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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 years of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. This union, a shotgun wedding if ever there was one, formalized in 1801 after bribery and chicane, theoretically made the underdeveloped and exploited counties of Ireland the equal of those of England and Scotland. But by moving the centre of Irish political life from Dublin to London, and by the continued exclusion of the vast majority of its inhabitants from any participation in civic life, it was not clear what, if anything, had been gained by Ireland=s changed status from colony to partner. That Ireland had grievances was clear. But whether those grievances would find a ready ear depended, at least in part, upon changing the image of Ireland from a land of subhuman peasants and savage rebels to a fertile country with its own rich culture, picturesque and poetic, different from but not inferior to that of the island to the east. To effect that transformation was the work of the >national tale,= a genre visibly based upon previous non-fictional genres, like the traveller=s tour of Ireland, but using as its mythic basis the romantic bildungsroman, in which a hero=s education consists primarily in his re-evaluation of his ideas, his picture of the world, through a set of new and enlarging experiences. As Ferris defines it, the >romantic national tale= operates in terms of the humanities 211 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 International Theme. In its most typical form an Englishman, one with roots and lands in Ireland, travels into that kingdom by necessity rather than by design, motivated by parental dictate or the need to improve the productivity of his Irish estates. At first he misinterprets Ireland through the national stereotypes current in England. But after meeting an Irish woman whose enlightened education vanquishes his prejudices and whose local cultural knowledge helps him understand his surroundings, he begins to value Ireland correctly. In doing so he begins to >belong= to that nation, a ratification of the Act of Union that is symbolized in their marriage. Versions of this genre, defiant or ingratiating in tone, appear in Morgan=s The Wild Irish Girl, O=Donnel (1814), Maria Edgeworth=s Ennui (1809) and The Absentee (1812). And one can see a tragic inversion of the same myth, with the sexes transposed as well, in Charles Robert Maturin=s The Milesian Chief (1812). As Ferris puts it, the national tale did not so much eliminate the cultural stereotypes of Ireland as it changed them. By the 1820s, however, the >national tale= had...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 210-212
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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