

"When a child asks, 'What were flies made for?' her father replies, 'Suppose a fly capable of thinking, would he not be equally puzzled to find out what men were good for?'" (qtd. in Perkins 6). According to Perkins, this telling exchange between father and daughter, fly and humanity, reveals a problematic, though perhaps necessary, closing of the perspectival gap between human- and animal-kind. Asserting that "sympathy might tend to deprive humans of special importance and status among the creatures" (6), Perkins alerts us to three competing modes of the argument surrounding animal rights during the second half of the eighteenth century (which he develops at length in his second chapter, "Grounds of argument"). On the one hand, animals are distinct from humans. They are subordinated to humans through their being thought of as property and, in turn, treated with brutality. On the other hand, discussions of "animal rights" could allow for the elision of just such a distinction. If animals are believed to have natural rights, which would lead inevitably to legal rights, then humankind loses its "special importance" in God's created system of existence. In sympathy with animals, humans in turn reveal their own misanthropy, and therefore emphasize the Romantic conception of ideal nature against that of civilized society (Perkins 4). Meanwhile, however, there were also those who rejected this leveling system on the grounds that "the creatures themselves could not be inflamed by such agitation" (Perkins 43). In other words, because animals could not create the polemics of humans, they became the model figures from which humans should learn moral rectitude.

With two introductory chapters, Perkins effectively contextualizes his argument by describing the changes in attitude surrounding animals that led up to the establishment of The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1824. This historical account grounds the close readings that follow in the remaining six chapters within the social, cultural and political issues at stake in the development of animal rights. His straightforward and amusing prose serves up insightful new perspectives on such old favorites as Cowper's The Task and Coleridge's "To a Young Ass," while also presenting inventive analyses on several texts outside the established, though clearly unsettled, canon, including Clare's badger sonnets. Perkins' revealing discussion of Clare ultimately functions to call attention to the fact that "the animal is just a metaphor, with little character or life of its own that the poet values" (147). Animals did (and do) indeed suffer from "the usual, universal basis of emotional reactions to animals; we react to what we have attributed" (Perkins 9). In accordance with this type of anthropomorphism, Perkins' close textual analyses are woven together with their historical and biographical significances so that Romanticism and Animal Rights consistently uncovers the strength of the poetic voice—albeit a voice with multiple, oftentimes dissenting perspectives—to reflect and to influence public opinion. And although there is some repetition of the historical and biographical information from chapter to chapter, this repetition helps to emphasize the fluctuating perspectives between the individual works of Romantic poetry.

Proposing a look at the "newly different" and "newly similar" attributes of animals in Romantic-period writing, Kenyon-Jones approaches her topic by casting a wide net. As a dense, carefully-researched catalogue of animals, Kindred Brutes combines non-literary discourses with the literary in order to explicate not only the issue of animal rights, but questions of gender and the body, of consumption, of friendship and liberty, and of zoology, ecology and variable conceptions of Nature. Moving back and forth between Bacon and Byron, Descartes and Darwin, Montaigne and Malthus, Pliny and Pope, and so on, Kenyon-Jones accounts for the prodigious numbers of animal references found before, within and after the Romantic era.

Kindred Brutes begins with a discussion of the living sentiment given to one's own deceased pet—Byron's "Inscription on the Monument of a Newfoundland Dog." In Chapter One, "Animals Dead and Alive: Pets, Politics and Poetry in the Romantic Period," Kenyon-Jones presents a kind of literature review threaded through with her reading of Byron's "Inscription." As a testament to the theriophilic tradition, this inscription is said to locate discussions of the animal simultaneously inside and outside those of the human, and within and without life itself. Thus, the "Inscription" gives to Byron's dog, Boatswain, the ability "to remind us of our kinship [to it]" while also providing a contrast between "human folly" and "animals' instinctive wisdom" (Kenyon-Jones 12). Here, as happens later within Perkins' text, Kenyon-Jones immediately subverts the idea that animals are inferior to humans—through satire and slight irony—and so gives to the animals the didactic power needed to effectively transform human perception not only towards animals, but towards fellow human beings as well. There is a strong link, claims Kenyon-Jones, between the "lower" ranks of humankind, such as slaves, women, and other oppressed groups, and the status of the animal (205). Thus, while it was during the Romantic period that modern discussions of kindness towards animals for animals' sake began to replace the human-centered use of animals, an appeal for a sympathetic humanity towards itself also began to take root. Here both Perkins and Kenyon-Jones agree that representations of the animal call for egalitarian practices from human to human. Both authors fall prey themselves, therefore, to the Romantic "turning inward," which allows that the animal might be but the reflector needed to reveal ourselves to ourselves. The animal becomes yet another instrument with which to gain an understanding of the Romantic subject.

