‘Every thing must have a beginning, to speak in Sanchean phrase.’ But according to Mary Shelley, at least as she reflected back on Frankenstein in 1831, ‘that beginning must be linked to something that went before.’ The world rests on an elephant, the elephant on a tortoise according to Hindu theogony, since even the most original of creators cannot create substance.1 Just as the American Revolution was getting started, in the most forcible of demystifying language Tom Paine declared ‘we have it in our power to begin the world over again.’2 Yet this study will argue that romanticism, heralded by many as the age of the social contract and Rights of Man, instead engages in non-contractual poetics. Based at once in enchantment and demystification, imagination and critical reason, the legacy of romanticism carries on by a series of gestures of verbal fiat. My argument in this book will in large part be an attempt to explain the two initial responses here: the one that stresses continuities of creation (even as the latter word retains something of its strong sense); and the other point of emphasis moving against a consciously willed model of the enlightenment subject.
KeywordsHate Speech Romantic Lyric Paper Money Paradise Lost Political Theology
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