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II. Neuromanticism

Techno-Prosthetic Romantic Futurism

  • Paul Youngquist

…plus d’informations

  • Paul Youngquist
    Penn State University

Corps de l’article

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Topic Tree

000 - Introduction

010 - Induction

020 - The Death of the Book

030 - Necromanticism

040 - Prosthetic Self

050 - Neuropolis!

060 - Jack In!

070 - After Wordsworth

080 - Identity is your Mother's Record Collection

090 - The Secret Segregation

100 - We are Legion

110 - Strange Fruit

120 - Overture to L'Overture

130 - Tranquillity is Obsolete

140 - willworthwordsiam

150 - Michold Bloucault

160 - Flatline

170 - The Book is a Machine

180 - Against Critique

190 - Digital Resistance

200 - Hack the Wetware!

210 - Romanticism as Science Fiction

220 - Our Frankenfuture

230 - That was a Good Hack

240 - The Ghost of a Flea

250 - Black Hack

260 - Net/Work

270 - Bibliobreakdown

280 - Spiritual Fourfold London Calling!

290 - Wilke's Parlor, or listen to the pork sizzle

300 - Two Turntables and a Microphone

310 - The Future is Becoming Black

320 - Pure Briton?

330 - Abolition Blues

340 - Invisible Men--and Women too

350 - Losing the Race

360 - Mixology

370 - PoMo Minstrel

380 - Bookbusters

390 - Commodifuckation

400 - The Extrusion of the Quest Romance

410 - Christ on a Crutch

420 - Digital Superdigitalism

430 - A Word to Stand On

440 - The Net, the Gin, the Trap

450 - I think therefore I think I am

460 - Premature Burial

470 - Syllabus for the 21st Century

480 - The Book of Thoth--now online!

490 - Googlishus

500 - Imagination Matters

510 - The Politics of Dreaming

520 - Retrofitting Romanticism

530 - Posted: No Post-structuralists!

540 - Organic Decay

550 - Racing the Nation

560 - The Unbearable Whiteness of Being

570 - Technoculture!

580 - Keeping Clean

590 - Headfuck

600 - Techno-Prosthetic

610 - History is a Hologram

620 - Your Intelligence is Artificial

630 - Personal Property

640 - Strap-On

650 - The Almighty Dollar

660 - The Body is a Slave

670 - Rattle the Chattle

680 - Imperial Whiteness

690 - Injury is Me

700 - Rehab is for Quitters

710 - The Scar on his Forehead

720 - Isn't it Byronic?

730 - Also Sprach Die Geschicte

740 - Hacking the Past

750 - Frankenfreeze

760 - The Empire Hacks Back

770 - Operation Remix

780 - Exterminate the Brutes!

790 - Grim Raper

800 - Coda: Second Coming

810 - Digibritannia!

820 - Critical Beatdown

830 - Shopping is War by Other Means

840 - Zoom Zip

850 - Digital Herpes

860 - Symptoms of the Future

870 - Accumulating Futures

880 - Histories of the Future

890 - Monster: the Remix

900 - After Humanity

910 - The Pure Ruse of Purity

920 - Afro Blue and Brit

930 - Hero with a Thousand Faces

940 - The Secret Sexes

950 - Wikitopia

960 - Romance the Planet!

970 - Planetary Blackness

980 - Mutate!

990 - Digitalia

1000 - World Without End

Introduction: Wisdom of the Mix

The essay you're about to read isn't an essay, and the game you're about to play isn't a game. Scholarship morphs in a space without dimensions--or should.

Too many on-line essays re-enact off-line standards of production and performance. But the game has changed.

Scholarship is becoming something other than it's been, jettisoning old school baggage of argument and evidence. New possibilities are emerging: the shock of the random, the wisdom of the mix. What follows exploits a few of those possibilities in pursuit of a virtual future--for Romanticism on the Net.

-- Paul Youngquist, Professor of English, Penn State

Introduction: No More Dead Links

Here, the hyperlink becomes an agent of production: The hyperlink is not reduced to the banal task of performing a physical equivalent--flipping a page or pulling a reference book from the shelf to look up a definition.

Here, "scholarship" is a convergent act of research, writing, file structures, HTML, CSS, and topology designed to be traversed in a non-linear fashion. The artifically of thesis:argument:conclusion is sloughed off--the territory itself becomes thesis, argument, and conclusion.

-- Will Stotler, Tech Consultant to Paul Youngquist

Enter Here

Begin using this essay. (You can always cheat and view the topic tree, if you want the comfortable illusion of a linear structure.) Or, view the essay framework: one and one-point-five; two and two-point-five; three and three-point-five.

Induction

The future can only be anticipated in the form of an absolute danger. It is that which breaks absolutely with constituted normality and can only be proclaimed, presented, as a sort of monstrosity.

--Derrida, Of Grammatology

Zoom zip, you better wake up. Zoom zip.

--Soul Coughing, Ruby Vroom

Romanticism and technology. Romanticism as technology. Romanticism becoming technology. The becoming technology of Romanticism? Are we, in the words of William Gibson, "on the cusp of a change that is technologically driven"? [1] If so, how will we--and what we do--change? Ten years ago we went digital, some of us anyway. Virtual archives are as close as a keyboard, simulated manuscripts just a click away. This vertiginous new space of scholarship, this consentual hallucination of truth and knowledge requires canny eyes, ears, and even fingertips. A monstrous future is upon us. Even here. Especially (where?) here!

Notes

1. No Maps for these Territories, Chris Paine/907 Productions, 2000.

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The Death of the Book

In our field (for I assume you are a Romanticist) the web is a trove of simulated treasures: The Blake Archive, ECCO, Romanticism on the Net, Romantic Circles, The Voice of the Shuttle, to name a few. It's a bibliophile's paradise--or whorehouse. Everything you could possibly desire hangs there waiting and, uh, ready. But that's the problem. We've entered a brothel and we're behaving as if it were a library. [1] The web is not a book. What would happen if we adapted to this space the way Byron adapted to Italy? [2] What would studies in Romanticism become--some hideous new progeny?

Notes

1. See Levy, Pierre, Cyberculture (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2001).

2. For an example, see Steven Shaviro, connected: or what it means to live in the network society (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2003).

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Necromanticism

Let's say for the sake of argument that Romantic Futurism once constituted an emergent cultural possibility. [1] It was the rambunctious teen of the bourgeois public sphere, resisting its rationality and imagining alternatives. [2] It seemed for awhile in the early 1790s that the adolescent might make off with the coach drive straight to Paris. But it crashed. Romantic Futurism died an untimely death. Memories linger in surrealist painting, green politics, sado-masochistic sex. But radical culture was put to rest when the bourgeoisie showed up (at Waterloo) with the shovels.

Notes

1. This is the language of Raymond Williams, of course. See Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1977).

2. See Jurgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Bourgeois Public Sphere, trans. Thomas Burger (Boston: MIT, 1991).

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Prosthetic Self

"It's not like I'm using. It's like my body's developed this massive drug deficiency." [1] William Gibson calls it an old joke, and it is, but it reveals something about subjectivity. The "I" in that sentence becomes aware of itself--conscious--only after the failure of its prosthesis--the drug--to maintain an effortless equanimity. In lieu of subjectivity, then, pharmacology. [2] In lieu of selfhood, prosthesis.

Notes

1. William Gibson, Neuromancer (New York, Ace: 1984), 3.

2. See Derrida's "The Rhetoric of Drugs," in Points . . . : interviews, ed. Elisabeth Weber, trans. Peggy Kamuf et. al. (Palo Alto: Stanford UP, 1995): 228-55.

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Neuropolis!

William Blake calls it "Spiritual Fourfold London." [1] William Gibson calls it "cyberspace." [2] : I call it "Neuropolis!": city of neurons, the neural net metropolis. A nervous system runs among us, dispersed and continuous. Logged on, we become citizens of that city, nodes in a network that links human and machine. Citizenship is connection, whether your motherboard is carbon or silicon. Albion awake!

Notes

1. William Blake, Jerusalem, The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, ed. David V. Erdman, newly rev. ed. (Berkeley: U of California P, 1988).

2. William Gibson, Neuromancer (New York: Ace, 1984), Page.

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Jack In!

Jacked in to cyberspace, Case, console cowboy hero of William Gibson's Neuromancer, escapes incarceration. [1] Literally. Cogito ergo sum: I jack therefore I am. The carcass (note etymology) Case leaves behind is merely meat. It lives, it feels, it weeps, but pointlessly. Jacking in eviscerates humanity: the body's an envelope, a skin suit, a tumor in the neural net. [2] Is flesh obsolescing? Ask Don Juan, not me.

Notes

1. William Gibson, Neuromancer (New York, Ace: 1984).

2. For a fantasia of the post-embodied future in which changing bodies is as banal if not quite as easy as changing clothes, see Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon (New York: Del Rey, 2002).

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After Wordsworth

"Two consciousnesses," said William Wordsworth, and wrote a long, brilliant, personal poem to solve the problem. [1] Poetry persuaded him of his singular existence. His example continues to persuade us of ours. But what is the value of this Wordsworthian bravura for us? Isn't it a vestige of an earlier world in which humanity had a spirit, subjectivity had a transcendental ego, and England had an Empire? In a world where power is everywhere and surveillance is another name for subjectivity, the egotistical sublime seems quaint. Where is the post-structuralist ready to name this symptom, to deconstruct the worth of words in the fabulation of identity? [2]

Notes

1. William Wordsworth, The PreludeThe Prelude: a Parallel Text, ed. J. C. Maxwell (New Haven: Yale UP, 1971).

2. Paul DeMan comes close sometimes, but his investment in certain oppositions (time/space, allegory/metaphor) a general distain for materiality weakens his case. See "The Rhetoric of Temporality," Blindness and Insight, ed. Wlad Godzich, 2nd rev. ed. (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1983): 187-228.

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Identity is your Mother's Record Collection

Ask any DJ. Where does music come from? From records, stupid. Your parent's records. [1] All that sound stockpiled in your closet or home entertainment center. You wanna make some music? Sample some beats. Drop and scratch. Get two turntables and a fader, man. What you make when you make that music--that's yours, that's your thing, that's who you are. Identity is your mother's record collection. If you want a new one, you gotta get sampling. [2] Olauda Equiano did. You can too. [3]

Notes

1. See David Pray's wonderful documentary Scratch (2001).

2. The great progenitor of this effect is, of course, Grandmaster Flash. See or rather hear TheAdventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel (Sugar Hill, 1981).

