John Thelwall
A counterfactual ghost story
in Counterfactual Romanticism
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Deploying a creative-critical mode, this chapter prompts a debate as to the quantum and nature of the imaginative investment informing all critical engagements with the literary past. The chapter’s larger context is the biography of John Thelwall that the author is preparing; offering an inhabitation of the counterfactual in which the spectral figures prominently, the chapter details the archival lacunae and absences that prompt the counterfactual imagination. The critic-biographer embraces counterfactual speculation as a tool through which to (re)construct a literary-political life and to understand Thelwall’s own self-conscious acts of indirection and ventriloquism in a body of transgressive poetry related to a taboo-haunted family drama of 1816.

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