Untrodden Regions of the Mind: Romanticism and Psychoanalysis

Untrodden Regions of the Mind: Romanticism and Psychoanalysis

Untrodden Regions of the Mind: Romanticism and Psychoanalysis

Untrodden Regions of the Mind: Romanticism and Psychoanalysis

Synopsis

Untrodden Regions of the Mind is an extensive collection of essays on Romantic literature written from a psychoanalytic perspective. With essays on both Continental and British Romantic writers, this volume explores not only the complex operations of gender and subjectivity but also how textual analysis reveals the ways in which the unconscious of the literary body resists and denies interpretive analysis just as forcefully as the individual unconscious. Examining such writers as Shelley, Beddoes, Coleridge, Wordsworth, De Stael, and Keats, this collection makes clear how the "pleasure of the text" must go beyond the enjoyment of reading, and into the workings of critical analysis itself.

Excerpt

The word romantic has come to mean so many things that, by it
self, it means nothing. It has ceased to perform the function of a
verbal sign.

—Arthur O. Lovejoy, “On the Discriminations of Romanticism”

AFTER Arthur O. Lovejoy wrote this qualification of Romanticism’s ideological homogeneity, a battle ensued between leading figures in the critical world. René Wellek, in particular, rushed to the defense of Romanticism as a unified and coherent category. He claimed that while “the terms ‘romanticism’ and ‘romantic’ ha[d] been under attack for a long time,” Romanticism nonetheless signified “a unity of theories, philosophies, and style, and that these, in turn, form[ed] a coherent group of ideas each of which implicate[d] the other.” We are justified, he argued, in referring to the Renaissance and Baroque. Why not the Romantic?

Wellek’s question is well taken. What is it about Romanticism as a field of literary study that has invited such an orgy of self-conscious angst? In recent years this apparent trauma of critical identity has been continued and has evolved into repeated examinations of Romanticism’s state of health, whether it be in Jerome McGann’s influential Romantic Ideology or in the countless conference discussions given over to panicky debates about Romanticism’s immanent demise. As Marc Redfield quite rightly puts it, “the handwringing much in evidence in recent books and anthologies written or edited by professional Romanticists has no real equivalent in, say, Victorian studies, where even the most politicized cultural critics seem able to go about their business without worrying that the regal name of their professional field might be a synonym for ‘ideology. ’ ” Most recently, of course, the issue of Romanticism as ideology has given way to still another debate: Romanticism as psychology. The historical frustration with Romanticism’s incoherent identity—despite its apparent preoccupation precisely with defining poetic subjectivity— has spawned an attempt to define the “true Romantic” mentalité in the so-called New Psychology, or “brain science.” Psychoanalysis as created by Freud, with all its attendant anxiety about scientificity . . .

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