3. See Paul Youngquist, "The Afro-Futurism of DJ Vassa," European Romantic Review 16 (2005): 181-92.

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The Secret Segregation

Perhaps Romanticism advances the eclipse of Africa. The cultural tax paid on the slave trade was the erasure of Egypt and its influence from public memory. [1] Let us beware lest in our justifiable attention to Romantic Orientalism we reenact the secret segregation of African culture from "our" European past. [2] Britain's obsession with the caucasian cultures occludes the possibility of an African heritage. Can something similar be said for certain kinds of criticism today? Can something similar be said of postmodern theory in general?

Notes

1. See Martin Bernal, Black Athena: the Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization (London: Free Association, 1987).

2. Fear Jes Grew. See Ishmael Reed, Mumbo Jumbo (New York: Scribner, 1972).

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We are Legion

The subject of subjection proliferates: Olaudah Equiano, Gustavus Vassa, Michael, Jacob, the African, HIMSELF. [1] To be a slave or to have been one is to know that power multiplies effects. Splinters and torques subjectivities. Makes you many. [2] What happens to Romanticism when approached from such perspectives? When not abolition but abjection sets the terms for political engagement? Let's listen to Equiano. [3]

Notes

1. See the facsimile of the original title page to The Interesting Narrative by Olaudah Equiano, ed. Vincent Carretta (New York: Penguin, 1995).

2. See Alondra Nelson, "Future Texts," Social Text 20:2 (2002), 1-15.

3. Easier said than done. Scholarship only has ears for institutionally approved knowledge. See in this regard Vincent Carretta's Equiano the African: Biography of a Self-Made Man (Athens, U of Georgia P, 2005).

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Strange Fruit

"Thus I hung, without any crime committed, and without judge or jury, merely because I was a freeman, and could not by the law get any redress from a white person in those parts of the world. I was in great pain from my situation, and cried and begged very hard for some mercy, but all in vain." [1] What would it mean to hear this complaint? It echoes down the centuries. It comes wrapped, let's face it, in a shroud of self-congratulating white criticism. What kind of judge and jury are we, Equiano's white critics? [2]

Notes

1.Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings, ed. Vincent Carretta (New York: Penguin, 1995), 212.

2. Obviously not an all-inclusive category. See--and hear--the important work of Marlon Ross, "Race in/of Romanticism: Toward a Critical Race Theory," lecture delivered at Penn State, October 21, 2005. See too Henry Louis Gates, Jr.'s "Introduction" to his edition, The Classic Slave Narratives (New York, Mentor: 1985), ix-xviii.

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Overture to L'Overture

It's better than nothing, I suppose, the sonnet Worsdworth writes to Toussaint, caged and languishing in a Paris prison. But what a condescending little sentiment: "Live, and take comfort." [1] The architect of both the one successful revolution of the revolutionary period and the first black democratic republic in the history of the world will die in jail, betrayed by the powers he believed in. [2] Wordsworth's consolation? The wind will remember. Earth, air, and skies are allies. Not to worry, Toussaint, "Thy Friends are exultations, agonies, / And love, and man's unconquerable mind." With friends like these . . .

Notes

1. William Wordsworth, "To Toussaint L'Overture," Selected Poems and Prefaces by William Wordsworth, ed. Jack Stillinger (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965): 174.

2. No student of the Romantics should remain oblivious, as I did for much too long, to C.L.R. James's magnificent The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Overture and the San Domingo Revolution, 2nd ed., rev. (New York: Vintage, 1989).

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Tranquillity is Obsolete

Maybe once upon a time it was possible to recollect with tranquillity, but in all honesty, how can we today? Between us and the Romantics lie fields of carnage and desolation. The words of C.L.R. James seem urgent here: "The violent conflicts of our age enable our practiced vision to see into the very bones of previous revolutions more easily than heretofore. Yet for that very reason it is impossible to recollect historical emotions in that tranquillity which a great English writer, too narrowly, associated with poetry alone." [1] Tranquillity is a thing of the past. How to remember the Romantics without it?

Notes

1.C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Overture and the San Domingo Revolution, 2nd ed., rev. (New York: Vintage, 1989), xi.

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willworthwordsiam

What do you do with poetry that, as Keats might say, puts its hand in its pocket and expects you to flatter it? William Burroughs would cut it up. Luckily there's a machine on the web for doing just that. [1] I put a few of Wordsworth's lines through Grazulis, and I think they're quite improved: "Five years have passed; hear These waters, rolling from steep and scene impress Thoughts the sky. the length Of mountain-springs With a sweet inland a wild secluded and connect sky. five summers, with again I again Do I behold these of more deep seclusion; of five long winters! and their murmur.--Once lofty cliffs, Which on The landscape with the quiet." Finally, a Wordsworth for our post-modern age![2]

Notes

1. This link opens a new window: http://web.ukonline.co.uk/gary.leeming/burroughs/cutup_machine.htm.

2. See Jerome McGann, Radiant Textuality: Literature after the World Wide Web (New York: Palgrave, 2001).

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Michold Bloucault

Can we have it both ways? A Romanticism of imagination and discipline, consciousness and power? I wanted to find out, so I cut Foucault into Bloom, with the following results: "Subjectivity or self-consciousness is Romanticism, at least for to station themselves in depending on how relevant the dialectic of consciousness The body, required its minutest operations, opposes of functioning proper to power has as its is not only analytical natural and 'organic.' the salient problem of modern readers, who tend regard to the Romantics or adequate they judge and imagination to be. to be docile in and shows the conditions an organism. Disciplinary correlative and individuality that and 'cellular,' but also . . ." [1] Hm. Maybe we'll have to choose.

Notes

1. Passages come from Harold Bloom, "Nature and Consciousness," Romanticism and Consciousness, ed. Harold Bloom (New York: Norton, 1970), 1; Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Vintage, 1979), 156. The mix occurred here: http://web.ukonline.co.uk/gary.leeming/burroughs/cutup_machine.htm. (This link opens a new window.)

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Flatline

Dixie Flatline. He's a ROM construct stored on a hard drive. [1] He's achieved limited immortality, the perpetual if suspended animation of information. Digital salvation. In this he resembles any dead author. The Romantics too are flatliners. They live again when we snap that stud, open the book, and boot up their constructs. [2] But in the meantime they're just data. They're words, digits, information. Thanks to the technologies of data storage, Romantic writing drifts free of the illusions of Authorship and Literature to become what it always aspired to be: a means to new lives, new worlds, new possibilities.

Notes

1. See William Gibson, Neuromancer (New York: Ace, 1984). Of course, Dixie Flatline "wants" to be erased. But then, perhaps some of the Romantics do too--Byron, for instance, in his more Manfredesque moods.

2. No one--or perhaps nowhere--more obviously than William Blake. Visit The William Blake Archive, www.blakearchive.org.

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The Book is a Machine

Forget books. Forget literature. Forget Truth and Beauty. It ain't all ye need to know. The book is a machine. It's built more like a car than a statue. It's even mass-produced. All you teachers still teaching the Triumph of the Human Spirit in Keats--will you please remind your students what they already know: they paid good money for their Keatses--first at the registrar, then at the bookstore! [1] They should study him the way they would an automobile: with an eye to mechanisms of production and performance. Maybe the hipsters of the field today are the bibliographers, the history of the book geeks, the editophiles, the hermeneutophobes. [2]

Notes

1. Start by taking another look at Marjorie Levinson, Keats' Life of Allegory: the Origins of a Style (Oxford: Blackwell, 1988).

2. See Jerome McGann, A Critique of Modern Textual Criticism (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1983), or Joseph Viscomi, Blake and the Idea of the Book (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1993).

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Against Critique

Dont' get me wrong. I'm not saying that critique is a pointless enterprise and that criticism is dead. I'm just saying that it's a practice with a built-in bias. The trouble is not simply that it acquires cultural ascendency with the emergence of the bourgeois public sphere. [1] It's also that the presumed progressivity of criticism ("the truth will make you free") links it to a developmental narrative that has served for centuries to "race"--and I would say to "class"--the public sphere. [2] In this sense critique is only half the story, and the hegemonic half at that. Ideology as opposed to what? We need a practice that exceeds critique in creative possibility. What, I wonder, would that look like? Genealogy? Deconstruction? Uh, oh my, Hip Hop?

Notes

1. See Jurgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (Boston: MIT, 1988).

2. David Lloyd describes this logic in detail in "Race Under Representation," Oxford Literary Review 13 (1991): 62-94. See too David Theo Goldberg The Racial State (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998).

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Digital Resistance

The new hero is the hacker, at least in the scifi subgenre of cyberpunk. It's what Case does in Neuromancer, he hacks. He pits his wits and digits against an electronic corporate infrastructure of data storage and encryption. [1] The point is to liberate something of value, something to fence: information, access, code. But the Romantics did it before him, before there was an Internet. Textuality precedes cyberspace, but you can work it in a similar way. What did Blake do to Milton? Hacked him. What did Byron do to Wordsworth? Hacked him. What did Equiano do to Western writing? Hacked and hacked and hacked. [2]

Notes

1. William Gibson, Neuromancer (New York: Ace, 1984).

2. Consider Blake's, "Milton," The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blakeed. David V. Erdman, newly rev. ed. (Berkeley: U of California P, 1988), Byron's "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage," Byron, ed. Jerome McGann (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1995), Equiano's The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings, ed. Vincent Carretta (New York: Penguin, 1995). On the uses of hacking for criticism, see Alan Liu, Laws of Cool (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2004).

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Hack the Wetware!

"Wintermute calling, Case. It's time we talked." [1] Information hacks back. It's one thing to hack software, another thing entirely to hack wetware. Rewire the organism. That's what Wintermute, the luridly ubiquitous AI in Neuromancer, attempts--and achieves. It hacks its way into flesh, inspiring movements, coercing futures. It's what Blake attempts too ("Britons Awake!")--and achieves. [2] It's what we should attempt by imagining a technologically advanced Romanticism: hacking our way onto the textual continuum, digitizing to hack the wetware. Our bodies need new tolerances, threshholds, parameters of performance. New wetware for the new forms of life, the digital life of information.

