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Reviews363 Beyond Enchantment: German Idealism and English Romantic Poetry, by Mark Kipperman; xii & 242 pp. PhUadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986, $27.95. For its conception alone Mark Kipperman's book is worthwhUe and important , even uiough die actual achievement faUs short of the author's ambition. Kipperman boldly extends the efforts of recent scholars who are concerned widi die uses to which German phUosophy was put by certain phUosophicaUy inclined British and American writers in the first part ofdie nineteenui century. Whereas an earlier generation of investigators aU but dismissed these uses as merely "literary," by which was meant superficial and of no phUosophical value, a greater appreciation of die extent and profundity of German phUosophical influence is apparent in studies of Coleridge by Thomas McFarland, G. N. G. Orsini, and Owen Barfield. To a lesser extent Stanley CaveU and others have been reevaluating along simUar lines the phUosophical underpinnings of Emerson and Thoreau. Yet Kipperman goes far beyond any of diese in contending for a German phUosophical presence not only in the poetry and prose ofwriters with a known interest in German phUosophy, but in English romantic poetry generaUy. Moreover, he aims to advance his contention not by die questionable expedient of, in his words, "finding common explicit ideas or concepts between phUosopher and poet," but by die more promising though less secure method of determining "implicit assumptions about mind and its object shared in die romantic era" among phUosophers, poets and presumably many odier inteUectuals (pp. 105-6). Kipperman does not present his project in quite the way I have, though I think tiiis is what it comes to: an attempt to isolate die epistemologica! assumptions that pervaded Western culture during the period, with poetry as a representative medium, so to speak, dirough which to detect diem. Given die massiveness of die undertaking and the slenderness of his book it is not surprising diat Kipperman accomplishes litde more toward proving such a proposition dian to raise some suggestive evidence. Thus in his analysis of"Mont Blanc," for me die finest part of the book, he argues persuasively uiat die poem must be seen as "SheUey's version of Transcendental Idealism" (p. 172), rather than as proceeding from Humean skepticism or Berkeleian idealism, despite die fact that SheUey's knowledge of the detaUs of Transcendental Idealism was more limited dian diat of, say, Emerson, let alone Coleridge. Yet Kipperman convinces me that the poem is best understood witiiin the context of post-Kantian phUosophy. Unfortunately, Kipperman's handling of the phUosophical aspects of other poems does not always match the perspicuity ofhis "Fichtean" reading of"Mont Blanc," aldiough he never sinks below a level of respectable competence as 364Philosophy and Literature literary critic. However, his selection of poems, and indeed his choice of poets, seems somewhat arbitrary. There is no explanation for the emphasis his book places on Coleridge, SheUey, and Byron, but it is hardly self-evident that this is the most appropriate trio for the purpose. Coleridge of course is inevitable and SheUey is certainly comprehensible. Byron's inclusion, on die odier hand, is puzzling, especiaUy insofar as the main diesis of the Byron section is uiat Childe Harold's Pilgrimage is "the romance of die first existential hero in English literature" (p. 185). Whedier or not diis is true — it strikes me as both true and banal — it seems tangential to an essay on German idealism and English romantic poetry, even ifthe existentialism is brought in by way ofKierkegaard. In any event, Wordsworth and Keats might have suited the book better man Byron. As with the choice ofpoets, there is a problem regarding the selection ofpoems. We are given a quite workmanlike reading of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner but "Kubla Khan" is barely mentioned, although one might suppose Kubla's pleasure-dome decreeing activities would have some relevance to philosophical idealism. Then I would gladly have traded some or aU of die radier dreary chapter on Alastor for a few words on SheUey's Ode to the West Wind, which if nodiing else is an examination of die relationship between a finite human voice and die apparendy boundless world of perception uiat it expresses...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 363-364
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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