Constellations of a Contemporary Romanticism takes its title and point of departure from Walter Benjamin’s concept of the historical constellation, which puts both “contemporary” and “romanticism” in play as period designations and critical paradigms. Featuring fascinating and diverse contributions by an international roster of distinguished scholars working in and out of romanticism—from deconstruction to new historicism, from queer theory to postcolonial studies, from visual culture to biopolitics—this volume makes good on a central tenet of Benjamin’s conception of history: These critics “grasp the constellation” into which our “own era has formed with a definite earlier one.” Each of these essays approaches romanticism as a decisive and unexpired thought experiment that makes demands on and poses questions for our own time: What is the unlived of a contemporary romanticism? What has romanticism’s singular untimeliness bequeathed to futurity? What is romanticism’s contemporary “redemption value” for painting and politics, philosophy and film?
What might be Romanticism now? In tackling the implications of this question, which entails thinking Romanticism less as a period designation and more as a constellation of critical paradigms, Khalip and Pyle release us from the historical time (and, just as importantly, historicization) of Romanticism to think it forward as ‘something evermore about to be.’ If, as Paul de Man suggested nearly fifty years ago, we have experienced Romanticism ‘in its passing away,’ the essays collected here reveal to us the contemporariness of that ‘passing away,’ inflecting it as an interpretive act in which we have not only participated but to which we continue to contribute. Constellations of a Contemporary Romanticism will be essential reading for anyone interested in what Romanticism was, is, and will become. It fundamentally reconfigures Romanticism as ‘our contemporary’—as the critical alliance of the past with the present, and the present with the future—and challenges us to imagine the future inscribed in our own now.
University of Connecticut-Storrs
This volume invokes Walter Benjamin’s notion of a constellation, in which past and present meet or pass along a two-way street, to describe the different articulated conjunctions or passing through between contemporary cultural media (art, literature, film) and romanticism that occur in these fifteen essays. The constellation that editors Jacques Khalip and Forest Pyle identify is propelled by a Benjaminian understanding of what the editors here call “strange adjacencies” rather than alignments of cause with effect, between romanticism and now, adjacencies that recall those that Benjamin identified in the way an image (or a constellation) might pulse with an arresting temporality. The essays themselves offer a superlative, often commanding account of how we might read romanticism now, and further, how we might recast the then and now axis that we use to do so, in our own time. The array of scholarly voices and arguments in this collection is arresting. The critical differences that emerge across the volume as each scholar takes up the invitation to write about a contemporary romanticism make clear how many constellations this volume creates for thinking about where romanticism and the contemporary might be said to occupy a shared space of writing.
University of Wisconsin-Madison