While Kindred Brutes provides an important, source-oriented foundation for the burgeoning scholarship on animals in Romanticism, its insistence on variety and scope limits Kenyon-Jones' critical engagement with her chosen texts. Her meticulously contextualized discussions of key works stop just short of the detailed analyses that appear in Perkins' text. Instead, Kenyon-Jones continually draws our attention to the works of Coleridge, Wordsworth, Shelley and (particularly) Byron in an attempt to formulate a locus around which all of her other sources can orient. And while she successfully illustrates a vast field of textual examples with which to approach animals in Romantic (as well as in some Victorian) writing, her consistent return to the above-mentioned authors makes the text itself appear anxious about this claimed focus, rather than comfortable with its potentially more revealing wanderings.

Similar to Perkins' claim for the erasure of the actual animal in favor of its figurative strength, Kenyon-Jones maintains that "in a metaphorical, spiritual or feeling-based form . . . human/animal kinship" lends itself to "much current thinking about human behavior," but her concession that this perception "adds greatly to the value placed on all animals" is an important inversion left out of Perkins' text (206). Romanticism and Animal Rights curiously evades the implication of a heightened animal value that might arise from a strong kinship between animals and humans. Although Perkins does articulate the idea that the exploitation of animals occurs beyond the immediacy of their use (or abuse), and in the continued displacement by "whatever social group animals and their treatment are said to figure" (xi), he does not explore fully the ramifications of this idea. He chooses, ironically, to remain largely focused on the human. Kenyon-Jones, however, moves her argument beyond this trap of animal subordination. Kindred Brutes concludes with a brief chapter ("Animals Then and Now") that claims for the twenty-first century's conceptions of the animal a founding ancestor in the Romantic era. While this connection between yesterday and today clearly resonates with current environmental discourse, it is a connection that nevertheless distracts the reader from Kenyon-Jones' significant compilation of "kindred brutes." Romanticism and Animal Rights and Kindred Brutes focus on sentiments towards, as well as the plight and use of, animals at a time when the rights of animals were hotly debated and when humankind was desperately trying to decipher (i.e., to distinguish) its own significance within the Chain of Being. Both texts mark a cultural turning-point, or at least a crucial point of departure, in the consideration of animals and their place in human society and thought—thus making clear that animals truly are "'good to think with.'"

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Noah Heringman, Romantic Rocks, Aesthetic Geology

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Noah Heringman, Romantic Rocks, Aesthetic Geology. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2004.  xix +304 pp. $49.95 (Hdbk; ISBN-13: 978-0-8014-4127-1).

Reviewed by
Kate Rigby
Monash University

Noah Heringman is one of a small but growing band of Romanticists and other literary scholars whose work is located in the liminal zone between the terrain of the natural sciences and that of the humanities and social sciences. As is the case with such interstitial spaces in the physical environment, so, too, in the world of scholarship, this often proves to be fertile ground. This is certainly the case with Romantic Rocks, Aesthetic Geology, which reframes current understandings of both Romantic aesthetics and geological science through a detailed examination of their historical interconnections.

Heringman has previously published a valuable edited collection of scholarly essays on Romantic science, focusing on what he terms the "literary forms of natural history."[1] In his new monograph, he turns his attention specifically to the interface between Romantic poetry and geology, arguing that "the literary culture producing this poetry was fundamentally shaped by many of the same cultural practices that formed geology as a science during the period 1770-1820" (xii). Heringman's investigation of this historical confluence contributes to the archaeology of knowledge by uncovering a paradigm for the process whereby the arts and sciences informed one another during the Romantic period, while nonetheless also beginning to diverge at this time as the modern disciplines came to take shape. More specifically, Heringman's study illuminates "changing attitudes to the earth's material and toward materiality itself" (xiv), at a time when the matter of (and with) the earth is impressing itself on human society with unprecedented force in the context of a global ecological crisis that had its localised genesis in the industrial revolution of the Romantic period. The re-examination of Romantic views of materiality undertaken here is all the more valuable in this context since, as Heringman avers, our current environmental woes were precipitated, at least in part, precisely by a forgetfulness of the resistant agency of the earth's matter, of which, as he demonstrates, some Romantic literature so powerfully reminds us.

