Romantic Revelations: Visions of Post-Apocalyptic Life and Hope in the Anthropocene
Published: September 2019© 2019
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 264 Pages
Dimensions: 6.30 x 9.25
264 Pages, 6.30 x 9.25 x 1.00 in
Romantic Revelations shows that the nonhuman is fundamental to Romanticism’s political responses to climatic catastrophes. Exploring what he calls "post-apocalyptic Romanticism," Chris Washington intervenes in the critical conversation that has long defined Romanticism as an apocalyptic field. "Apocalypse" means "the revelation of a perfected world," which sees Romanticism’s back-to-nature environmentalism as a return to paradise and peace on earth. Romantic Revelations, however, demonstrates that the destructive climate change events of 1816, "the year without a summer," changed Romantic thinking about the environment and the end of the world. Their post-apocalyptic visions correlate to the beginning of the Anthropocene, the time when humans initiated the possible extinction of their own species and potentially the earth. Rather than constructing paradises where humans are reborn or human existence ends, the later Romantics are interested in how to survive in the ashes after great social and climatic global disasters.
Romantic Revelations argues that Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, John Clare, and Jane Austen sketch out a post-apocalyptic world that, in contrast to the sunnier Romantic narratives, is paradoxically the vision that offers us hope. In thinking through life after disaster, Washington contends that these authors craft an optimistic vision of the future that leads to a new politics.
Introduction: There Is a Light That Never Goes Out?
1. The Mind Is Its Own Place: What Percy Shelley's Mountain Did Not Say
2. No More Cakes and Ale, Only Oil Slicks: Mary Shelley’s Post-Apocalyptic State of Nature
3. Byron’s Speculative Turn: The Biopolitics of Paradise
4. Birds Do It, Bees Do It: John Clare, Biopolitics, and the Nonhuman Origins of Love
5. The Best of All Possible End of the Worlds: Jane Austen’s Frankenstein, or Love in the Ruins
Coda: After Extinctualism: Hope for Life
"Washington’s richly suggestive book is a timely and useful polemic for all those working in Romantic studies who value the period as an age of revolution and institutional change. In postapocalyptic constructions of hope and love, Romanticism finds new resonance in our own age of climate crisis. Even amidst the so-called sixth extinction, Washington makes the case that there is ample space and time to defamiliarize ‘the thing with feathers’ and the ‘ever-fixed mark.’ Washington’s call for a new social contract that thinks beyond narrow species categories is a welcome reminder that this cohort of two-hundred-year-old Romantic reformers is still changing the world."Fuson Wang, University of California, Riverside, Journal of British Studies
"The philosophically speculative twist Washington brings to bear on what are undoubtedly, unavoidably acute, searing political challenges makes this a book for our times. As we exit the Anthropocene, hopefully with grace rather than blindness and resentment, to paraphrase John Ricco, we are compelled, as Washington suggests, to understand ‘the world on its own terms.’ Seems damn-near impossible to me. But Washington gives me hope that this can be done with hope, and love, and that an emerging generation of Romantics scholars among whom he counts himself might just pull it off."Joel Faflak, University of Western Ontario, Romantic Circles
"Fascinating, and brimming with energy, ideas, and critical intelligence, Romantic Revelations offers a new account of ‘post-apocalyptic’ Romantic literature in Byron, the Shelleys, Clare, and Austen."David Higgins, Associate Professor of English, University of Leeds
"This book provides a rigorous, transformative account of Romanticism's post-apocalyptic visions, proposing the compelling thesis that life can begin at last after the extinction of human dominance. Drawing on aesthetics and ethics, close reading and political critique, it constitutes a singular contribution to anti-anthropocentric thought."David Collings, Department of English, Bowdoin College
"Romantic Revelations represents the most vital, provocative, and timely contribution to Romantic Studies that I have read in quite some time. Offering a serious advance in state-of-the-art research, Romantic Revelations masterfully brings together and interweaves three of the most innovative, timely approaches to Romanticism today: Anthropocene eco-theory, Speculative Realism, and the ethico-political turn in post-structuralism/ deconstruction."Evan Gottlieb, School of Writing, Literature, and Film, Oregon State University