Romanticism and its Others - A Special Issue of Romanticism On the Net[Record]

  • Neville Newman

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  • Neville Newman
    McMaster University

The fifth annual conference of the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism in 1997 was a success by any standards. Under the rubric of "Romanticism and its Others," the gathering was notable for both the rigorous definition and re-definition of otherness. Citing Simone de Beauvoir, the introduction to another journal's special issue arising out of the conference observes "'Otherness is a fundamental category of human thought. Thus it is that no group ever sets itself up as the One without at once setting up the Other over against itself'". Thus the conference title's inclusion of "Others" was particularly apt, given that the diversity of opinion, while obviously Romantically informed, resisted a homogenization into a single group against which one single Other could be identified. "Defining 'others' and 'otherness' in the broadest possible sense, the papers presented made it abundantly clear that there is no one single "other." The essays in this particular issue are further testament to that. The life of the conclusions and suggestive arguments made at the conference was not limited to four days in the Fall two years ago. A considerable amount of the work to which attendees were exposed has found, and continues to find, expression in scholarly journals as readers are no doubt aware. It is a privilege, then, to be part of the conference's aftermath by participating in the continuing promulgation of some of the papers in this edition of Romanticism on the Net. The articles that follow demonstrate the eclectic definitions of otherness to which I have alluded. There is an "other" form of publication to whose further legitimacy we all contribute by reading an electronic journal. Considerations of the hypertext and its implications for educators are the subjects of David Miall's essay. For his part in an article which he makes clear is not a psychoanalytical reading, Joel Faflak deals with what he calls the "other" Wordsworth when he provocatively asserts that the poet "encounters a struggle between psychic determinism and self-making to which, for him, philosophy offers a limited response. And finally there is the historically interesting essay by John Hodgson on the subject of ventriloquism, an essay that deals not only with the otherness of an alternatively embodied voice, but also with the significance of ventriloquism to Samuel Taylor Coleridge's dramatic theory. It is particularly germane, then, that included in this edition is David S. Miall's "The Resistance of Reading: Romantic Hypertexts and Pedagogy," the hypertext of which may be accessed at an address "other" than that which this issue of Romanticism on the Net may be read. Concerned in part with the ways in which all of us in the teaching professions need to embrace the potential of hypertext, Miall (con)fuses theoretical deliberation with an account of his own practical application. And true to the hypertextual capability, provides, as one might expect, links to sites where readers may witness the results of his—and his students'—efforts in this medium. Miall's thought-provoking essay acknowledges that "the question of what it means to read literature is a long way from being settled," and then goes on to address a further—albeit related question—what does "reading" mean in the non-spatial and virtually non-delimited environment of electronic media. This leads Miall to pose a number of questions that are important for educators, and he introduces his subject with a broad review of current theoretical musings on the subject of hypertext. Quoting George Landow and Stuart Moulthorp, Miall refers to some of the criticism that these authors have attracted. Always ready to inject practical concerns where they are germane, Miall introduces …