This article argues that current trends in the humanities that embrace panpsychism, vibrant matter, object-oriented ontologies, and extended or dispersed conceptions of consciousness, could benefit from an examination of Victorian debates about panpsychism. The article does this by exploring panpsychism’s relation to Victorian theories of evolution, late nineteenth-century idealism, and above all to conversations about desire, will, and consciousness. The article suggests further that understanding Victorian panpsychism can illuminate key aspects of Victorian aesthetics: detail, pattern, and dispersal. Authors discussed include philosophers W.K. Clifford, William James, and May Sinclair; the article then turns to Victorian translations of Lucretius, the poetry of Swinburne, the designs of William Morris, and the literary theory of Vernon Lee.
This essay examines a distinct shift in William Blake’s thoughts on empire, and argues that his Laocoön separate plate marks the culmination of his revised views. While Blake initially distinguished negative, commercial and tyrannical forms of empire from positive, non-tyrannical forms of empire that he conceived of as founded upon the arts, he subsequently did away with these distinctions, and came to see an irremediable link between imperial and commercial worlds. By situating Blake’s changing views on empire against the backdrop of the empire-building of Napoleon as it relates to the appropriation of art, this essay clarifies the particular focus on empire and commerce of so many of the Laocoön separate plate’s inscriptions.
The reception of Frances Burney’s final novel, The Wanderer, demonstrates the periodical press’s ability to shape British concepts of authorship and audience expectations in the Romantic era. William Hazlitt’s and John Wilson Croker’s reviews of this novel illustrate that, despite their apparent ideological differences, the Edinburgh and Quarterly reviews could combine to redefine the British literary tradition and reading public in national and masculinist terms. Such reviews attempt to police the borders of the British canon, to the exclusion of writers like Burney who seem not to meet the new demands of Romantic-era review culture.
This essay contends that Fleetwood; or the New Man of Feeling is similar to Godwin’s first two major novels Caleb Williams and St. Leon inasmuch as it is a narrative of emerging self-consciousness. Fleetwood recounts a tale throughout which he struggles to understand the core of his own misanthropy. Unlike Caleb Williams and Reginald de St. Leon, however, Fleetwood does not gain self-awareness by turning to and identifying with forms of otherness. Rather, it comes on the heels of a long and tragic history of turning from the other in whose face Fleetwood persistently witnesses the distorted reflections of his own depravity and self-disgust. This essay considers Fleetwood’s various turns from other to self and questions whether his final retreat into writing facilitates or forecloses a reciprocal engagement with the other, including his wife Mary who returns in the novel’s conclusion to offer forgiveness for his deplorable treatment of her.
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