Abstract

This article justifies a historically grounded method for reading Romantic aesthetics in mathematical terms, and argues that the application of this method: 1) helps us to reread Romantic texts that both do and do not address infinity explicitly, beginning with theories of the sublime; 2) helps to clarify certain aspects of the Romantic inheritance in later modern poetry; and 3) allows us to ground critical treatments of poetry and mathematics in an early nineteenth-century moment at which aesthetics and poetics participate in mathematical debates. The article identifies a century-long "crisis of infinity" during which the concept of infinity lacked a stable mathematical definition and, for that reason among others, generated heated discussion within the discourses of religion, philosophy, mathematics, and aesthetics. In this context, the article excavates models of infinity animating key intellectual resources for Romantic and Victorian poetry and then uses these models to illuminate famously enigmatic moments in the canonical poetries of both periods, taking William Wordsworth and Robert Browning as key examples.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6547
Print ISSN
0013-8304
Pages
pp. 167-195
Launched on MUSE
2014-03-10
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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