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BOOK REVIEWS 293 feminist theory. While Robinson’s literary catalogue of women’s writing certainly works to revise women’s literary reputations, one can’t help but wonder what kind of future-looking ecriture feminine Robinson’s unique post-Della Cruscan style might sketch. Cross importantly explores how Robinson’s tactics of gendered author­ ship could be expressed as a more full-blown theory of Romantic gender. Robinson’s loquacious dialogues bridge gender with voices that play and intertwine regardless of or underneath bodily difference, even while they implicate the socio-political and economic structures that instantiate gender normativity. What is more, we might extend the implications of this model—obviating gender difference while valorizing its role in instigating poetic acts—to suggest that gender becomes an essential motor of Roman­ ticism. As a theory of poetics, Robinson’s tropic play throws authorial dif­ ference into relief even as it retroactively alters the very grounds ofpoesis for all Romantic poets. Kate Singer Mount Holyoke College Timothy Michael. British Romanticism and the Critique of Political Reason. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016. Pp. 283. $54.95. In British Romanticism and the Critique of Political Reason, Timothy Michael argues that crises of political knowledge are not aberrations in modernity but, instead, one of its foundations. After the bloody turn taken by the French Revolution, writers and artists from across Europe had to cope with widespread failure of Enlightenment ideals—rationalism, secular gov­ ernance, and the rhetoric of liberation—to live up to their utopian prom­ ises. One name for this coping strategy was Romanticism, the aesthetic and political movement whose figures, Michael says, had to undertake “an as­ sessment of what [could] be rescued from Enlightenment models of ratio­ nality and an evaluation of how what remains of them might be deployed in postrevolutionary political contexts” (3). According to Michael, the models of knowledge that Romantic writers rescued after the breakdown of Enlightenment politics were numerous. They included the preservation of reason (now tempered by sensation and pleasure), a conservation of the idea of the “autonomous” poet by placing her in the messy cultural condi­ tions in which she lived, and a recommitment to a style of inwardness that accommodated history and institutions (instead ofavoiding them) (5). If all of this sounds very Burkean, then the governing thesis of British Romanti­ cism is more radical. Michael argues that, at root, questions of political knowledge inevitably become in the Romantic imagination questions of SiR, 56 (Summer 2017) 294 BOOK REVIEWS freedom (5). The critique of existing models of understanding—be it a hard-nosed English empiricism or “the dream of pure reason”—could still be in the service of liberation (38). Michael’s book participates in a long tradition in Romantic studies that sees Romanticism as a negotiation—and not an outright repudiation—of Enlightenment rationalism and secularization. It includes texts such as James Engell’s The Creative Imagination, Frances Ferguson’s essays and book on Romantic-era utilitarianism, and Colin Jager’s work on religious thought and institutions after the disenchantment brought on by a secular age. However, if British Romanticism reframes the epistemology of political thought in this transitional period, it’s also an unusually old school book: Michael constructs a traditional intellectual history that avoids the cultural materialist methodologies that we’ve come to expect in most first mono­ graphs written under the rubric of the New Historicism. Instead, Michael concentrates on ideas themselves, as well as the fertile connections between them. While reading, I regularly thought about historians ofRomantic ide­ ology from the early to mid-twentieth-century, such as A. O. Lovejoy and Isaiah Berlin, by whom Michael admits to being influenced (19). But Mi­ chael’s analyses are less linear and more dialectical than Lovejoy’s or Berlin’s. He is not telling a story about the evolution ofideas, but building a network out of their recurrence and reappraisal. Indeed, Michael’s em­ phasis on pure concepts—his “commitment to the history of philosophy, especially philosophies of mind and knowledge”—seems to echo the re­ constructed idealism of the authors whose work he analyzes (24). In other words, the intellectual history of the late-eighteenth and early...


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