The Ideology of Imagination: Subject and Society in the Discourse of Romanticism

By Forest Pyle | Go to book overview

EPILOGUE
"SOMETHING'S MISSING" A Gap of Hope

I take the title of my epilogue from a discussion between Ernst Bloch and Theodor Adorno regarding the "contradictions of utopian longing."1 In the course of their discussion, Bloch invokes a sentence from Bertolt Brecht Mahagonny to name the critical role utopian longing plays for social thought: Something's missing." For Bloch, utopian longing is not at odds with a genuine materialism, for the utopian introduces an absence or lack into our representations of the social. "The decisive incentive toward utopia" speaks of the "something" that is always "missing" from present as well as from past society, the "something" that is nowhere to be found, and the "something" that demands change and elicits hope.

Missing from my own readings of the imagination in English Romantic discourse is adequate attention to the utopian dimension. I have attempted in the preceding chapters to address the intricacy of imagination and ideology in Romanticism, to demonstrate how the question of ideology in its epistemological as well as social implications is bound up with the proceedings and performances of the imagination in English Romantic poetry and prose. And I have argued that by reading the work of the imagination we can discern a deep faultline in the discourse, one that announces what is best called a "materialist break" and that prompts powerful conservative responses in cultural politics.

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