While this is not the first study to foreground the significance of the emerging earth sciences for Romantic literature, and vice versa, Romantic Rocks, Aesthetic Geology breaks new ground in a number of ways. The two main precursors for Heringman's work are Marjorie Nicolsen's much earlier Mountain Gloom and Mountain Glory (1959) and, more recently, John Wyatt's Wordsworth and the Geologists (1995).[2] Both of these studies trace diachronic processes and tell stories of influence. Nicolsen is concerned with the transformation of the perception of mountains in European learned culture from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, with the Romantic celebration of the alpine sublime in terms of an "aesthetics of the infinite" featuring as the culmination of this process of positive re-evaluation, encompassing theology, philosophy and natural history, as well as literature. The historical trajectory of Wyatt's book moves in the opposite direction in order to disclose the influence of Wordsworth's poetic philosophy of nature on the geologists of the early Victorian period. Heringman's, by contrast, is a more synchronic study, firmly focussed on the Romantic period itself, and less interested in the issue of influence than with the question of what Romantic writing on rock reveals about the relationship between literature and science at this time. In this strategy, his approach is more akin to that of Theodor Ziolkowski, who includes a chapter on mining and the earth sciences in his book German Romanticism and Its Institutions, to which Heringman also refers.[3] Indeed, one of the great strengths of Heringman's work, in my view, is that although his concern is primarily with developments in England, these are placed in a wider European context, with German literature and philosophy, as well as some excellent German scholarship, such as that of Hartmut Böhme, featuring significantly in his discussion.[4]

In company with several other contemporary scholars of Romanticism, such as Forest Pyle and Onno Oerlemans, Heringman is committed to uncovering a "Romantic materialism repressed by earlier critical accounts of nature and the imagination" (11).[5] This re-evaluation of the place of materiality in Romantic literature and science, and in particular the "third materiality" (162) of terrestrial history and geoformation (after the "first materiality" of the letter, examined by deconstructionist critics, and the "second" of socio-economic history examined by new historicists), undertaken as it is within a horizon of concern for the current fate of the earth as biosphere, brings Heringman's work into proximity with that of ecocritics, such as Jonathan Bate or James McKusick.[6] However, rather than seeking in Romanticism precursors and resources for contemporary ecological understanding, Heringman is more attentive to the historical specificity of Romantic geo-materialism. Also, while he stresses the significance of the Romantic recognition of other-than-human material agency, providing a necessary corrective to the "transcendent" materiality of new historicism, which "begins and ends with [human] language" (22), Heringman remains concerned with the socio-economic contexts and implications of both the Romantic poetics of rock and the aesthetic discourses of early geology. In particular, he examines in considerable detail and in a wonderfully nuanced manner the complicity of, but potentially also the tension between, Romantic constructions of the sublime otherness of rock and the economic exploitation of mineral resources.

Corresponding to the dual focus designated in the title, Romantic Rocks, Aesthetic Geology is divided into two halves, separated by an "Interchapter." At issue in the first part is the poetic use of the language of the sublime to constitute rock as the epitome of alterity: that which is most foreign to the human, or das Menschenfremdeste, as Böhme puts it. Here, Heringman provides fresh readings of canonical texts, notably Wordsworth's "Resolution and Independence," Shelley's "Mont Blanc" and Blake's Jerusalem, which are attentive both to a wide range of intertexts (including theories of the sublime and picturesque, travel writing, natural history, and landscape gardening, as well as earlier drafts, letters, journals and other poetic works) and to the structures and imagery of the verse itself. I was particularly taken here with Heringman's recognition of the earth as agent and intertext in his observation that Shelley's disordering of regular poetic form in "Mont Blanc" responds mimetically to the creative deformation that he perceived at work in the Alps, where, as he wrote to Thomas Love Peacock, "Nature was the poet" (qtd. in Heringman 71). Importantly, Heringman's reappraisal of the Romantic poetics of rock in these opening chapters serves as a corrective to Nicolsen's overly linear account of a transition from gloomy to glorifying depictions of mountains by bringing out a continuing ambivalence in Romantic responses to the earth's "geological otherness."

