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Romantic Hospitality and the Resistance to Accommodation

Peter Melville

Publication Year: 2007

What does hospitality have to do with Romanticism? What are the conditions of a Romantic welcome? Romantic Hospitality and the Resistance to Accommodation traces the curious passage of strangers through representative texts of English Romanticism, while also considering some European philosophical “pre-texts” of this tradition. From Rousseau’s invocation of the cot-less Carib to Coleridge’s reception of his Porlockian caller, Romanticisms encounters with the “strange” remind us that the hospitable relation between subject and Other is invariably fraught with problems.

Drawing on recent theories of accommodation and estrangement, Peter Melville argues that the texts of Romantic hospitality (including those of Rousseau, Kant, Coleridge, and Mary Shelley) are often troubled by the subject’s failure to welcome the Other without also exposing the stranger to some form of hostility or violence. Far from convincing Romantic writers to abandon the figure of hospitality, this failure invites them instead to articulate and theorize a paradoxical imperative governing the subject’s encounters with strangers: if the obligation to welcome the Other is ultimately impossible to fulfill, then it is also impossible to ignore. This paradox is precisely what makes Romantic hospitality an act of responsibility.

Romantic Hospitality and the Resistance to Accommodation brings together the wide-ranging interests of hospitality theory, diet studies, and literary ethics within a single investigation of visitation and accommodation in the Romantic period. As re-visionary as it is interdisciplinary, the book demonstrates not only the extent to which we continue to be influenced by Romantic views of the stranger but also, more importantly, what Romanticism has to teach us about our own hospitable obligations within this heritage.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Cover

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pp. 1-

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 4-5

contents

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pp. 6-7

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acknowledgements

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pp. 8-9

Writing a book about obligations necessarily involves the accumulation of new responsibilities, new debts, new obligations. Anyone who knows me well will know that Romantic Hospitality is indebted, first and foremost, to David L. Clark. A gifted scholar, the most giving of mentors, David...

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introduction

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pp. 10-31

Anna Letitia Barbauld wrote several of her poems as a guest in Dr. Joseph Priestley’s family home in Leeds. Late one night, during a visit in the summer of 1769, Barbauld steals her way into Priestley’s laboratory only to discover another of Priestley’s guests, a terrified mouse who has “been confined all night” in a cage by the master...

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chapter one

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pp. 32-69

By all accounts, Rousseau lived much of his life enjoying, but also regretting, the hospitality of others. Not unlike his own itinerant hero Saint Preux, he too was a wanderer “with no family and almost no country” (Cranston, Solitary 58). Motherless, fatherless, and homeless by the age of fifteen, Rousseau would fall in and out of favour with a virtual...

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chapter two

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pp. 70-107

If hospitality makes Rousseau uneasy, then the same could be said of Immanuel Kant, whose late writings in particular reveal conspicuous signs of discomfort when questioning the foreign and the strange. In this chapter, I focus on three scenes involving three of Kant’s most troubling guests. The first scene, drawn from Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, finds...

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chapter three

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pp. 108-147

In the previous chapters, the impossibility of hospitality emerged as a major theme of this study. I argued that, in principle and in practice, hospitality is doomed to self-contradiction and failure. In this chapter, I continue this line of inquiry by turning to the work of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Primarily, I propose that reading Coleridge yields an...

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chapter four

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pp. 148-183

In the final stages of Mary Shelley’s The Last Man (1826), Lionel Verney, sole surviving member of the human race, pauses a moment to record his exhaustion: “Now—soft awhile—have I arrived so near the end? Yes! it is all over now—a step or two over those new made graves, and the wearisome way is done.…Can I streak my paper with words capacious...

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conclusion

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pp. 184-191

In an “improvised” lecture on “Kant and Schiller” delivered at Cornell University in March of 1983, Paul de Man reflects hesitantly on his invitation to speak and on the reception of his arrival: “You are so kind at the beginning and so hospitable and so benevolent that I have the feeling that…”(131). De Man pauses cautiously, manages to utter a few broken...

works cited

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pp. 192-205

index

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pp. 206-209


E-ISBN-13: 9781554581146
Print-ISBN-13: 9780889205178
Print-ISBN-10: 0889205175

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2007

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Romanticism.
  • Hospitality in literature.
  • Strangers in literature.
  • Aliens in literature.
  • European literature -- 18th century -- History and criticism.
  • European literature -- 19th century -- History and criticism.
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