Solitude and the Sublime: Romanticism and the Aesthetics of Individuation

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Psychology Press, 1992 - Literary Criticism - 177 pages
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At the close of the 18th century, the aesthetics of the sublime were shaped by two conflicting views: the empiricism of Edmund Burke and the formalist idealism of Immanuel Kant. Today, theoretical work struggles once again with this philosophical issue. In modern debates over the nature of literary language and of human agency, the sublime has been a bone of contention for critics of every stripe, from Adorno and Eagleton to Derrida and de Man, from deconstructionists to New Historicists. In this bold work, Frances Ferguson seeks to rescue Kantian idealism from prevailing empiricist critiques and to explain its particular urgency for our understanding of Romanticism. Burke and Kant are discussed in terms of the philosophical issues they raise, and the theoretical issues addressed by some of the most important recent writing on them. Ferguson then engages with various phenomena in Romantic writing - the Gothic novel, the population debates in 18th- and early 19th-century England, and travel literature. The final section of the work weighs the materialist claims of New Historicism and deconstruction.
 

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Contents

The Sublime of Edmund Burke or The Bathos of Experience
37
A Judgment Outside Comparison
55
The Gothicism of the Gothic Novel
97
Malthus Godwin Wordsworth and the Spirit of Solitude
114
The Face on the Forest Floor
129
Historicism Deconstruction and Wordsworth
146
Index
172
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About the author (1992)

Frances Ferguson is Professor of English at Johns Hopkins University. She has written extensively on the eighteenth century and Romanticism.

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