In his investigation of the complex interrrelationship between "aesthetic" and "economic geology" in the "Interchapter," Heringman also puts pressure on the common ecocritical account of Romanticism as a site of resistance to the techno-scientific project of domination and exploitation by disclosing the aesthetic provenance of the concept of "natural resources" in the scientific writing of Humphry Davy where "aesthetic explanation continually embellishes and at times legitimates the rhetoric of appropriation and mastery" (147). More generally, Heringman contends that:

[t]he language and categories of the aesthetic participate in early geology, not as a rhetorical stand-in for "real" explanation, but as a form of knowledge that constitutes the objects of the science; early geology, in turn, explores and helps to define the aesthetic objects of Romanticism. (160)

While the aesthetics of the sublime might have foregrounded the inscrutability of the realm of rock, the reading that was confidently given to the history of geo-formation uncovered by stratigraphers and minerologists was inevitably inflected by various socio-political and theologico-philosophical notions, and generally cast as a narrative of progress. As Heringman indicates in his discussion of Novalis, Shelley and Wordsworth in the second half of the book, the very recognition of telluric agency could thus serve to naturalize the human transformation of nature as consciously carrying forward a perceived process of "improvement" that the earth had itself been about since time immemorial.

The intertwining of Romantic aesthetics and science is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the use of verse form to write natural history, as in the work of Erasmus Darwin, to whom an entire chapter is devoted. Darwin's verse, in Heringman's analysis, represents a "textual form of the cabinet, exhibiting natural and artistic 'specimens' along with culture's uses of the earth's materials in different historical contexts" (214). Darwin's Botanic Garden, nonetheless, figures here as "the last monument of a form of aesthetic experience that accommodated both science and poetry and judged both on one standard of taste" (227). By contrast, William Hamilton Drummond's (1778-1865) topographical 1811 poem The Giant's Causeway, which presents this remarkable geological phenomenon under the rubric of moral philosophy rather than natural history, points to the emerging divergence of science from literature, which would subsequently make it so difficult for literary critics and scientists alike to recognise the earlier interdependence of their disciplines.

Overall, the thing that I most value in Noah Heringman's endeavour to overcome this blind spot is the way that he brings to light the contribution of various hitherto subordinated participants, human and otherwise, in the constitution of the cultural field. These include women, such as Mary Anning, the fossil collector and dealer, whose copious finds made possible the findings of the more famous male geologists who were her contemporaries, and manual labourers, such as the bluestone miners of the Peak District, whose troglodytic way of life played an important part in the constitution of Derbyshire as the most paradigmatically "romantic" of English landscapes. Because of the prominence of Wordsworth and Coleridge in the literary canon, the importance of the Peak District in the formation both of Romantic landscape aesthetics and early geology has been largely eclipsed by the Lakes. In devoting the final chapter of his book to a case study of Derbyshire as it figures in a wide range of writing during the Romantic period, including guidebooks, travel narratives, pantomime, poetry, novels and geological tracts, Heringman thus also gives due recognition to an insufficiently regarded region of Britain, the physical characteristics of which helped to shape "established protocols for the sublime [. . .] in new and specific ways" (235).

In acknowledging the earth as a player in this way, Heringman challenges the prevailing methodologies of both literary scholarship and the natural sciences by disclosing how the physical environment and human cultural practices, scientific no less than aesthetic, inform one another mutually. The idea of the socio-cultural situatedness of all knowledge claims, including those of the natural sciences, while still unsettling to many empiricists, is by now widely accepted within the humanities and social sciences. What is new and exciting here, especially within literary studies in the wake of decades of deconstructive and new historicist constructivism, is the suggestion that literary discourses and aesthetic values might be influenced in turn by aspects of the physical environment. In exploring this dynamic interaction of literature, science and the earth, Heringman shows that what we call "nature," while undoubtedly subject to cultural encoding (not to mention technological manipulation and economic exploitation), should be apprehended not only as the social construct which on one level it undoubtedly is, but also as alluding to a locus of other than human agency, with the power to shape, but also potentially to resist human ideas, ideals and intentions. In Heringman's analysis, moreover, to perceive the materiality of the earth in this double dimension, as both necessarily acted upon by humans, and as acting independently from (and on) us, is to recall a quintessentially romantic ambivalence with regard to nature that has been veiled by earlier critical accounts of Romanticism, which have foregrounded its idealist (and ideological) tendencies, to the neglect of its more materialist manifestations.

[1] Noah Heringman, ed., Romantic Science: The Literary Forms of Natural History (Albany: SUNY Press, 2003).