Notes

1. William Gibson, Neuromancer (New York: Ace, 1984), 109.

2. See Blake's "Jerusalem," The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, ed. David V. Erdman, newly rev. ed. (Berkeley: U of California P, 1988).

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Romanticism as Science Fiction

Steven Shaviro suggests we write cultural theory as science fiction--not as if, as. [1] The suggestion is a good one. If he's right that "science fiction conjures the invisible forces--technological, social, economic, affective, and political--that surround us," then maybe it should set the terms for historical work too. The past lives among us like an alien invader. The Romantics themselves, and a certain nineteen year old girl in particular, were the first to confront the world as science fiction. [2] We should follow their lead.

Notes

1. See Shaviro's connected: or what it means to live in a network society (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2003). The quotation appears on page xi.

2. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, ed. M. K. Joseph (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1969).

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Our Frankenfuture

It was Mary Shelley's startling insight that the future belongs to monstrosities. [1] Not the future her novel depicts (Walton's return to the bosom of his, uh, sister), but the one it invokes in its cliffhanger ending. The monster disappears over the ice to breed sequels. Inevitably he will return, a form of life incommensurable with the human. Eight feet tall and stitched together from dead parts. A monstrosity beyond description and endurance. Shelley's novel only defers our encounter with abjection. No amount of historical scholarship will prevent it. I say we turn and face the coming of monstrosities. [2] They may be our only hope.

Notes

1. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, ed. M. K. Joseph (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1969).

2. Check out Paul Youngquist, Monstrosities: Bodies and British Romanticism (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2003).

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"That was a Good Hack"

Those were the words of Josh Miller, an undergraduate, after a particularly frisky discussion of J. G. Ballard's Crash. [1] He said he'd never look at Jesus the same way again. And he put me to thinking: that's what Blake was up to when he wrote that Milton was "a poet of the devil's party without knowing it." [2] Blake was hacking Milton! Blake's poetry makes sure you never look at Milton the same way again. It's a really good hack. If only someone would do the same for Wordsworth. I know: he was a poet of Pitt's party without knowing it. Except that he probably knew it. Witness the sonnets to capital punishment.

Notes

1. J. G. Ballard, Crash (New York: Vintage, 1975).

2. William Blake, "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell," The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, ed. David V. Erdman, newly rev. ed. (Berkeley: U of California P, 1988).

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The Ghost of a Flea

Monstrosity! What is this "most ingenious, and able personification of a devil, or a malignant and powerful fiend, that ever emanated from the inventive pencil of a painter?" [1] A monstrosity, yes, with enough destructive power to depopulate Europe. Look closely at the flea's bloodsucking head. Does it seem familiar? It's George III, King of England, Monarch of Great Britain. Blake puts the head of the King on the body of a fiend. He knows the truth of monstrosity. It comes to consume. It exhorts transformation.

Notes

1.G. E. Bentley, Blake Records (Clarendon: Oxford UP, 1969): 426.

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Black Hack

Olaudah Equiano is many things: slave narrativist, spiritual autobiographer, abolitionist, ethnographer, economist, spinner of yarns, teller of tales. He's a hacker too. As Vincent Carretta makes clear in his meticulous notes to The Interesting Narrative, if most readers read, Equiano hacks and slashes. He stitches his book together from the remains of other books--a Frankentext that haunts material discourse like the monster it anticipates. This in no way compromises Equiano's authority. To my mind it enhances it. [2] The Black Hack carves up old authors to create something new. Olaudah Equiano.

Notes

1. See Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings, ed. Vincent Carretta (New York: Penguin, 1995).

2. See Paul Youngquist, "The Afro-Futurism of DJ Vassa," European Romantic Review 16 (2005): 181-92.

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Net/Work

New technologies change the way we work. As scholars of Romanticism we spend a lot more time jacked in than we used to: browsing archives, downloading essays. But we might be missing opportunities that arrive with the Internet. We're net/workers now. We are dispersed, hyperlinked nodes of transmission in a cybersea of data. [1] We are access codes as much as personalities, email addresses more than colleagues in any traditional sense. The on-line archive is a vast collaboratory of information. As we adapt to this new space, our Net/work will link us into systems of knowledge transfer, integrated organisms of data exchange. [2] We are becoming many.

Notes

1. See Seven Shaviro, connected: what it means to live in a network society (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2003).

2. Gibson has much to say of such prospects, the live(s) of information to come, most pertinently in Idoru (New York: Putnam, 1996).

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Bibliobreakdown

Something is happening to books. Oh, they still look like books, at least in their off-line avatars: two covers, pages between them, typography, graphics. But some of the best recent critical books eschew the scholarly apparatus of criticism and the academic convention of argument. [1] They punch and jab, surprise and provoke. But they're bad Aristotelians: no beginning, no middle, no end, no categorization, no commonplaces, no concern for consensus. Check Kodwo Eshun. Check Paul Miller aka DJ Spooky. [2] What can we learn from these innovators? What does it mean for criticism that both are black?

Notes

1. Perhaps the "crisis" in scholarly publishing is an index of the cultural obsolescence of traditional criticism. One can only hope.

2. Kodwo Eshun, More Brilliant than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction (London: Quartet, 1998), paul d miller, rhythm science (Cambridge: MIT, 2005).

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Spiritual Fourfold London Calling!

Not the quotation, not the allusion, but the sample. It's a way of doing something with--or to--whatever is there before you, what used to be called the past. DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid says it loops history forward, makes it come from in front of you: "Sampling is like sending a fax to yourself from the sonic debris of a possible future." [1] It's the resurrection of the simulacrum from the proleptic tomb of history. Sample as second coming. Scratch Jesus. [2]

Notes

1. paul d miller, rhythm science (Boston: MIT, 2005), somewhere in the middle.

2. So maybe that's what Equiano was up to. See The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings, ed. Vincent Carretta (New York: Penguin, 1995).

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Wilke's Parlor, or listen to the pork sizzle

Sampling isn't necessarily a new practice, although its application to LP records only dates back thirty years or so. [1] Before that, however, there were oppressed people who's only access to culture was its commodities. They didn't have the education or the social advantage to become writers in the honorific sense. So they sampled. They hacked and snipped and recombined. Think of a book like Thomas Spence's Pigs' Meat. [2] A counterblast to Edmund Burke, but not an argument. A mix, a series of samples that turns the works of majority culture against an oppressive majority. That's the politics of mixology, the cultural politics of sampling.

Notes

1. See The Vibe History of Hip Hop, ed. Alan Light (New York: Three Rivers, 1999).

2. Thomas Spence, Pigs' Meat; or, Lessons for the Swinish Multitude, 3 vols. (London, 1795). Like any other cultural practice, sampling can have its reactionary uses, but I prefer to emphasize its insurgent effects.

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Two Turntables and a Microphone

Hip Hop has its constitutive technologies. As a cultural practice it's inconceivable without turntables, microphones, faders, loudspeakers, circuits, silicon, electricity. Romanticism has its constitutive technologies too. A twenty-first-century scholarship should accept, even exaggerate their effects. [1] As the book quietly obsolesces, replaced by data banks and digital scans, our practice as critics retechnologizes. Can we forge a scholarship commensurate with the laptop I am using (a Macintosh PowerBook G4), with the URL you are visiting (http://www.a23.com/RON/300.html), with the Internet as a dispersed network of information redundancy and preservation? [2]

Notes

1. See Jerome McGann, Radiant Textuality: Literature after the World Wide Web (New York: Palgrave, 2001).

2. For a concrete discussion of the effects of this technology on the working lives of intellectuals, see Pierre Levy, Cyberculture (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2001).

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The Future is Becoming Black

Alondra Nelson directs our attention to new futures opened up, not just by new technologies, but more importantly the uses specific practitioners make of them. Hence the promise of what she calls "Afro-Futurism," the artistic and critical expression of "African American voices" that have "other stories to tell about culture, technology, and things to come." [1] As these voices combine with the new technologies they speak of, new possibilities emerge--for blackness, for identities, for futurities. Can studies in Romanticism turn Afro-Futurist? Can new technologies help us to confront the mute, imperial, unmarked whiteness of our scholarship? [2]

Notes

1. Alondra Nelson, "Introduction: Future Texts," Social Text 20.2 (2002): 1-15, 9.

2. See Richard Dyer, White (New York: Routledge, 1997).

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Pure Briton?

What would that mean? The Act of Union on 1707 undertook to forge British identity from a motley alliance of Anglo-Saxons, Celts, and Welshmen. It must have worked, since by the end of the eighteenth century almost everyone seemed ready to die for the greater good of Great Britain. [2] But how pure was British national identity? How white? If the case of no less a personage than Queen Charlotte is representative, British whiteness was a national ruse. Her African ancestry was an open secret, clearly observable in portraits and political cartoons when circumstances warranted. Racial identity was less a biological than a political issue. Part of the purpose of the nation was to purify it. [2] Black and British? Never!

Notes

1. As Linda Colley argues in Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837 (New Haven: Yale up, 1992).

2. See David Theo Goldberg, The Racial State (London: Blackwell, 2002).

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Abolition Blues

There is a problem with allowing abolition to set the terms for raising the question of race and Romanticism. [1] One of its effects, after all, was to maintain, maybe even police, the line between British and African, between white and black. Abolition too easily accommodates raciology in the difference it asserts between "us" and "them." [2] Which is not to say that it failed to achieve great things. What scholarship needs now, however, is a criticism that, rather than speaking for black voices, lets black voices speak. There were so many, so very many, and we can hear so few.

Notes

1. See among many fine studies, Alan Richardson, ed., Romanticism, Race, and Imperial Culture, 1780-1834 (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1996), Helen Thomas, Romanticism and Slave Narratives (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000), Debbie Lee Slavery and the Romantic Imagination (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2002).

2. See Paul Gilroy, Against Race (Cambridge: Harvard, 2000).

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Invisible Men--and Women too

I don't mean to be rude, but if you need an example of the bias built into historical knowledge, consider the status of blacks in London at the end of the eighteenth century. By some estimates there were 20,000, many living around St. Giles, home to the infamous blackbirds. You can read every single page of Roy Porter's London: a Social History and not meet with a single reference to them. [2] The merchant marine, the British Navy, both were by some accounts one quarter black. And we are only now beginning to recover these invisible histories. [3] The victors don't write history. They forget it.

