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Lateness and Modern European Literature$
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Ben Hutchinson

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198767695

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198767695.001.0001

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Late Romanticism and ‘Lastness’

Late Romanticism and ‘Lastness’

(p.43) 3 Late Romanticism and ‘Lastness’
Lateness and Modern European Literature

Ben Hutchinson

Oxford University Press

If the ‘spirit of the age’ attained a pitch of self-consciousness around the late 1820s and early 1830s, nowhere is this more evident than in the persistent recurrence of a rhetoric of ‘lastness’. Chapter 3 begins by examining a range of romantic and late romantic texts—including poems by Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Beddoes, and Thomas Campbell—before focusing principally on Mary Shelley’s novel The Last Man as the most sustained engagement with the topic in this period. While romanticism inaugurates European modernity as an epoch of subjective presence, this subjectivity is paradoxically contingent on a profound sense of absence. The romantic fetishization of ‘originality’ derives its impetus from the suspicion that the achievements of the past leave little room to define the ‘modernity’ of the present on its own terms; a sense of melancholy lateness thus comes to define the period.

Keywords:   romanticism, lastness, Beddoes, Mary Shelley, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron

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