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humanities 209 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 J. David Black. The Politics of Enchantment: Romanticism, Media, and Cultural Studies Wilfrid Laurier University Press. x, 200. $34.95 David Black=s goal in this study is to revitalize contemporary cultural studies by renewing its connection with Romantic social theory. More strident critics of cultural studies may see this as unnecessary in a field that seems to many already as being too inclined towards highly subjective analyses of social realities. Black, however, is not interested in the popular understanding of Romanticism as either intensely idealistic or sentimental, nor does he accept the view, put forward most notably by Colin Campbell, that Romanticism is essentially the ideological expression of consumerism. Instead, he wants to recover the more radically materialistic, more technologically savvy, and more socially progressive cultural and social theories that were characteristic, he believes, of early German Romanticism. These writers were the first to confront modernization and its contradictions . They developed a flexible and extensive critique of capitalism that too easily has been dismissed as sentimental, self-oriented, or nostalgic. Black seeks to recover a substantial body of thought on language, imagination, human agency, technology, and modernization which can be used to address the theoretical weaknesses and impasses of contemporary cultural studies. The Politics of Enchantment provides a good general introduction to the history and many of the primary issues shaping cultural studies as a discipline through its focus on the major figures in media and cultural studies. British and American approaches to cultural studies are compared, particularly with regard to debates about mass media and whether they can be an authentic mode of communication. There follows a discussion of >post-industrial= and poststructuralist ideas about the >information society,= particularly with reference, respectively, to the ideas of Daniel Bell and Mark Poster. In one chapter, Black seeks to develop a romantic theory of contemporary media; in another, he provides a cultural studies of political economy. One of the great values of this book is that it seeks to replace the caricature of Romanticism that has become popular in political economy and in critiques of cultural studies as being too >romantic,= with a more positive understanding of the ways in which Romantic thought can revitalize contemporary accounts of media, communication, and economy. Black values Romanticism for its ideas about human agency, its reflection on language as mediation, its emphasis upon the importance of aesthetics to critical analysis, and its flexible and dynamic ideas about the production of culture. Most important, he values it as an alternative to Enlightenment xxxxxx 210 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 rationalism and to the instrumental rationality that has developed from it. The return to Romanticism is thus a return to a >politics of enchantment,= a term that is used quite vaguely throughout the study. A major weakness of this study is that most of what Black knows about Romanticism has come from secondary sources, particularly Andrew Bowie=s From Romanticism to Critical Theory (1997). A more thoroughgoing acquaintance with the writers that he would have us value would have prevented some egregious errors, such as the confusion of Erasmus Darwin with his grandson Charles. Perhaps, it would have prevented such banalities as referring to John Keats as >the precocious nightingale.= More important, Black=s limited understanding of this literature prevents him from employing the writers= theoretical work to maximum effect. Romanticism remains more a fairly selective set of ideas in this book than a complex, theoretically informed practice. Black admits that his book is >at best a prologue to the development and application of a full-fledged romantic theory of media.= The book is a good start in that direction, which I hope will be more fully realized in subsequent work. (ALAN BEWELL) Ina Ferris. The Romantic National Tale and the Question of Ireland Cambridge University Press. x, 210. ,40, US $55.00 >A National Tale= was the subtitle of Sydney Owenson, Lady Morgan=s successful novel, The Wild Irish Girl (1806). The story Ina Ferris tells is about the genre it provoked, and the cultural work it performed in the early...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 209-210
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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