Notes

1. See Peter Fryer, Staying Power: the History of Black People in Britain since 1504 (New York: Humanities Press, 1984).

2. Roy Porter, London: a Social History (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1995).

3. As for instance Mike Phillips, London Crossings: a Biography of Black Britain (New York, Continuum, 2001), or Gretchin Gerzina, Black London: Life Before Emancipation (New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1995).

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Losing the Race

Romanticism is losing the race. Have a look around at the next conference you attend. It will be white as Washington. Whiter. Why? Not because students of color have nothing to study. On the contrary, the Romantic period saw the abolition of the slave trade, the consolidation of Empire, the institution of the first black republic in Haiti. But the way we approach these subjects is about as appealing as herringbone tweed. The problem is the "British" in British Romanticism. It's honky white. [1] We need to decentralize our discipline, get off the island and onto the islands, creolize our discourse, hybridize our critical habits. The future is upon us. And the future is black.

Notes

1. There is hope in books like Alan Richardson's recent edition Early Black British Writing (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004). But if written discourse serves as our threshold of visibility for blackness, we'll miss much, well most, of black life during the Romantic Period.

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Mixology

"But we all have identities," he told me. I heartily agree. But the two of us meant that phrase in different ways. My friend meant we have one. I meant we have many. I hope I'm right. If identities are--is?--all mixed up, then maybe we can remix them. [1] If you have only one, it seems to me you're stuck. Stuck by the pin of your oppressors to a timeline they've determined. I see Equiano as one of the early practitioners of identity. He samples earlier writers to produce a new mix. He remixes identity. He creates himselves anew. [2] That's the insurgent force of mixology, an art of the future.

Notes

1. As Kodwo Eshun describes in More Brilliant than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction (London: Quartet, 1998).

2. So I once argued in "The Afro Futurism of DJ Vassa," European Romantics Review 16 (2005): 181-92.

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PoMo Minstrel

I gave a talk once, and I delivered it in my declamatory way. Foolishly perhaps, I spoke about race. I claimed for Hip Hop a greater usefulness for approaching Olaudah Equiano and even Romanticism than contemporary critical and theoretical discourses. And I am white. Inevitably, it was suggested that I was appropriating (à la Eminem?) a whole array of practices that are black: oratory, mixology, scratch. I was performing blackness. [1] I don't want to duck this accusation. It rings with a terrible, complicated truth. But unless we risk minstrelsy, I fear, studies in Romanticism will remain terminally white. You dig?

Notes

1. The struggle against white hegemony in the academy must be waged on all sides. I doubt identity politics is our best weapon, but it offers something to start throwing.

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Bookbusters

The conservatives, Wordsworth and Coleridge, were happy to advance their little revolution at the level of language and content. [1] The radicals wanted to change the way books worked. No one more keenly understood the book business than William Blake. No one more deeply feared it. His response: to build a better book from the bottom up. He invented a new process, a new product, a new conception of the book as multiplicity. [2] Byron too: those serial stanzas, those accumulating couplets. They materialize a book too big for rag and type. [3] Romanticism against the text! Books aren't just objects. They're events, organisms!

Notes

1. What a timid thing Lyrical Ballads seems in retrospect! See, Lyrical Ballads , ed. W. J. B. Owen (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1967).

2. See Joseph Viscomi William Blake and the Idea of the Book (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1998).

3. George Gordon, Lord Byron, "Don Juan," Byron, ed. Jerome McGann (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1986), 373-879.

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Commodifuckation

Marx says they're Fetishes. They occlude the social relations that make them possible. [1] But wait minute: don't commodities also offer an opportunity for agency? Blake fills the margins of his books with spleen, invective, even occasional praise. Equiano samples and scratches his, remixing them to make something new. For both books are commodities, but they hardly occluded social relations. In fact they become means of challenging those relations. By refusing simply to read and consume, Blake and Equiano fuck the Fetish. The logic of commodification proves incomplete. [2] Consumption has a poetics known best to the oppressed: mixology!

Notes

1. Karl Marx, "Commodities," The Portable Marx, ed. and trans., Eugene Kamenka (New York: Vintage), 437-60.

2. See Michel DeCerteau, The Practice of Everyday Life (Berkeley: U of California P, 1990). Might there not be an effective politics of consumption?

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The Extrusion of the Quest Romance

With the demise of interiority (do I speak prematurely?) internalization seems quaint. [1] It's pointless, culturally speaking, to follow a poet's inner quest for paradise. Shelley is welcome to his Epipsyche, Keats to his Moneta. Why guarantee irrelevance by repeating their antiquated dreams? We can, however, turn the quest back outward, extrude it, approach it less as a psychological than a technological effect. Not the Imagination but the Internet is landscape of desire. Digitally speaking, what is now imagined was once only true. The media dream for us, and we inhabit their simulations. [2] The question to put to Romantic writers is how they advance this process. Perhaps their interiorizations are indices of earlier extrusions.

Notes

1. See Harold Bloom, "The Interiorization of the Quest Romance" Romanticism and Consciousness, ed., Harold Bloom (New York: Norton, 1970), 3-23.

2. The great theorist of this reversal is J. G. Ballard. See The Atrocity Exhibition (San Francisco: RE/Search, 1991).

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Christ on a Crutch

Ever been injured? Ever used a crutch? How did it alter your stance? The prosthesis disturbs your body's relation to the world. Its boundaries are breeched. You suffer corporeal dislocation. [1] David Wills ponders the implications of this violation, this violence: "By means of prosthesis the relation to the other becomes precisely and necessarily a relation to otherness, the otherness, for example, of artificiality attached to or found within the natural." [2] Artifice breeches the life organic. Do Wordsworthians dream of electric sheep?

Notes

1. The sacred scripture of this experience is, of course, J.G. Ballard's Crash (New York: Vintage, 1975).

2. David Wills Prosthesis (Stanford: Stanford UP, 1995), 44.

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Digital Superdigitalism

Pointing to the screen--a show on the rainforest--my buddy said, "I'm glad we have TV to remember nature for us." I thought of the lovely first line of Neuromancer, "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel." [1] In a world where technology sets the terms for our experience of nature, what are we to make of lines like, "One impulse from a vernal wood," etc.? [2] Rank nostalgia. Nature has dissolved into the technologies that represent, interrogate, and preserve it. The Human Genome Project digitizes Geist. In the future Wordsworth will be a holographic theme park.

Notes

1. William Gibson, Neuromancer (New York: Ace, 1984), 3.

2. William Wordsworth, "The Tables Turned," Selected Poems and Prefaces, ed. Jack Stillinger (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965), 107.

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A Word to Stand On

It begins as a grammatical function, adding letters to words, as in "besotted." A flourish, an extravagance. It becomes a surgical effect, completing deficient bodies, as in artificial legs or teeth. The strange destiny of prosthesis, from linguistic excess to anatomical simulacrum, from addition to substitute. Something of the double logic of the supplement is at work here, crossing words and bodies. [1] Crossing from words to bodies and back again. Language: the letter exceeds the word. Surgery: the operation completes the body. Prosthesis: the double movement of excess as deficiency. [2] Verbal addition as corporeal completion. Did Byron walk with a stutter?

Notes

1. See Jaques Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1975).

2. David Wills examines the corporeal effects of this logic in Prosthesis (Stanford: Stanford UP, 1995).

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The Net, the Gin, the Trap

Romanticism on the Net: a solicism? an anachronism? We can't digitize history and download the past. Yet. [1] But we can acquiesce in the coming monstrosity of digital criticism. The apparatus of scholarship will warp and blister in the virtual wind. Theses, citations, and bibliographies will dwindle like vestigial organs. Writing will improve as reading ceases to be obligatory. Skim and scan instead of read and think. [2] Romanticism will break the net of scholarship.

Notes

1. In the future teaching will take place in holographic theaters that simulate, to the tiniest detail, the subject under investigation. Imagine an afternoon in Blake's hovel--the Den of the Interpreter!

2. Is this the sensibility of distraction that Walter Benjamin anticipates in "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," Illuminations (New York: Shocken, 1969), 219-53.

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I think therefore I think I am

The Internet, then, as prosthetic consciousness. J. G. Ballard urges us to ponder such extrusions. The twentieth century, he said, gave "birth to a vast range of machines--computers, pilotless planes, thermonuclear weapons--where the latent identity of the machine is ambiguous even to the skilled investigator." [1] It is no simple act, uploading Romanticism to this prosthetic consciousness, the Internet. The machines that make it possible are beyond the ken of traditional scholarship. We must think like machines. [2] Increasingly, they do our thinking for us. Dig it? Digit!

Notes

1. J. G. Ballard, The Atrocity Exhibition (San Fransisco: RE/Search, 1991), 99.

2. Please read Norbert Wiener, Cybernetics, or the Control and Communication in Animal and the Machine, 2nd ed. (Boston: MIT, 1965).

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Premature Burial

Part of the problem is our training. Most institutions of higher learning prepare their initiants to live and work in nineteenth-century Europe. The protocols for historical scholarship were perfected by the very Germans who drove Nietzsche from the academy. [1] As the arrow of time flies in one direction only, and as it will never, according to Xeno, reach its target, it seems reasonable to use history as a means to new futures. Not what Romanticism was but what it might become is what matters, what we might become by way of its technological reception. [2]

Notes

1. See Jerome McGann, A Critique of Modern Textual Criticism (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1983).

2. As an example, consider Ira Livingston's, The Arrow of Chaos: Romanticism and Postmodernity (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 1997).

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Syllabus for the 21st Century

We need a new curriculum. [1] Keep the six old white poets, keep the recovered women writers, add any writers of color that exist, add as much material culture as possible, add the suppressed histories of revolutionary ferment in the West Indies, and please add a contemporary cultural literacy unit, one that will equip us to engage the post-Romantic post-modern post-structuralist post-industrial post-colonial post-apocalyptic world we actually inhabit. Readings should include, among theorists, Nietzsche, James (C. L. R.!), Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, Butler, Gilroy, Hardt and Negri; among artists Gibson, Ballard, Burroughs, Reed, Russ, Dick, Butler, Delaney; among websites, alternet.org, boingboing.net, crooksandliars.com, slashdot.org. These are only suggestions. Get googling!

