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.

The academy and the canon

Counterfactual Romanticism 11 •• Counterfactual and future Romanticisms: the academy and the canon Edward Larrissy Romanticism, ideology and the counterfactual Counterfactual histories are heuristic constructions: they are made in order to reveal and explore the road not taken, the possibility whose potential was thwarted by a chain of events of different origin or temper. They thus share characteristics with those alternative histories that were beloved of postmodernist fiction-writers and theorists. Yet the motives that prompted the latter were subtly

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Romanticism and the Chinese awakening 10 •• Romanticism and the (counterfactual) Chinese awakening Peter J. Kitson China and Romantic orientalism Today, ‘Romantic Orientalism’ is an established and vibrant sub-field of postcolonial Romantic Studies, with major new interventions appearing with great frequency. The focus of this critical endeavour, following Edward Said, has primarily been on the ‘Near East’, the Levant and India. This is because – as Said argued – British and French colonial policy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was largely

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Scott, Banim, Galt and Mitford

Counterfactual Romanticism 8 •• Counterfactual speculations in late Romanticism: Scott, Banim, Galt and Mitford Angela Esterhammer Counterfactualism takes on a variety of forms in the literature of the 1820s – the decade in which the concept of the factual itself emerged.1 In the prose genres that increasingly dominated the literary marketplace, ‘fact’ in the form of history, documentary and life-writing confronts that which counters or mediates fact: fantasy, fakery, imagined history, pure speculation. Indeed, the term speculation is especially prevalent in

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Counterfactual Romanticism and the aesthetics of contingency

The aesthetics of contingency 1 •• ‘The object as in itself it really is not’: Counterfactual Romanticism and the aesthetics of contingency Anne C. McCarthy The one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it. (Oscar Wilde)1 Counterfactual methodologies ask us to confront the reality of contingency, prompting us to reconsider the status of a past often assumed to have been inevitable. In doing so, the counterfactual recasts the present and the future as sites of radical possibility where basic assumptions about identity are undone through the recognition of

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Counterfactual Romanticism

Introduction •• Introduction: Counterfactual Romanticism Damian Walford Davies The Counterfactual Angel Walter Benjamin’s great, final crisis-document of early 1940, the twenty numbered paragraphs comprising his ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’, offers a cryptic critique of historicism, specifically of the determinism, continuum mentality and narrative of progress articulated by Marxist historical materialism. The document’s most creative and conceptually troubling moment is the ekphrastic angelology provided in the ninth thesis, in which Benjamin

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Mary Wollstonecraft’s Frankenstein

Counterfactual obstetrics 6 •• Counterfactual obstetrics: Mary Wollstonecraft’s Frankenstein  Damian Walford Davies ‘Obstetrics’: from the Latin for ‘midwife’ – literally, ‘one who stands before/opposite/in the way of’ the woman in childbirth. As both heirs to and active deliverers of Romanticism’s inheritances, we are ourselves in an uncanny parturitive position. Assisting at the iterative, often difficult (re)births of literary texts, we participate in acts of critical midwifery. What follows is a provocation – a performance of a critical heuristic that is

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A counterfactual ghost story

Counterfactual Romanticism 7 •• John Thelwall: a counterfactual ghost story Judith Thompson Preamble Christmas 1844. The chimes rang out across the rooftops of London. From the darkened window I turned back to the chamber where my friend sat, pale as Allegory beneath the painted ceiling, slowly revolving in his hand a tumbler of negus. He was thinking, no doubt, of the guests who had lately circled our blazing hearth, social and gay, now gone to their comfortable homes, and perhaps turning his mind to certain other long-departed spirits. ‘Tell me about the

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Romantic-era literary forgery and British alternative pasts

. Providentially, perhaps, a Glamorgan poet spent three weeks in residence there in 1799, copying texts from medieval manuscripts for inclusion in a three-volume printed anthology that would become a cornerstone of Welsh literary history; the second volume will be dedicated to the library’s owner, Thomas Johnes. Not everything will be lost. The fire at Hafod in Cardiganshire, Wales, was among the 79 Counterfactual Romanticism ­ etter-documented of the multiple catastrophes that blew holes in the b Welsh past. A generation earlier, the scholar-poet Evan Evans had written with

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– provocations that both provide alternative realities and strip the veneer of legitimacy from received history. Written on the cusp of the Romantic period, The Recess is arguably the first in a line of feminist counterfactual histories that includes Mary Shelley’s Valperga (1823) and 107 Counterfactual Romanticism Virginia Woolf’s fiction of Judith Shakespeare in A Room of One’s Own (1929). However, the novel should not be tied to a feminist content, whether cautionary or liberatory, since it is really a series of provocations for thinking about the issues it raises. I begin

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