Cover

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Title Page, About the Series, Other Works in the Series, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-xii

I began thinking about this book in the mid 1980s, when what had been called the “linguistic turn” in literary studies generally, and in Romantic studies more particularly, was yielding priority to a “return to history.”1 The shift coincided with and accentuated a turn in my own work. ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xiv

My first and deepest thanks are to Sheila Emerson, for her generosity, intelligence, vision, courage—and for her love. She is my best reader. She is my best hope. ...

Abbreviations

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pp. xv-xvi

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1 Arbitrary Power

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pp. 1-22

The critical issues in this book are framed by the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century discourse of the arbitrary—or rather, and more precisely, by what appear to be two discourses of the arbitrary that do not, at least at the level of explicit theorization and articulation, converge. ...

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2 Words Are Things

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pp. 23-45

Within the Enlightenment paradigm that, variously developed and inflected, remains central to the philosophy of language into the nineteenth century, the claim that language is “arbitrary” depends on understanding words as signs—primarily of ideas, secondarily of things. ...

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3 The Politics of Rhyme

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pp. 46-67

The manifold connections between the exercise of political power in society and the production of meaning in language are foregrounded in the making and breaking of formalized cultural practices, especially in those practices that we designate “aesthetic” or “literary.” Such practices always carry the imprint of ideological dominance disguised as what is natural and normative. ...

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4 Vulgar Idioms

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pp. 68-94

Percy Shelley wrote to Leigh Hunt on 15 August 1819, asking him to give the manuscript of Julian and Maddalo to Charles Ollier for publication. In this poem, Shelley says, “I have employed a certain familiar style of language to express the actual way in which people talk with each other whom education and a certain refinement of sentiment have placed above the use of vulgar idioms” (LPBS 2: 108). ...

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5 “‘A Subtler Language within Language’”

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pp. 95-121

Shelley's imagining of a communicative engagement between men “whom education and a certain refinement of sentiment have placed above the use of vulgar idioms” meets, at its dramatic center and at its framing margin, the figure of a woman speaking. This figure elicits passion and madness as well as affectionate admiration—and silence: ...

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6 The Language of Revolutionary Violence

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pp. 122-158

The first of these justifications of insurrectionary violence was written on the eve of the Jacobin Terror; the second was begun in the year which marks “the nearest point Britain every reached to social revolution.”1 Wollstonecraft and Shelley both predicate the inevitable and necessary violence of revolution on the prior existence of an oppressive ruling-class power that is doubly arbitrary. ...

Notes

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pp. 159-184

Index

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pp. 185-191