Notes

1. I'm all for new anthologies, but how about one that treats Romanticism as a set of weapons for changing our world rather than a diorama of obsolete dreams?

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The Book of Thoth--now online!

Mnemonic Apocalypse! Data Storage so complete it will contain every written document Romanticism ever produced. Search protocols so nimble they will seek and sequester the smallest meaningful unit of information. Thoth offered writing to Ammon as memory perfected. Ammon rejected Thoth's gift as memory destroyed. The double bind of data storage: the life it memorializes it dissolves. [1] Archivalism is bad memory. How then to digitize Romanticism without diffusing the liberty, fraternity, and equality it celebrates?

Notes

1. See Derrida Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, trans. Eric Prenowitz (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1975).

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Googlishus

We are on the cusp of a mutation. Google wants to organize the world's information. All of it. In the fullness of time, Google Print will put the content of all books at your browser's disposal. This from their website: "you can view the entirety of public domain books or, for books under copyright, just a few pages or in some cases, only the title's bibliographic data and brief snippets." [1] Consider the cultural implications of this information apocalypse. History flattens to a single, sprawling, searchable text. [2] Digitized, Romanticism becomes common property. Search for your book in Google Print. See? No one needs to read anymore, not whole books anyway, only snippets. [3] Romanticism becomes material for mixology.

Notes

1. http://print.google.com/intl/en/googleprint/about.html

2. Post-modernism begins to look quaint in comparison. See Frederick Jameson, Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham: Duke UP, 1992).

3. Jonathan Lethem explores what's forgotten by digital memory technologies in Gun, With Occasional Music (New York: Tor, 1996).

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Imagination Matters

Imagine what Blake would have made of our media. Jerusalem is a hypertext waiting for the Internet. [1] Now it's a precious book incarcerated in several museums. Blake conceived it as a field of reading. Today he would have hyperlinked pages. He would have scanned and mapped illustrations. He would have digitized apocalypse. Back then the available technologies were burin and press. Digitizing Blake means recovering that materiality, the labor, stuff, and money he put into producing his books. [2] The Internet is a material medium. As Blake might say, technology can subdue the Spectre of scholarship.

Notes

1. This may or may not be the way it works in The Blake Archive. Judge for yourself at www.blackearchive.org.

2. See Joseph Viscomi, Blake and the Idea of the Book (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1993).

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The Politics of Dreaming

The Victorians were right. "Romanticism" is an oppositional discourse. The brilliance of their particular description is to diffuse it in advance. Romanticism: that dreamy, otherworldly idealism. Romanticism: those quaint old stories, those simulated antiques. Nothing to worry about here! More recent descriptions repeat this dismissal. Romantic Ideology: a ruse, a false consciousness. [1] Romantic writing: whatever scholars decide counts. [2] Let's put the danger back in Romanticism. What would happen if we approached it as a political discourse? We should exploit the opportunity that its dismissal presents.

Notes

1. Jerome McGann, of course. The Romantic Ideology (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1983)..

2. See the impressive Romanticism: An Oxford Guide, ed. Nicholas Roe (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005).

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Retrofitting Romanticism

Here's how it would work. Romanticism would characterize not a historical period, but certain discourses at play in a historical period. For the most part they remain, in Foucault's terms "subjugated discourses." [1] We should accept, even celebrate, the minority status of Romanticism. It certainly wasn't what Pitt's England was up to from, say, 1793 to 1815. Discourses other than literature fall into the constellation we label Romantic: popular, religious, medical, theatrical. We can parse writers or even writers' careers according to the relation between their writing and such discourses. [2] I'm willing to admit that Wordsworth had his romantic moments (mostly with Dorothy), but that hardly makes his writing a consistent instance of Romanticism.

Notes

1. Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977, ed. Colin Gordon, trans. Colin Gordon et. al. (New York: Pantheon, 1980), 81.

2. How about an anthology of subjugated writing that would include oppositional or just plain crack-pot voices: Blake, Spence, Equiano, Southcote, Dorothy Wordsworth, Wedderburn, to name a few?

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Posted: No Post-structuralists!

Why are there so few post-structuralist critics of Romanticism? Maybe Ira Livingston, in some moods Tim Morton. [1] There used to be Paul DeMan, of course, but he looks more and more like a negative theologian now, and not an honest one at that. [2] Is it the De Man effect that has scared off post-structuralists, the fear that too much theory turns you fascist? Or is it the old British bigotry against abstraction, as much a national character trait as a philosophical conviction? [3] The retro-crypto-archivo empiricism that today sets the terms for investigation knows everything and changes nothing. Quick, somebody, dial the theory police!

Notes

1. Ira Livingston, Arrow of Chaos: Romanticism and Postmodernity (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1997), Timothy Morton, The Poetics of Spice (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000).

2. See Paul Deman, Blindness and Insight, ed. Wlad Godzich, 2nd ed., rev. (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1983).

3. See David Simpson, Romanticism, Nationalism, and the Revolt against Theory (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1993).

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Organic Decay

Of course there are Romanticisms. I think we should eschew the kind associated with Wordsworth and the whole Lake School phenom. [1] The problem there is the politics of organicism. It's impossible as far as I can see to deny or confound the work it's done to consolidate nationalism, imperialism, and even racism. [2] National identity arises organically from a common stock of uncommon worth, or so the story goes. Wordsworth's "Man speaking to men" is English. Could he ever be Equiano?

Notes

1. Perhaps we have, albeit for the wrong reasons. Does anyone ever read Myer Abrams any more? See Natural Supernaturalism (New York: Norton, 1971).

2. Although he feels differently about Wordsworth than I do, Saree Makdisi heads in this direction. See Romantic Imperialism: Universal Empire and the Culture of Modernity (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998).

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Racing the Nation

Expunging "British" from "Romanticism" begs the question of collusion. [1] There's no question that organicism plays a role in consolidating national and racial identity, or more precisely, national as racial identity. The Romantic period saw the simultaneous production of both categories. [2] Such innovations were part of a Pan-European project of forging the master narrative of Western Culture. Obliterated in the process is the motley memory of mixed cultural heritage. [3] Let us not be charmed unduly by the Romantic Cult of the South.

Notes

1. A trend, it seems, as for instance in Nicholas Roe, ed., Romanticism: An Oxford Guide (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005); Duncan Wu, ed., Romanticism: An Anthology, 3rd. ed. (London: Blackwell, 2006); Aidan Day Romanticism (London: Routledge, 1996).

2. See Cement Hawes The British Eighteenth Century and Global Critique (New York: Palgrave, 2005).

3. Time to revisit Martin Bernal's Black Athena: the Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization (New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1987).

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The Unbearable Whiteness of Being

My old heroes make me uneasy: Blake makes "Albion" his "Ancient Man," Byron dies for Greek liberty. Until recently both seemed fine choices. But consider their larger cultural implications. [1] Albion founds a lineage of "Ancient Britons," true progenitors of Humanity. Greece founds the lineage of Western Culture, classical bulwark against barbarians. Albion is white and so is Athena. It never occurred to me to question the obvious. Why query the color of Romanticism? As we all know it has none. [2] Right?

Notes

1. As does Saree Makdisi, sort of. See William Blake and the Impossible History of the 1790s (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2003).

2. White goes unmarked. See Richard Dyer, White (London: Routledge, 1997).

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Technoculture!

Techno Romanticism? It might solve the problem of organicism. It might provide a place to begin politically. The trick would be to isolate the role of technology in the production of culture. [1] My hunch is that those materially engaged in such production would be most likely to think politically about its effects. Thomas Spence, the shoemaker. William Blake, the engraver. Equiano, the sailor. Mary Robinson, the actress. Not labor but the technologies that constrain and administrate it. [2] Organicism breeds daffodils. Technology builds cages--and worlds.

Notes

1. See Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media: the Extensions of Man (Boston: MIT, 1994).

2. As for instance the sea-faring ship. See Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker,The Many Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (Boston: Beacon, 2000).

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Keeping Clean

Debbie Lee said, "Well, soap. I'm interested in the politics of a thing like soap. You had to get it somehow. Those blacks in Sierra Leon. Some filed heartrending petitions for soap." [1] And it occurred to me that soap had a role to play in the production of culture. Not symbolically, as in cleanliness is next to Godliness, but literally. It's one of those things, like whiteness. If you have it, you're unmarked. What is the cost, economically and culturally, of a cake of soap? [2]

Notes

1. Conversation during a symposium on Black Romanticism, October 22, 2003, Penn State University.

2. Anna Leticia Barbauld would know. See "Washing Day," The Poems of Anna Leticia Barbauld (Athens: U of Georgia P, 1994).

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Headfuck

Foucault: "The problem is not changing people's consciousness--or what's in their heads--but the political, economic, institutional regime of the production of truth." [1] That's why he wrote Discipline and Punish--to get truth to work differently. It's why we should reinvent Romanticism. To the extent that it continues to reinforce the production of imperial identities, the circulation of racist cultures, it requires transformation. [2] Shifting away from organicism and toward technology would be a start. We are what we do, not what we think or say.

Notes

1. Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977ed. Colin Gordon, trans. Colin Gordon et. al. (New York: Pantheon, 1980), 133.

2. It's not enough to expand the canon if canonization produces the true. The very procedures of that production must change.

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Techno-Prosthetic

It's an interface. Post-modern/Romantic. Technologies that are meet technologies that were. The Ship and the Internet. The book and the laptop. Double technologization. Material history--deficiency corrected; digital futurity--possibility produced. Prosthesis doubles knowledge. What was becomes what will be by virtue of the interface. Digitize the past! Virtualize the future! Technology materializes. Prosthesis transfers. Knowledge is a function, not of verifiability and method, but selection and mix. Sample and scratch!

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History is a Hologram

The techno-prostheses of Romanticism on the Net render history holographic. It becomes difficult to sustain the illusion of historical facticity when facts are so transparently an effect of infotech. [1] As the simulacrum comes to set the terms for historical knowledge, the relation between fact and knowledge reverses: certainty produces the facts that confirm it, not vice versa. [2] Truth is software for generating historical fiction. Romanticism as infotainment: think of your classroom as a holographic history channel.

