Poetic Confrontations with the Real: The British Romantic Period and Spaces of Literary/Political Conflict

by Templeton, Michael W.

Abstract (Summary)
This dissertation analyzes points of conflict in which the ideological make-up of English culture was radically challenged by some key texts during the Romantic Period (1780- 1830). Specifically, each chapter demonstrates that particular works of literature offer unique forms of the sublime. The introduction constructs a comprehensive theoretical map of the ideas used to make these claims: specifically, the ways in which Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, as it has been re-formulated by Slavoj Zizek and others, offer us a mode by which we can grasp the radical nature of some works of art. Using a nineteenthcentury painting as an example, the introduction details the odd career of Manet’s Olympia and the critical as well as public upheaval that attended the painting Chapter one analyzes William Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” situating the poem within its historical context. Blake’s poem reveals a form of the sublime that resists dialectical synthesis, and, by doing so, resists the constraints of dominant ideological forms of thought – forms of thought that would naturalize the overdetermined drives of emerging capitalism. As I argue in chapter two, Charlotte Smith’s Elegiac Sonnets speak to fundamental forms of gender ideology in ways that defy the misogynist codes of thought characterizing the historical period. Smith’s sonnets evoke a sublimity that exceeds the confines of ordinary language. Chapter three claims that The History of Mary Prince reveals the power of the human will in the most adverse of conditions: slavery. Prince’s narrative demonstrates moments at which, in confronting overwhelming power, the human will can release a sublime hole in the discursive construction of an oppressed people.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Miami University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:sublime lacan psychoanalysis ideology aesthetics


Date of Publication:01/01/2004

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