[2] Marjorie Nicolsen, Mountain Gloom and Mountain Glory: The Development of the Aesthetics of the Infinite (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1997; reprint); John Wyatt, Wordsworth and the Geologists (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995).
[3] Theodor Ziolkowski, German Romanticism and Its Institutions (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991).
[4] Hartmut Böhme, "Das Steinerne: Anmerkungen zur Theorie des Erhabenen aus dem Blick des 'Menschenfremdesten,' " in Das Erhabene: Zwischen Grenzerfahrung und Größenwahn, ed. Christine Pries (Darmstadt: VCH, 1989, 119-41). Another German work on mining in German literature that Heringman cites is Helmut Gold's Erkenntnisse unter Tage: Bergbaumotive in der Literatur der Romantik (Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1990). Heringman might have also made good use of the chapter on mining in Böhme's Natur und Subjekt (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1988).
[5] Forest Pyle, The Ideology of Imagination: Subject and Society in the Discourse of Romanticism (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995); and Onno Oerlemans, Romanticism and the Materiality of Nature (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002).
[6] Jonathan Bate, Romantic Ecology (London: Routledge, 1991); James McKusick, Green Romanticism: Romanticism and Ecology (New York: St Martin's Press, 2000).

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Josephine McDonagh, Child Murder and British Culture, 1720-1900

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Josephine McDonagh, Child Murder and British Culture, 1720-1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. xiii + 278pp; illus. (6 halftones). $95.00 (Hdbk; ISBN-10: 0-521-78193-0; ISBN-13: 978-0-521-78193-0); $32.99 (Pbk.; ISBN-13:978-0-521-05456-0).

Reviewed by
Lynne Vallone
Texas A&M University-College Station

For Josephine McDonagh, child murder from the eighteenth through nineteenth centuries—both actual cases and, in particular, the "idea" of child murder—is an especially sensitive barometer that reveals cultural values, anxieties and obsessions that change over time. Through probing and cogent readings of court records, newspaper articles, novels, poems, political and polemical tracts, medical treatises, legislation (such as the 1803 Offenses against the Person Act), works of philosophy and economics, McDonagh's book, Child Murder and British Culture, 1720-1900, convinces the reader that the motif of child murder is indeed at the heart of Britain's self-fashioning and self-imagining. She concludes the introduction: "I hope to confront and come to terms with the obvious disjunction between the unnatural and violent deaths of infants . . . —events which demand our most sober regard—and the extraordinarily potent array of traces—tragic, grotesque, trenchant, and ludic—which child murder left in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century culture" (13). Thus, McDonagh's project must juggle the various and often competing discussions about child murder, the contexts of these debates, and the interpretive moments—moments of cultural imagination—that inhere to the figure of the murdered child. This is a difficult trick, yet one which McDonagh achieves with panache.

The first chapter considers Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" (1729) and Bernard Mandeville's Fable of the Bees (1714, 1723), two works that use the figure of child murder to critique commercial society. Swift uses child death as a bitter indictment of a society ruled by desire and appetite, while Mandeville sets the murder of children within his larger discussion of the public benefit of vice. McDonagh concludes, "For Swift . . . there is a suggestion that child murder might be a redemptive act, a sacrifice made in the interests of the renovation of society. . . . For Mandeville, on the other hand, the joke is that there can be no redemption: modern society is irredeemably corrupt—but for him, and generations who follow him, that is its source of profit and its pleasure" (34).

The 1790s saw a shift in discussions of child murder in Britain, McDonagh argues, from emotional responses to the deed in (primarily) male spectators, to the killers themselves (who were typically women). Chapter Three highlights two key issues of the book as a whole—gender and politics—and considers the means by which child murder was politicized and the murderers demonized or sentimentalized. Romantic-era views of women promoted by writers such as Blake and Wordsworth in their poetry, and Thomas Malthus, in his Essay on the Principle of Population (1798), informed both arguments. Malthus's theory about the necessity of poverty, disease and starvation to check the dire consequences of a geometric growth in population and an arithmetical growth in subsistence (the work was revised in 1803 to posit that greed and sexual activity would work as more acceptable constrictions of population growth), though widely attacked, also substantially informed nineteenth-century social thinking, affecting attitudes toward child murder. Wordsworth's poem "The Thorn," published in the first edition of Lyrical Ballads, is about Martha Ray, a jilted and despairing mother who probably kills her child and who is forever haunted by its loss. The hopeless figure grieving in nature formed a powerful image often replicated in literature. As McDonagh notes, "Wordsworth's rendition of the perpetrator of child murder, in which madness, maternity, and elemental nature are woven together, becomes a new and pervasive image of pathetic womanhood, and a determinant in a frequently evoked plot throughout the nineteenth century" (70). An equally powerful image of the sinister female, often "a mother without being a wife," was simultaneously advanced. Thus, McDonagh argues, two figures emerged from the panic of the revolutionary years of the 1790s: Wordsworth's unmarried and wretched Martha Ray and Malthus's allegorical "Dame Nature" who functions as both killer and "moral regulator," disciplining the poor and maintaining social order through death and a fear of the female.

