Imagined Sovereignties: Toward a New Political Romanticism

Imagined Sovereignties: Toward a New Political Romanticism

Imagined Sovereignties: Toward a New Political Romanticism

Imagined Sovereignties: Toward a New Political Romanticism

Synopsis

Imagined Sovereignties argues that the Romantics reconceived not just the nature of aesthetic imagination but also the conditions in which a specific form of political sovereignty could be realized through it.Articulating the link between the poetic imagination and secularized sovereignty requires more than simply replacing God with the subjective imagination and thereby ratifying the bourgeois liberal subject. Through close readings of Blake, Coleridge, Wordsworth, and Shelley, the author elucidates how Romanticism's reassertion of poetic power in place of the divine sovereign articulates an alternative understanding of secularization in forms of sovereignty that are no longer modeled on transcendence, divine or human.These readings ask us to reexamine not only the political significance of Romanticism but also its place within the development of modern politics. Certain aspects of Romanticism still provide an important resource for rethinking the limits of the political in our own time. This book will be acrucial source for those interested in the political legacy of Romanticism, as well as for anyone concerned with critical theoretical approaches to politics in the present.

Excerpt

Among the great popular stories that followed Percy Shelley, or “Mad Shelley” as he came to be called after being expelled from Oxford for writing the Necessity of Atheism, was that while travelling with Byron in Switzerland, he would sometimes sign the hotel ledger under the name “Percy Shelley, democrat, great lover of mankind, atheist.” Less fantastical than the tale about Edward Trelawny pulling Shelley’s intact heart from his funeral pyre, it nonetheless conveys a familiar nexus of Romantic themes that connect immediately to the problem of politics. With the exception of the last descriptor—atheist—Shelley’s signature could be read as the signature of British Romanticism more generally. Emerging coextensively with the great revolutions of the period that called divine right models of political sovereignty directly and violently into question, Romanticism sits at the crossroads of the modern era, which is forced to confront the task of reconstituting the political on new grounds. Shelley’s triple signature, “democrat, great lover of mankind, atheist,” opens a set of problems that would confront this modernity, along with all the aporias of the process of secularization . . .

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