What Remains of Romanticism?

Project Details


The project to which this leave period contributed sets out to challenge the frequent side-lining of the aesthetic in contemporary literary criticism and to present a series of arguments for the importance of a rigorous account of aesthetics both for the critical reading of particular texts and for an understanding of the place of literature itself as a social and cultural category. By analysing the ideas of aesthetics generated in the philosophy and literature of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the project questions which of the arguments associated with Romanticism remain relevant to criticism today.

Layman's description

The literature, criticism and philosophy of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Romanticism produced significant arguments about our experience of art and literature as phenomena capable of generating 'aesthetic' experiences (experiences, put simply, of pleasure or displeasure). More recent theories of criticism have tended to downplay the importance of aesthetics in the reception of literature in favour of other categories such as history and politics. This project returns to the Romantic ideas of aesthetics in order to begin to explore the ways in which analysis of the aesthetic affects of works of art and literature can contribute to our understanding of their historical, political and social meanings and effects.

Key findings

Through analyses of influential Romantic-period writers and philosophers, and the ways their ideas are currently being re-interpreted by contemporary critics and theorists, the project has begun to develop an argument that paying attention to the aesthetic impact of a work of literature enhances criticism's capacity both to explore that work's wider cultural, historical and political meanings, and also to develop means of discussing literature's appeal to readers that might be less available in traditional formalist or historicist criticism. The findings of this project are still developing in research that aims to expand the scope of the critical aesthetics so far presented to cover a wider range of literary and philosophical writing than has so far been discussed.
Effective start/end date8/09/0630/07/10


  • AHRC: £25,587.00


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