Chapter Four considers the role of child murder in the discourse of radicalism and class warfare as it emerged from debates over The New Poor Law of 1834, which was based upon Malthusian principles of reducing the cost of relieving the wants of the poor and encouraging, through disciplinary measures, their self-reliance. McDonagh also reviews the furor that surrounded the so-called "Marcus" pamphlets that advocated limiting poor families to two children and gassing the "superfluous" children of paupers. Although the exact purpose and identity of the author of these works from the 1830s and 1840s have not been proved, their significance is emphasized by the uproar they caused in the popular and radical press. The "Marcus" pamphlets and the reactions to them, McDonagh relates, "illustrate vividly the way in which ideas and motifs circulated within the culture, and were co-opted by different individuals and groups to support widely different political positions: in this case, child murder is incorporated in the rhetoric of people of party and opinion as different as the Tory Radical, Baxter, Chartists of various complexion . . . as well as the Owenite, Mudie" (112).

McDonagh's overarching insight—that "the real horror of child murder comes to exist in the workings of the imagination" (116)—informs her next chapter on Adam Bede (1859) and "national forgetting." That the fact of child murder—or its eradication—could be construed as either a "sign of a national disorder" or a matter of "patriotic pride" (124), undergirds this point. George Eliot's novel about a seduced and abandoned mother unmarried who kills her newborn and is tried and convicted for the crime, McDonagh argues, contains both ideas; thus, "child murder is at once the marker of cultural alterity; but also the redemptive sacrifice" (128). More specifically, and interestingly, McDonagh considers the murdered child in the mid-Victorian era to represent, to carry, the "national forgotten" (132). Like the relation between England and colonial India (whose "proclivity" to infanticide was reported in the press and widely believed to indicate the inherent barbarism and immorality of the Indians), the mid-century disciplinary reforms such as education, sanitation, censuses wrought upon the lower classes—among which child murder was thought to be epidemic—positioned the poor as "subaltern" (144). McDonagh suggests that in Adam Bede child murder functions as a reminder of the repudiation of orientalism and the violent conflict; it is "the bearer of memories that have been forgotten for the perpetuation of the nation" (145).

McDonagh concludes her study with a consideration of Ireland, an important theme in the infanticide debates. Like India's, Ireland's child murders (or those perpetrated by Irish immigrants) confirmed belief in the primitivism of its people; however, McDonagh reveals, by the end of the century, Irish infanticide was transformed by Irish writers from an indicator of degeneracy to one of noble sacrifice: "If, in the nineteenth century, child murder provided a set of discourses through which a writer like George Eliot could negotiate ideas of British national belonging, in the 1890s, the very same discourses provided the basis for Irish writers to articulate a divergent notion of Irish national independence" (186).

Though child murder is certainly a grisly subject, McDonagh's book is not sensationalistic or simplistic in its arguments. Child Murder and British Culture, 1720-1900 takes its place as a worthy companion to other recent books about child death: Pat Jalland's Death in the Victorian Family (Oxford University Press, 1996); and Laurence Lerner's Angels and Absences: Child Deaths in the Nineteenth Century (Vanderbilt University Press, 1997). The book will appeal to those interested in the Romantic and Victorian eras, as well as historians of the family and cultural critics more generally.

The Child is a figure that has historically often been hard done by: both literally through abuse and neglect of varying degrees, and in ways more abstruse—though no less real—through politicization, objectification, sentimentalization or marginalization. In academia, too, the Child has often been overlooked or relegated to specialist volumes that are often ignored by Romanticists or Victorianists who work on canonical authors and texts. McDonagh, while less interested in the actual child victims than in the ideological and cultural forces that surrounded the protean meanings of child murder, nevertheless positions the Child at the center of cultural and literary histories of Britain and simultaneously calls into question (though never explicitly) more conventional histories of British culture that ignore children and childhood altogether. Through her learned and ingenious book, McDonagh demonstrates that looking to the Child—here, in particular, to child murder—offers a particularly well-focused and informative illumination of British culture writ large.

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