Sympathy and the State in the Romantic Era
Systems, State Finance, and the Shadows of Futurity
Routledge – 2007 – 280 pages
Series: Routledge Studies in Romanticism
Sympathy and the State in the Romantic Era explores a fascinating connection between two seemingly unrelated Romantic-era discourses, outlining the extent to which eighteenth and early nineteenth century theories of sympathy were generated by crises of state finance. Through readings of authors such as David Hume, Adam Smith, William Wordsworth, and P.B. Shelley, this volume establishes the ways in which crises of state finance encouraged the development of theories of sympathy capable of accounting for both the fact of "social systems" as well as the modes of emotional communication by means of which such systems bound citizens to one another.
Employing a methodology that draws on the systems theory of Niklas Luhmann, Michel Serres, and Giovanni Arrighi, as well as Gilles Deleuze’s theories of time and affect, this book argues that eighteenth and early nineteenth century philosophies of sympathy emerged as responses to financial crises. Individual chapters focus on specific texts by David Hume, Adam Smith, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Ann Yearsley, William Wordsworth, and P.B. Shelley, but Mitchell also draws on periodicals, pamphlets, and parliamentary hearings to make the argument that Romantic era theories of sympathy developed new discourses about social systems intended both to explain, as well as contain, the often disruptive effects of state finance and speculation.
"One looks forward to the catalytic effect it should have on scholarship in this area…a rich thought-provoking collection of arguments." -- Hugh Roberts, University of California, Irvine
Acknowledgments; Abbreviations; Introduction; Chapter 1. Finance and the Exchange of Passions: The Origins of the Collective Imagination; Chapter 2. The Violence of System: Rousseau and Smith on Identification and Sympathy; Chapter 3. Anti-Slavery Poetry and the Speculative Subject; Chapter 4. Systems and the Parasite: Wordsworth and the Financial Crisis of 1797; Chapter 5. The Ghost of Gold: National Debt, Imagery, and the Politics of Sympathy in P. B. Shelley; Conclusion. State Finance, Systems, and Literary Criticism; Endnotes; Bibliography
Robert Mitchell is Assistant Professor of English at Duke University, USA.