The Study of Affect and Romanticism

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Abstract

What follows is a review essay in two parts: the first, a consideration of the general problem affect poses for literary criticism and for romantic studies in particular; the second a review of some recent, outstanding work on affect and its significance to Romanticism. The problem of affect derives primarily from the difficulty of defining or locating affect and from its equivocal relationship to modern science – as both an object of scientific scrutiny and as an emblem of the pseudo- or even unscientific. The articles and books discussed in the second half of this review handle this problem in sophisticated and surprising ways, unlocking the critical possibilities available when we read affect with less skepticism and more self-reflection.

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