Notes

1. The lesson of Philip K. Dick's We Can Build You (1972 rpt; New York: Vintage, 1994).

2. See Jean Baudrillard, Simulations, trans. Paul Foss et. al. (New York: Semiotext(e), 1983).

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Your Intelligence is Artificial

Consciousness never was natural. Foucault has parsed many of the technologies that made its Romantic avatar possible: the examination, the excercise, the enclosure, the timetable. [1] Consciousness and Romanticism go together so well because both are university discourses, products of similar technologies. Both are figments of institutional architecture. The Internet only makes obvious what's been true all along. Consciousness is always already technologized. [2] Artificial intelligence is a redundancy--in the best sense.

Notes

1. See Michel Foucault, "Docile Bodies," Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Vintage, 1979): 135-69.

2. The lesson of William Gibson's earliest stories. See "Fragments of a Hologram Rose" Burning Chrome (New York: Ace, 1986): 36-42.

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Personal Property

The Liberal heart bleeds, but what of its body? When Locke writes that "Though the earth, and all inferior creatures, be common to all men, yet every man has a property in his own person," he links a man to his body by right of possession. Body is chattle. It can be bought and sold. It may be a unique possession, but it's interchangeable with others. [1] It has a prosthetic relation to the world: "Thus the grass my horse has bit; the turfs my servant has cut; and the ore I have digged in any place, . . . become my property." [2] Locke's body accumulates. Its boundaries expand. It acquires property and requires prostheses.

Notes

1. It's the material ground for the theory of possessive individualism. See C. B. Macpherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1962).

2. John Locke," Second Treatise of Government, ed. C. B. Macpherson (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1980), 19, 19-20.

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Strap-On

Bodies? What bodies? The prosthetic reversal colonizes bodies by way of its supplemental technologies. For the Romantics the imperative of proper embodiment normalized. [1] For us the operative logic eradicates. That's Gibson's suggestion, anyway: Case "lived for the bodiless exultation of cyberspace. . . . The body was meat. Case fell into the prison of his own flesh." [2] Bodies become prostheses to technologies that enhance them: interchangeable, replaceable, expendable. You are your laptop's sex toy.

Notes

1. See Paul Youngquist, Monstrosities: Bodies and British Romanticism (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2003).

2. William Gibson Neuromancer (New York: Ace, 1984), 6.

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The Almighty Dollar

Bodies die. The human body offends against its natural right to life. Death puts a limit to property and prosthetic accumulation. Or does it? Locke's brilliant solution is to find a substitute that doesn't spoil. His evangel? Money: "And thus came in the use of money, some lasting thing that men might keep without spoiling, and that by mutual consent men would take in exchange for the truly useful, but perishable supports of life." [1] Money is the God prosthesis. It immortalizes the effects of bodily life and labor. Accumulation lives!

Notes

1. John Locke," Second Treatise on Government, ed. C. B. Macpherson (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1980), 28.

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The Body is a Slave

Isn't it interesting that Locke's definition of the human body exactly parallels that of the slave? Every man, he says, "has property in his own person." [1] Every man's body is his own personal slave. It isn't simply that Locke can't help writing as Secretary to the Carolina Proprietors. It's that bodies manifestly were property at the time he was writing, some bodies at least. Liberalism aims in part at justifying slavery. [2] Any laboring body is the personal property of some overseer. The autonomous subject holds a whip.

Notes

1. John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, ed. C. B. Macpherson (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1980), 10.

2. In this sense there's little that is new in Neo-Liberalims. See David Harvey, A Brief History of Neo-Liberalism (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005).

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Rattle the Chattle

Britain had little use for racial discourse prior to the abolition movement, at least regarding African slaves. [1] They entered the culture as property. It would make no more sense to define them as a separate race than to so designate chickens, or chairs, or tobacco, or nails. Africans first acquired legal status in "The Act for Better Ordering and Governing of the Negores" of 1661 by the Assembly of Barbados. They acquired it as property. The Act makes no mention of race, which at this moment lacks viability as a legal term in Britain. [2] But as chattel negroes could legally be whipped, branded, mutilated. They shoot horses, don't they?

Notes

1. Racial others included Monguls, New World Indians, even Africans, although they were usually referred to not as races but as nations or tribes. For an instance of the flexibility of racist discourse to adapt to new and necessary others, see Noel Ignatiev, How the Irish Became Black (London: Routledge, 1996).

2. See Hilary Beckles, Black Rebellion in Barbados: The Struggle Against Slavery, 1627-1838 (Bridgetown: Antilles, 1984).

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Imperial Whiteness

If we're painfully historicist, we could conclude that race as a bio-cultural category has its roots--or its rivets--in the metafictional project of Empire. [1] If the nation emerges as a social category in the context of global ambition, race emerges similarly as a means to administrate imperial rule. [2] Africans, for instance, change from property into people, but a different kind of people--always already injured, always in need of redress. [3] White becomes another word for normal.

Notes

1. See Clement Hawes, The British Eighteenth Century and Global Critique (New York: Palgrave, 2005).

2. Perhaps empire even more than state structures racist hegemony. See David Theo Goldgerg, The Racial State (London: Blackwell, 2002).

2. See Paul Gilroy, Postcolonial Melancholy (New York: Columbia, 2004).

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Injury is Me

There's a danger with relying on race as a discourse of redress: it positions you in advance as injured and in need of restitution. This is not to say that people--African people--weren't injured horribly by the British. But should injury for that reason be the condition of identity? [1] Such is the imperial ruse of Wordsworthian (read liberal) sympathy. Toussaint languishes in jail so that Wordsworth can write a poem about him: "Yet die not; do thou / Wear rather in thy bonds a cheerful brow." [2] Thanks man. I bet your poem will set me free. Or maybe your pity. Or maybe your sweet white condescension . . .

Notes

1. This is, of course, Wendy Brown's argument. See States of Injury (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1995).

2. William Wordsworth, "To Touissant L'Overture," Selected Poems and Prefaces by William Wordsworth, ed. Jack Stillinger (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965), 174.

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Rehab is for Quitters

The injured subject enters rehab. [1] It's the fate of dependency in civil society. It's what Wordsworth loathed about Coleridge: not his opium habit so much as its interminable restitution. But rehab as a way of life isn't much different from "the faith that looks through death." [2] Both submit an injured subject to a higher power. And submission breeds resentment, as for instance Wordsworth's resentment of his friend's perpetual rehab. It was testimony of dependency. The mark of the Abyssinian maid. The taint of the slave. The color of something not quite human?

Notes

1. Wendy Brown puts it differently, but that's basically her point in States of Injury (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1995).

2. William Wordsworth, "Ode: Intimations of Immortality" Selected Poems and Prefaces by William Wordsworth (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965), 190.

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The Scar on his Forehead

He worked for Unicorp, had for years, officially since '89 when the tenure decision came down and he underwent the cauterizing. [1] Last year he was promoted to Full Curator. The weapon on his hip was mostly for looks, but it was not inconceivable that the Zappatistas could hack their way in. What good is a fibrillator, he thought, against a digital enemy? But his was not to wonder. Homeland Security has issued it and that was that. [2] He flicked the stud behind his ear.

Notes

1. The identity of this functionary remains unclear. His involvement in the Byron Recryogenization Project seems incontestable. Tenure coincides with the fall of the Independents and the global consolidation of Unicorp. This account was found on encrypted biosoft stolen in Marrakesh.

2. See the official history of Homeland Security from its inception in the early post-democratic period: Milton Wundergunz, States of Fear (Washington: Govpub, 2105).

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Isn't it Byronic?

They'd cloned Byron to give them a faculty advantage. Unicorp--or rather its shareholders--had decided to staff positions with people who had the best possible qualifications. [1] Faculty positions in, say, British Romanticism would be granted on a preferential basis to the Romantics themselves. Byron was to be the first such appointment. Enough of his hair was held in the Consolidated Archive to allow any number of attempts at cloning him. [2] There was talk of doing Augusta Leigh as a spousal appointment.

Notes

1. The bioligism of this presumption is patently nostalgic, retrograde, and immoral. See The Identity Collective's < Late in Identities Digits! your>(Boston: MIT, 2099).

2. We seek the immediate prohibition of cloning, on the grounds that it offends against the emergence, as inevitable as it is documentable, of our coming digital organism.

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Also Sprach Die Geschicte

Unicorp had successfully defended itself against the charge of ethnic cleansing in '95. [1] Initially the Zappatistas had used the courts to advance their confused notions of justice. Their practice of spray painting "Let Dynamos Hum!" on public surfaces did not endear them to the tribunal, however. It sided against them on the basis that, following the Great Progenitor Edmund Burke, historical precedent sanctioned the social procession from Monarchal through National to Corporate governance. [2] It was incidental that all positions of authority were held by occidentals. History had spoken. The tribunal issued its fatwa against counter-cultural activism.

Notes

1. The trial caused a sensation and resulted in the cryogenizing of seven of our members. For an account sympathetic to the Zappatistas, search the web under ZappaLives! and follow the links. The site revolves in an attempt to evade the spiders that constantly shut it down.

2. They may be banned now, but it's worth reading the old counter-histories like David Harvey's A Brief History of Neo-Liberalism (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005).

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Hacking the Past

"Somebody's been fucking with this," he said to nobody in particular as he scanned the interface that hung in the air before him. He tweaked resolution with a twist behind his earlobe. Yup. Whole poems were missing from the archive. "Tintern Abbey," the 1850 Prelude, the beloved sonnets to capital puniushment. [1] What were these hacker scum up to, these mongrel Zappatistas? How had they hacked their way into the Master Canon? [2] It took him seven clearances to reach information this sacred. And they were burning it. He touched his gun. My God. Were they trying to obliterate sacred history? Rewrite the past?

Notes

1. Our first successful run, thanks to that wiley Black Hacker, King Equiano. We'd teamed with the Vassists, and a smart move. They'd been harassing the Unicorp for years, attacking everywhere, getting nowhere. They had the smarts, we had the access. Codes and decryptors gathered over a decade of quiet infiltration. Our real-time antics were always a ruse.

