Living in a New Material World
Building on Romantic scholarship that has opened the door to more capacious understandings of materiality that rethink the subject-object opposition of cultural materialism, the introduction makes the case that Romantic-era writers were, like us, material creatures living in an emphatically material world. In the perfect storm of historical and cultural changes in gender and sexuality, print culture, and science, Romantic writers sought alternative ways to explain materiality as fluid, unstable, and affective in order to challenge cultural narratives that insisted on notions of discrete sexed bodies, embodied subjectivities, isolated things, or stable texts. The introduction establishes a literary, critical, historical, and theoretical context for reading texts, bodies, things, and language as transgressive materialities that entangle with and alter the matters of the world, as they move across prescribed limits and braid together mobile forms of affect, embodiment, and discursivity. To help uncover this dynamic materiality in Romantic-era texts, the introduction provides a primer on new materialism and offers it as theoretical model and praxis. The collection, the editors conclude, not only reveals a new materialist imaginary for Romanticism but also unveils material transgressions that alter new materialism’s often strictly ontological approach.
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