Abstract

Percy Shelley’s The Revolt of Islam engages the literary tradition of English Jacobinism. Read alongside Thomas Holcroft’s novel, Anna St. Ives (1792), it becomes available to a theory of Romantic liberalism that departs suggestively from classical liberal theory. Both texts claim that private intimacy generates public forms of impact, organizing politics around a fantasy of collective belonging. That fantasy is tested by a philosophical deployment of free love as a limit case for freedom. Where Holcroft cultivates a close relationship between sex and self-sovereignty, Shelley abandons the Jacobin commitment to formalism internal to the juridical imagination of political as well as erotic life.

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