In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

BOOK REVIEWS 561 that Keats’s nightingale is best understood as a symbol” (207), even as, on Gottlieb’s reading, “the resolute materiality of Keats’s nightingale . . . demands or at least allows for a different kind ofapproach, one that sees its significance not in what it means or stands for but in how it operates” (208). Here Bryant’s idea of “onticology” overlaps onto Bennett’s vibrant matter and “the bird’s being—what it eats, its mating habits, its health and disposition—goes undescribed and remains unknown to the speaker-poet. In this way, the nightingale exists on an equal ontological footing with Keats” (213). This equality of being reflects what Bryant calls “flat ontol­ ogy” which “is not the thesis that all objects contribute equally, but that all objects equally exist. In its ontological egalitarianism, what flat ontology thus refuses is the erasure ofany object as the mere construction of another object’” [Bryant, 290] (Gottlieb, 210). “To Autumn” functions in the same fashion according to Gottlieb, a kind of “machinic” (219) Bryant assem­ blage that is also flatly ontological: “the poem ‘thinks’ autumn, not really as a season (despite its first line), much less as a state of mind (for as previous critics have noted, there is no ‘mind’ or active subjectivity in this ode), but rather as a machine for creating poetic effects. Autumn, in Keats’s subtly powerful representation, is a machine that operates on inputs—the drop­ ping temperatures, the changing quality oflight—to create a variety ofsea­ sonally appropriate outputs” (219). Gottlieb ends his book on this poem because “it embodies the more general anti-anthropocentrism and anticorrelationism at the heart of so much SR and SR-related work—and, as I have tried to show throughout this book, at the heart of much canonical Romantic poetry, too” (223). And, indeed, Gottlieb’s book does just that, in consistently illuminating and rigorous fashion that will stir up muchneeded debate over the state of the field and beyond. Chris Washington Francis Marion University D. B. Ruderman. The Idea of Infancy in Nineteenth-Century British Poetry: Romanticism, Subjectivity, Form. New York: Routledge, 2016. Pp. 274. $140. A critical understanding of childhood, the figure of the child, and the philosophical and cultural construction of infancy and childhood remains largely absent from the general discourse ofliterary scholarship. This is not to say that excellent new work on childhood is not being done in the fields of literary and cultural studies. Routledge has continued the strong “Studies in Childhood” series that originated at Ashgate under the editorial SiR, 56 (Winter 2017) 562 BOOK REVIEWS guidance of Claudia Nelson, whose own work on children, children’s liter­ ature, and the rhetorical uses of childhood sets high standards for the field. Palgrave is in the midst of launching a series titled “Literary Cultures and the Child” under the general editorship of Lynne Vallone, another impor­ tant scholar in the field. But judging by the standard introductions to liter­ ary theory which set forth our fields of inquiry—textbooks which typically feature chapters on gender, race, class, and sexuality studies, as well as on the emerging fields of disability studies, ecocriticism and the posthuman— childhood studies remains marginalized. We have yet fully to identify and accomplish the work of interrogating how ideas of infancy and childhood prop up our most basic assumptions of history, culture, and the human self. The myths of childhood, perhaps, are even more stubbornly held than those of gender, race, and class, and we remain surprisingly complacent about even the most sentimental and simplistic accounts of childhood. Early in his excellent monograph, The Idea of infancy in NineteenthCentury British Poetry: Romanticism, Subjectivity, Form, D. B. Ruderman ac­ knowledges that sentimental and reassuring representations of childhood have their roots in early nineteenth-century literature and culture, so much so that we often label the infant figure of primitive, natural, and innocent human existence the “Romantic child.” But Ruderman insists rightly that the Romantic period also gave us a “more disturbing and philosophically fraught” notion of infancy and childhood and, in an important corrective, sets about the task of retrieving and exploring this more unsettling version of Romantic infancy (2...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
2330-118X
Print ISSN
0039-3762
Pages
pp. 561-564
Launched on MUSE
2020-03-06
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.