Romantic Sobriety explores the relationship among Romanticism, deconstruction, and Marxism by examining tropes of sensation and sobriety in a set of exemplary texts from Romantic literature and contemporary literary theory.
Orrin N. C. Wang explains how themes of sensation and sobriety, along with Marxist-related ideas of revolution and commodification, set the terms of narrative surrounding the history of Romanticism as a movement. The book is both polemical and critical, engaging in debates with modern thinkers such as Paul de Man, Jacques Derrida, Walter Benn Michaels, and Slavoj Žižek, as well as presenting fresh readings of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century writers, including Wordsworth, Kant, Shelley, Byron, Brontë, and Keats.
Wang first explores the meta-critical nature of Romantic periodization through the literary images of sensation and sobriety. He next investigates what he terms a Romantic “sensation of meaning” that actively structures contemporary discourse of the postmodern left. Wang follows with an exposition of how different forms of sensation and their repudiation operate in a set of second-generation Romantic and early Victorian writings.
Romantic Sobriety combines deeply complex, close readings with a broader reflection on Romanticism and its implications on literary study. It will interest scholars who study Romanticism from a number of perspectives, including those interested in bodily and social consumption, the roles of addiction and abstinence in literature, the connection between literary and visual culture, the intersection of critical theory and Romanticism, and the relationships among language, historical knowledge, and political practice.