Introduction R The central canonical texts of Romanticism resonate with gender instabilities that were concealed from view as long as Romanticism was critically regarded as a singular type of literature dominated by six male poets, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and John Keats, who could be abstracted from their time. The poets themselves contributed to this view by celebrating the individual, the lyric, the subjective, and, most significantly, the non-historic. The work of powerful cultural custodians such as Matthew Arnold reinforced the notion of a time- less Romanticism that best expressed an ideal Englishness. Matthew Arnold’s preface to his edition of the poems of Wordsworth and his 1880 essay on Keats initiated a critical tendency to articulate critiques of Romanticism that restate the Romantic revolution in Romantic terms. This sense of Romanticism has been defined by elements such as the concept of the transcendent imagination, the subjectivity of the poet, his experiments with genre, and his celebration of nature. Morse Peckham’s article “Toward a Theory of Romanticism” exemplifies this critical practice.1 Peckham restates the Romantic ethos in his theory of Romanticism and remains within the parameters of the agenda announced by Romantic writers in public and quasi- public documents such as the “Preface” to the Lyrical Ballads, The Biographia Literaria, and letters and journals. The conceptual product of Peckham’s theory is homogenous and singly gendered. His work is a symptom of a critical attitude that has participated in a virtuous circle created by the...
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