The Genealogy of the Romantic Symbol

Front Cover
OUP Oxford, Nov 29, 2007 - Art - 218 pages
Despite its widely acknowledged importance in and beyond the thought of the Romantic period, the distinctive concept of the symbol articulated by such writers as Goethe and F. W. J. Schelling in Germany and S. T. Coleridge in England has defied adequate historical explanation. In contrast to previous scholarship, Nicholas Halmi's study provides such an explanation by relating the content of Romantic symbolist theory - often criticized as irrationalist - to the cultural needs of itstime. Because its genealogical method eschews a single disciplinary perspective, this study is able to examine the Romantic concept of the symbol in a broader intellectual context than previous scholarship, a context ranging chronologically from classical antiquity to the present and encompassingliterary criticism and theory, aesthetics, semiotics, theology, metaphysics, natural philosophy, astronomy, poetry, and the origins of landscape painting. The concept is thus revealed to be a specifically modern response to modern discontents, neither reverting to pre-modern modes of thought nor secularizing Christian theology, but countering Enlightenment dualisms with means bequeathed by the Enlightenment itself. This book seeks, in short, to do for the Romantic symbol what Percy ByssheShelley called on poets to do for the world: to lift from it its veil of familiarity.

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About the author (2007)


Educated at Cornell University and at the University of Toronto, Nicholas Halmi currently teaches English and comparative literature at the University of Washington in Seattle. He has lectured on Enlightenment and Romantic topics, particularly the concept of the symbol, in the US, Canada, UK, and Germany. He has been Advisory editor of Romanticism on the Net since 1996, review editor since 2004. He is an editorial board member of Modern Language Quarterly and was elected to the Modern Language Association's Committee on Scholarly Editions and to the Advisory Board of the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism in 2005.

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