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Introducing contingency and that which did not happen as necessary and revealing conditions both of Romanticism itself and of our critical relationship with it, Counterfactual Romanticism explores the affordances of counterfactualism as a heuristic and as an imaginative tool. Innovatively extending counterfactual thought experiments from history and the social sciences to literary historiography and literary criticism and theory, the volume reveals the ways in which the shapes of Romanticism are conditioned by that which did not come to pass. Exploring – and creatively performing – various modalities of counterfactual speculation and inquiry across a range of Romantic-period authors, genres and concerns, and identifying the Romantic credentials of counterfactual thought, the introduction and eleven chapters in this collection offer a radical new purchase on literary history, on the relationship between history and fiction, on our historicist methods to date – and thus on the Romanticisms we (think we) have inherited. Counterfactual Romanticism provides a ground-breaking method of re-reading literary pasts and our own reading presents; in the process, literary production, texts and reading practices are unfossilised and defamiliarised. To emancipate the counterfactual imagination and embrace the counterfactual turn and its provocations is to reveal the literary multiverse and quantum field within which our far-from-inevitable literary inheritance is located.

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Romantic-era literary forgery and British alternative pasts
Damian Walford Davies

Theorising the relation between forgery and Romantic counterfactualism, this chapter analyses the credit afforded to forged pasts and texts during the Romantic period. The chapter argues that in the hands of James Macpherson, Thomas Chatterton and Edward Williams (‘Iolo Morganwg’), forgery’s ‘counterfactual world’ becomes a modality of Romantic counterfactualism’s investment in ‘possibilism’. Forgery in the service of national and local identity and of national literary history is insightfully located in spaces of loss – material, cultural, political – and in the context of recuperative ‘possibilities’.

in Counterfactual Romanticism
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Counterfactual Romanticism
Damian Walford Davies

, involving us in the so-called ‘Romantic Ideology’ while at the same time 12 Introduction ‘guaranteeing a sceptical distantiation’, and affording us a metaperspective on the political partisanship and psychological biases of our critical allegiances. Indulging in rhetoric that is – one hopes – to be forgiven in the final sentence of an introduction, I called Romantic counterfactualism ‘a literary-critical version of Romantic dissidence – resistant, then as now, to the tyranny of “things as they are” ’.57 Like the ‘infernal method’ of Blake’s actual printing technique

in Counterfactual Romanticism
Damian Walford Davies

or harmless fantasies that have only recently been recognised as what they are – a reaction formation to his great fear of political repression, not only for himself but also for his invalid sister. I do not say that Blake or Lamb or the others would have written better without these fears, but they assuredly would have written differently. Chief among these Romantic counterfactuals is one I pursue here, as a self-challenging experiment or speculative trial run for the present occasion of Counterfactual Romanticism, to see what light such a perspective might cast

in Counterfactual Romanticism
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A counterfactual ghost story
Damian Walford Davies

modality of the Romantic counterfactual. As I prepare to write the first full modern biography of Thelwall, I keep returning to them, less interested in the ‘what ifs’ or ‘might have beens’ of literary history than in what probably did happen – which, however, can be confirmed only when, or if, lost archives are found. In their absence, I fill gaps in the record with educated intuition, intertwining the voices of scholar and storyteller and interweaving scraps of historicised hypothesis from multiple genres and various parts of Thelwall’s life and writing, reception and

in Counterfactual Romanticism