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This essay argues for the centrality of romance to our ideas of literary history from the eighteenth century to the twentieth. It considers the enduring appeal of this form in enabling critics to do two things at once: conceive of history as a social totality, registered across time in the felt language of poetry, and attend to the particularities of time and place in which any given romance is written. With special attention to scholarship of the so-called romance revival, this essay demonstrates the importance of romance to narratives of racial identity and difference, above all to an eighteenth-century vision of history as propelled by (settler) colonial violence. It queries what role these narratives have in our own ongoing romance of criticism.