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Romantic Theory

Forms of Reflexivity in the Revolutionary Era

Leon Chai

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Winner of the Jean-Pierre Barricelli Prize given by the International Conference on Romanticism

This original study explores the new idea of theory that emerged in the wake of the French Revolution. Leon Chai sees in the Romantic age a significant movement across several broad fields of intellectual endeavor, from theoretical concepts to an attempt to understand how they arise. He contends that this movement led to a spatial treatment of concepts, the primacy of development over concepts, and the creation of metatheory, or the formal analysis of theory.

Chai begins with P. B. Shelley on the…

Winner of the Jean-Pierre Barricelli Prize given by the International Conference on Romanticism

This original study explores the new idea of theory that emerged in the wake of the French Revolution. Leon Chai sees in the Romantic age a significant movement across several broad fields of intellectual endeavor, from theoretical concepts to an attempt to understand how they arise. He contends that this movement led to a spatial treatment of concepts, the primacy of development over concepts, and the creation of metatheory, or the formal analysis of theory.

Chai begins with P. B. Shelley on the need for conceptual framework, or theory. He then considers how Friedrich Wolf and Friedrich Schlegel shift from a preoccupation with antiquity to a heightened self-awareness of Romantic nostalgia for that lost past. He finds a similar reflexivity in Napoleon's battle plan at Jena and, subsequently, in Hegel's move from substance to subject. Chai then turns to the sciences: Xavier Bichat's rejection of the idea of a unitary vital principle for life as process; the chemical theory of matter developed by Humphry Davy; and the work of Évariste Galois, whose proof of the solvability of equations using radicals ushered in the age of metatheory.

Chai concludes with reactions to theory: Coleridge's proposal of the conflict between reason and understanding as a model of theory, Mary Shelley's effort to replace theory with a different kind of relationship to external others, and Hölderlin's reflection on the limits of representation and the possibility of fulfillment beyond it.

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Romantic Theory

Leon Chai

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Reviews

Reviews

I would unhesitatingly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in how the history of thought impinges on current theoretical concerns.

An excellent monograph, which should be required reading for those interested in the theoretical underpinnings of the Romantic period as well as Romantic scholars in general.

Fine new study... Chai's book makes a valuable contribution to the study of Romanticism.

Chai's book will quickly occupy a place among those prominent recent works that have shaped the understanding of both Romanticism and our relationship to it.

This is a difficult but rewarding book. It will make its mark even on those readers least prepared to assent to Chai’s arguments, and it is likely to instigate an intriguing debate.

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About

Book Details

Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
1. The Triumph of Theory
2. Forms of Nostalgia
3. The Movement of Return
4. The House of Life
5. Beyond Radical Empiricism
6. Galois Theory
7. Toward a Definition of Reflection
8. The

Preface
Acknowledgments
1. The Triumph of Theory
2. Forms of Nostalgia
3. The Movement of Return
4. The House of Life
5. Beyond Radical Empiricism
6. Galois Theory
7. Toward a Definition of Reflection
8. The Dream of Subjectivity
9. The Limits of Theory
Conclusion
Epilogue
Notes
Bibliographic Essay
Primary Sources
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Leon Chai

Leon Chai is a professor of English and comparative literature at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.