2. For an inventory of the Master Canon, see The Complete Index of Corporate Knowledge (New York: Norton, 2091), a difficult book to come by. Unicorp digital administrators are required by law to commit it to memory.

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Frankenfreeze

The Byron had disappeared. It had been cryoed immediately upon decanting in order to confirm full functionality. Once thawed, however, it apparently wanted nothing to do with Unicorp. The great fear was that, by choice or conspiracy, it had fallen into the hands of the Zappatistas. [1] The last thing Unicorp needed was one of its own facutly serving the cause of halfbreed insurrectionists. They should have cauterized it like everybody else. The trick now was to find and recryogenize the thing. [2] Who could have anticipated its objection to lifetime employment with full benefits?

Notes

1. If only. But no, the whereabouts of the Byron remain a mystery. Perhaps he's been recryogenized. The tabloid press may be the best guide to his doings, however. They print plenty of articles like this one: "Iowa Farm Girl Does Dirty with Man Claiming to Know Castlereagh," Cyberstar 63 (2105): 3-4.

2. This should indicate just what kind of organization Unicorp is, if such proof were needed. It treats unruly faculty just like capital criminals. See the works of digital synthote philosopher Michel Foucault ROM, Control and Cryogeny, www.thefoucaulteffect.org.

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The Empire Hacks Back

The Artificial Intelligence that ran Unicorp by way of a complex array of Dean surrogates (a genderless holographic amalgam that mixed maternal with avuncular qualities), had contacted him directly, an unprecedented occurrence in his career. [1] The voice was distracted, vaguely digital: "You are to track the Zappatistas. Entrap them. Determine whether they have the Byron. Offer them a program of their own if you have to. We must put an end to this wanton erasure of History. Your weapon is a solution of last resort, but do not hesitate to use it. Thanks for your professional attention to this matter. My office door is always open." The voice flicked off. He was on his own, then? A vigilante? He felt a warm glow.

Notes

1. Personal contact between administration and staff is indeed highly unusual. As early as the 1990s high ranking employees of what were then called State Universities undertook to link all academic data bases and the mainframes that sustained them. Little did they know what would emerge from this grand design. See The Coming of the Digital Archipelago by Emile Hassenfuss (Moskow: Svoboda, 2077).

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Operation Remix

Their methods were monstrous. [1] The more he looked, the more damage he found. Erasure wasn't their only or even their favorite strategy. A more frequent one was simply to scramble sources so thoroughly there was no detangling them: "Beauty is Juan, Juan Beauty." "I wish no living thing to suffer Jane." This was the Master Canon! To rewrite it was to rewrite all ensuing simulacra! It was to rewrite knowledge itself!![2] After all, no one really read this stuff. But it did hardwire the cultural memory of every schoolchild on the globe. These Zappatistas with their contraband software. They would change us all! But into what?

Notes

1. Only, of course, from the perspective of Babylon. We learned our methods from the Ancient Players, Grandmaster Flash (see the Holy vinyl, Adventures on the Wheel of Steel, MF Doom, Kool Keith, and their theoretical bretheren, Kodwo Eshun, More Brilliant than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction (London: Quartet, 1998), and paul d miller aka DJ Spooky that subliminal kid, rhythm science (Boston: MIT, 2004).

2. Or at least memory, which is the same thing. We wish to do for all of culture what DJ Spooky did for film with Rebirth of a Nation, his brilliant old insurrectionary remix of D. W. Griffith's racist epic Birth of a Nation. The future is recombinant!

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Exterminate the Brutes!

It would be a simple matter, really, to eliminate these contra-scholarly pests. They seemed to have it in for Wordsworth's poetry. [2] He'd prepare a little present. The Intimations Ode would be a prize too juicy to resist. Every post-colonial from Havana to Calcutta knew it, whether they'd read it or not. He'd retro-wire the poem in such a way that when they cracked the line "nature yet remembers," they'd encounter a digital blowback so strong it would scorch their fingers and fry their neural circuits. [2] Their only cultural inheritance would be drool and dripping feces. They'd tell him everything they knew about the Byron just to get back sphincter control. The vermin!

Notes

1. A typical error at Unicorp. Not Wordsworth but the Wordsworth effect is objectionable: the cultural appropriation of Wordsworth's poetry to promote a sense of autonomous subjectivity, of organic life, of deference to Higher Powers.

2. So much for the vaunted objectivity of knowledge. It is indeed as old Foucault said, "Knowledge is for cutting." For a first full philosophy of knowledge as aggression, see Frank N. Stein Reap the Whirlwind: On the Hatred of Philosophy (The Hague: Nonsense/nonsens, 2058).

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Grim Raper

She was lithe and taut, skin like black polymer laminate, eyes like LEDs. [1] He'd been programming for days and answered the door in his pajamas. She binked. "You placed an order?" He hadn't, but sensed he should have. "Sure. C'mon in." Whereupon she proceeded to delaminate. Thirteen minutes later, his jammies bunched around his ankles, he lay on the floor wheezing softly through a hole in his trachea. His blood pooled slowly. The fibrillator lay on his desk on top of his rare old Stillinger's Wordsworth. She brought her lips close to his ear: "how does history taste, dear one? How's the future feel?" [2] With seraphic tenderness, she plucked the biosoft from behind his ear.

Notes

1. We cannot identify this agent, if agent she is. Our best hunch is that she is a Vassist of no ordinary ability. How she determined this Archivist's identity is beyond us. We can only presume--perhaps pray--that she is among our allies. History has proven her intervention to have been futile.

2. An allusion? A coincidental locution? We can't tell. But either way these haunting words invoke that great underground classic Feeling Futurity by Amitava Kumar III (Place and date of publication unknown).

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Coda: Second Coming

He walked with a limp. Stopping, he scanned the plasmanews scrolling colorfully down the side of the ancient, empty Chrysler Building. A motley blur of information. Buried in it, two noteworthy bits: a job opening for a Full Curator at Unicorp Weternhemispherical; a group-cryogenizing of five alleged Zappatistas found babbling in a warehouse in the Bowrey. He eyed his companion, a lean African American female with eyes like LEDs. "Lobster salad?" She only smiled.

Notes

None.

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Digibritannia!

It's an interesting historical coincidence that the critical effort to think post-territorially about British imperialism doesn't emerge until after the advent of the Internet and earlier technologies of sampling and recombination. [1] Paul Gilroy's Black Atlantic is an effect as much of the turntable and the laptop as of historical method--more so, if you consider that the whole point of method is to produce and police certainty. [2] The Black Atlantic is digital by definition and, as hybrid history, post-British.

Notes

1. Here historiography gets remixed by the technologies that reproduce it. It's an even more material practice than the historical formalisms described by Fredric Jameson in Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham: Duke UP, 1992).

2. See Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (Cambridge: Harvard, 1995).

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Critical Beatdown

There's no returning to a Romanticism prior to the neural prosthesis. [1] No amount of sabotage will produce it. You can't throw a shoe into the Internet. The better alternative is to follow Blake's advice, strap a sandal on your head, and walk into eternity. [2] This would mean accepting technologies of simulation, sampling, and recombination for what they are--and using them to remix Romanticism. Imagine the possibilities! Blake meets Ginzburg--and conceives!

Notes

1. I remember with chagrin the annual meeting of the North American Society for Studies in Romanticism in Tempe, Arizona, 2000. Poor Kate Hayles was all but hounded from her keynote by scholars who had too much integrity to credence her suggestion that technology could reshape scholarship. We are such visionaries!

2. As Blake urges in "Milton," The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, ed. David V. Erdman, 2nd ed. rev (California: U of California P, 1988).

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Shopping is War by Other Means

Keats understood. There's no escaping the commodity. [1] Not for him, not for us. Not for mixologists either. Baambata dug what Equiano dug before him: all you have to work with is what's there. No Genius, no Literature, no Art, no Critique. Just commodities. Just stuff to buy--or swipe. So you shop. But you do it to torque the stuff you buy, and by torquing change it. Keats makes Homer a book. Equiano made books a weapon. Bambaata makes weapons pay! Shopping is not necessarily subjection. [2] Sometimes it's war!

Notes

1. See Marjorie Levinson, Keats's Life of Allegory: The Origins of a Style (London: Blackwell, 1991).

2. See Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style (London: Routledge, 1979).

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Zoom Zip

"Y'all scholars think you know. You think you got it all figured out. Like just cuz you got a job in some cushy institution you can tell people what to think and feel. What's real. Well, maybe you forgot what it's like not to have a job. Or not to have an institution back up what you say. Cuz really, who gives a shit? I mean besides you. IS ANYBODY LISTENING? You act like the world cares. Only folks who care is W. W. Norton and Cambridge University Press, maybe Routledge too. [1] Wonchu be where you're at? [2] Wonchu wake up?"

Notes

1. Scholars like to write as if they were exempt from commodity culture. What a sweet delusion! As university presses fess up to the imperatives of the ledger, scholarship will concede its complicity in commodity culture. Then and only then will we get somewhere.

2. See Patrick Neate, Where You're At: Notes from the Front Line of a Hip Hop Plantet (London: Riverhead, 2003).

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Digital Herpes

It's more like a disease than an education. Romanticism should infect you the way a virus infects your computer. It's the habitation of the other. The invasion of the allergen. [1] It alters your body. Hence the necessity of the techno-prosthesis. There's no becoming Romantic without it. Pornography is exemplary here. You can't download without logging on. Blake understood the book similarly. Buy the thing and play around. It will infect you. You will suffer change. You will posit new norms for living. [2] For the rest of your life this infection, herpes-like, will creep along your nerves--physically and digitally.

Notes

1. The great theorist of the virus and cultural replication is, of course, William Burroughs. See Nova Express (New York: Grove, 1964).

2. This prospect is Georges Canguillem's. See The Normal and the Pathological, trans. Carolyn R. Fawcett (New York: Zone, 1989), 200-1.

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Symptoms of the Future

Can we come to see Romanticism, not as a cipher of the past, but as a symptom of the future? It could be argued that the future as a cultural category emerges here, whether as imperial consolidation or radical insurgence. [1] In both cases a social possibility becomes visible on the basis of secular imagination. Christian prophecy falls into futurology, Blake's Jerusalem into Shelley's The Last Man. Are there Romanticisms of the future? [2]

Notes

1. Frederic Jameson tracks the insurgence of Utopia in Western culture in Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions (London: Verso, 2005).

