Academic journal article The Byron Journal

Romantic Globalism: British Literature and Modern World Order/global Romanticism: Origins, Orientations, and Engagements

Academic journal article The Byron Journal

Romantic Globalism: British Literature and Modern World Order/global Romanticism: Origins, Orientations, and Engagements

Article excerpt

ROMANTIC GLOBALISM: BRITISH LITERATURE AND MODERN WORLD ORDER, 1750-1830. By Evan Gottlieb. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 2014. Pp. viii + 214. ISBN 978-0-8142-1254-7. £59.95.

GLOBAL ROMANTICISM: ORIGINS, ORIENTATIONS, AND ENGAGEMENTS, 1760-1820. Edited by Evan Gottlieb. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2015. Pp. xxiv + 316. ISBN 978-1-61148-625-4. $100.

The subject of a major scholarly conference in Australia in 2012, and now the focus of the two stimulating volumes under consideration here, 'Romantic globalism' seems to be fast emerging as a distinctive new strand of Romantic studies. Its novelty, however, arguably resides more in its theoretical approach and framework than in its thematic concerns. As the term implies, Romantic globalism is concerned to situate Romantic-era texts and authors in their global contexts, tracking the diverse ways in which the writers and artists of this period were not only often responsive to events and information from all around the world, but also frequently active agents in debates and developments which had a world-wide reach. Thematically speaking, the focus here is perhaps difficult to distinguish from that of postcolonial criticism, with the proponents of postcolonialism and Romantic globalism both offering compelling evidence that the Romantic age constituted a watershed moment in the growing interconnectedness of the planet, and in the emergence of important new forms of what Mary Louise Pratt has dubbed 'planetary consciousness'. In most postcolonial accounts, however, empire and colonialism exercise a powerful gravitational pull, providing the main conceptual and historical framework within which to locate and explicate the burgeoning cross-cultural interactions of the Romantic era. In contrast, the 'globalist' approach-at least as adumbrated by Evan Gottlieb in the introductions prefacing these volumes-adopts a more wide-ranging and nuanced perspective. Network rather than empire, one might say, is the key conceptual tool for Gottlieb and many of the contributors to Global Romanticism. Taking inspiration from the Actor-Network-Theory of Bruno Latour and the World-Systems Analysis pioneered by Immanuel Wallerstein, and influenced also by recent work on Archipelagic and Transatlantic Romanticisms, practitioners of the new Romantic globalism seek to move beyond the simple binarisms-'coloniser'/'colonised', 'metropole'/'colony' and so forth-which have sometimes characterised postcolonial critique in its cruder forms. They seek also to avoid the teleological predeterminism by which Romanticera developments are interpreted in the light of the High Imperialism of the later Victorian period, and so come to seem, as Gottlieb puts it, 'always already imperial'. Gottlieb therefore positions these volumes as contributions not to the already extensive scholarship on empire and its consequences, but rather to the history of 'long-durational globalization': a shift in focus and emphasis, he contends, which helps us to recognise both a greater variety of exchanges and interventions across national and cultural borders, and also a more multipolar, multidirectional flow of ideas and influences.

Within this broader rubric, Gottlieb's sole-authored volume, Romantic Globalism, tracks a sympathetic, cosmopolitan strain in Romantic-era literature and thought. For Gottlieb, this is a tradition which in a 'markedly progressive, egalitarian' fashion often encouraged its readers to think ethically rather than imperialistically about their relationship with other nations and peoples, and which consequently lay the groundwork for our modern institutions of international governance and cooperation. This tradition had its beginnings, in this account, in the Scottish Enlightenment, and in the writings of figures like David Hume, Adam Smith, Lord Kames and John Millar, who form the subject of the book's first chapter. In part, Gottlieb's aim here is simply to sketch the way in which the Scottish Enlightenment, through its comparatist methodologies, created 'the knowledge techniques adequate to a modern conceptualization of globalization'. …

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