2. Science fiction might be--technoscientific Romanticism, if there could be such a thing. See Darko Suvin, Metamorphoses of Science Fiction (New Haven: Yale UP, 1979).

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Accumulating Futures

The prosthesis of the future is money, at least in a Liberal or Neo-liberal social setting. When Locke solves the problem of decay, he invents the future, or at least one very powerful version of it. Money gives mortal things peristence: an "overplus of gold and silver . . . may be hoarded up without injury to anyone, these metals not spoiling or decaying." [1] A more disputable sentiment there never was, but it inaugurates whole societies, politics, and genres. Accumulation become cognition of the future. Every petty merchant thinks in science fiction. [2]

Notes

1. John Locke Second Treatise of Government (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1980), 29.

2. As no one knows more keenly than Philip K. Dick. See (and read!) Ubik (1969 rpt.; New York: Vintage, 1991).

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Histories of the Future

It's a huge betrayal of the utopian insurgencies of Romanticism to cycle them back into simple historicism. History was adapted by those wily Germans for the purpose of critique, which is to say the production of new possibilities. [1] The historicism that currently rules the practice of Romantic studies lacks both this critical instinct and its social efficacy. Historicism without contemporary relevance is impotent. [2] Romanticism without utopian futures is dead.

Notes

1. Philosophers as different as Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, and Foucault put history to the test of the futures it produces.

2. Consider in this regard many--but by no means all--of the titles in the interminable Cambridge Studies in Romanticism Series. One thinks of Marx here, or something like him: the point is not to interpret the world, the point is to change it.

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Monster: the Remix

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, they say, is the first science fiction novel. [1] Why not? It has many of the now familiar elements: a mad scientist, his inscrutable technology, the alien organism he unleashes on the world. This alien is a recombinant horror. He's stitched together out of used parts like some living hip-hop remix. What's worse, he's disabled, at least when measured by the norms that make life possible in civil society. An eight foot necrotode will have trouble in almost any social situation. [2] Shelley's future, our present, faces the double corporeal challenge of recombination and disability. Can we, as Romanticists, help build a better body?

Notes

1. Frederic Jameson says it on the first page of Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions (London: Verso, 2005).

2. For an approach to the monster from the perspective of disability, see Paul Youngquist, Monstrosities: Bodies and British Romanticism (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2003).

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After Humanity

The "birth" of Frankenstein's monster registers the fact that life changes. If it hasn't happened already (and it has), human life will change too. It will cease in any recognizable way to be human. [1] Humanity's wholesale rejection of the monster in Shelley's novel augurs ill for the coming metamorphosis. How might criticism compensate for this rejection? How to write and to think on behalf of monstrosities to come? [2] Romanticism itself provides an example. Its formal contortions (Blake's hybridized Marriage, Byron's interminable Juan, Equiano's remixed Narrative) register the propinquity of monsters to polite society.

Notes

1. For one powerful version of this transformation, See Donna Harway's "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century," Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York: Routledge, 1991), 149-82.

2. Criticism is performative, after all, or ought to be. Consider Derrida in this regard, almost anything he wrote. Or more mercilessly, Nietzsche.

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The Pure Ruse of Purity

Humanity is hybrid. Always was. Always will be. The emergence by the late eighteenth century of the habit of reducing mixed to pure identities (national, racial, ethnic) may have served imperial aspirations nicely, but it's anathema to our more mongrel futures. [1] The Romanticism that understood this is the one to turn to now. It's the Romanticism of Equiano, of Blake, of Spence, of Wollstonecraft, of Wedderburn, of Barbauld, of Southcote, of the many mute hewers of wood and drawers of water whose work made possible the glittering dome of British culture. [2] We don't need an expanded canon. We need counter cultures--of monstrosity.

Notes

1. The canonical account of this emergence is Linda Colley's Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707-1837 (New Haven: Yale UP, 1992).

2. The indispensable counter-history here is Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, The Many Headed Hydra: The Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (Boston: Beacon, 2001).

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Afro Blue and Brit

Does it matter that Leigh Hunt descends in part from Africans? [1] To claim him as a British author is to claim an African ancestry for British authorhood. The same is true--only more so--for Equiano. Cultural production in Britain during the Romantic period arises out of a mixed lineage. To insist on this mix in no way minimizes the horrors of subjection to the force of national identity and the powers it circulates. On the contrary it reveals the arrogance of that identity, the nefarious effects of any claim to national, racial, or cultural purity. [2] Unchain Britannia! Look into her pedigree.

Notes

1. See Nicholas Roe, Fiery Heart: The First Life of Leigh Hunt (London: Pimlico, 2005).

2. For a related insistence, see Amitava Kumar, Husband of a Fanatic: A Personal Journey Through India, Pakistan, Love, and Hate (New York: New Press, 2005).

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Hero with a Thousand Faces

Byron's Juan is a strange "hero" for a British epic. He's a deracinated Hidalgo cast adrift literally and culturally to wend his aimless way beyond the bounds of Europe and good breeding. He has no identity in the novelistic sense. There are as many Juans as there are circumstances. Identity turns performative and hybridizing. [1] When in Greek, do as the Greeks. When in Russia, do as the Russians. When in Barbary, become a barbarian. Juan adapts to the cultures he encounters and adapts them to his amours. In this he offers a model for becoming other. What if Romanticism were as nimble as this nomad? [2]

Notes

1. Juan--or maybe Byron--provides a keen instance of the kind of performative sexual identity Judith Butler advocates in Gender Trouble (New York: Routledge, 1991).

2. You might end up with a Romanticism that approaches the rhizomatic as Deleuze and Guattari describe it in the first chapter of A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1987).

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The Secret Sexes

A hybridizing criticism? A machine for producing monsters? Why not? We've gotten women writers into the canon. Just because they're women, however, doesn't mean their writing is progressive. [1] Hannah More puts an end to that delusion. But they do write under the pressure of not being men, which is to say not being fully British. Criticism should eschew the facile reduction of gender to genital difference. Maybe Romanticism performs many more genders than that opposition can sustain. [2] It's time to track down--or perhaps produce--the monstrosities of sexual hybridity.

Notes

1. As Anne Mellor sometimes seems to claim. See Romanticism and Gender (New York: Routledge, 1992).

2. See Debbie Lee's forthcoming book on female impostors.

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Wikitopia

How's this for a vision: criticism of Romanticism as a field of digital possibility, a cyberversity open to all. Texts freely available. Criticism a click away. A carnival of knowledge and knowledge production. A collective enterprise, self-perpetuating and -policing. Anyone could post. Anyone could emend. Authority a function not of force and privilege but of access and participation. [1] Credit no longer accruing to the individual career but to the collective enterprise. A new politics of technology? A purposeful and promising prosthetics? Cultural workers of the world unite![2]

Notes

1. How about a Romanticism site modeled on the Wikipedia? It's a shockingly credible resource for an open, collaborative enterprise: www.wikipedia.org.

2. See Lawrence Lessig, The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World (New York: Vintage, 2001).

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Romance the Planet!

Romanticism should go global. In two senses. Paul Gilroy shows us how to break with territory as the condition of cultural inquiry. [1] We should look at the ways Britain--the territorial Imperium--is an effect, not cause, of global capital flows. The current work of Jeffrey Cox will go a long way in this direction. [2] It investigates the global reach of Romanticism as not simply a cultural but more broadly political practice. The other move to make is more contemporary. Romanticism today should address the global context of knowledge production. [3] We are becoming planetary.

Notes

1. The great lesson of Gilroy's The Black Atlantic (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1995).

2. A rumor, but a a promise too. The future is full of hope.

3. See Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2000).

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Planetary Blackness

The planet is becoming black. [1] Hell, it already is and has been for most of its history. But you wouldn't know it by studying British Romanticism. The future of Romanticism shares this coming blackness. How then to prepare for it? First by acknowledging the contribution of black people to British cultural production--not merely at the level of letters, but wherever they worked and lived. Then by looking to black visions of our future. Octavia Butler: genetic hybridization will breed new forms of life. Samuel Delaney: cultural hybridization will too. [2] Kool Kieth: "Rap moves on to the the Year 3000." [3]

Notes

1. Hear Public Enemy Fear of a Black Planet (Death Row, 1998).

2. Octavia Butler, Dawn (New York: Tor, 1987), Samuel Delaney, Dahlgren (New York: Dutton, 1970).

3. Kool Kieth, Dr. Octagon (City Hall, 1996).

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Mutate!

Are you human? Was Byron? We might take the imputation of his Satanism--and Blake's madness, and Equiano's subhumanity, and Barbauld's femininity--as a call to reinvent this category. More terror then charity has been committed in its name. [1] As we turn toward our planetary futures, we turn away from our human pasts--in the spirit of not rejection but rejuvenation. They have served us well. New technologies are remaking us. New prostheses are enhancing us. Romantic futurism calls for mutation. [2]

Notes

1. It's a heavy diagnosis, but still chimes: see Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Englightenment (New York, Continuum, 1969).

2. Witness Blake, Ballard, Burrowes, Butler, Dick, and Gibson on a good day.

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Digitalia

A Romanticism of the future. A Romanticism as the future. A Romantic Futurism. I can feel the digits invading my fingers as I type. My flesh is digitizing. My laptop is vegetizing. [1] Where are the old boundaries? What are these new vistas? If the net is a nervous system, I am becoming a planet! Others saw this coming, right? Blake's apocalypse? Equiano's Africa? Barbauld's procession of civilizations? Byron's interminable satire? They just lacked the technologies to advance this particular mutation. Time to gene-splice: Blake to Gibson, Equiano to MF Doom, Barbauld to Butler, Byron to Burroughs. Revise. Replicate. Remix!

Notes

1. The movies of David Cronenberg might be a better way toward a Romantic Futurism than most criticism: Videodrome, Rabid, etc.

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World Without End

"I give you the end of a golden string, Only wind it into a ball: It will lead you in at Heaven's gate, Built in Jerusalem's wall." [1]

Notes

1. William Blake, "Jerusalem," The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake , ed. David V. Erdman, 2nd rev. ed. (Berkeley: U of California P, 1983).

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