Romanticism and Modernity

Thomas Pfau and Robert Mitchell (editors)



Duke English professor Pfau contributes to this republication of a special issue of European Romantic Review that explores a half-century of rapid societal and intellectual change.

Though traditionally defined as a relatively brief time period (typically from 1780-1830) the "Romantic era" constitutes a crucial, indeed unique, transitional phase in what has come to be called "modernity," for it was during these fifty years that myriad disciplinary, aesthetic, economic, and political changes long in the making accelerated dramatically.

The chapters in this collection edited by Pfau and fellow Duke English professor Mitchell argue that Romanticism’s marked ambivalence and resistance to decisive conceptualization arises precisely from the fact that Romantic authors simultaneously extended the project of European modernity while offering Romantic concepts as means for a sustained critical reflection on that very process. Focusing especially on the topics of form (both literary and organic), secularization (and its political correlates, utopia and apocalypse), and the question of how one narrates the arrival of modernity, this collection collectively emphasizes the importance of understanding modernity through the lens of Romanticism, rather than simply understanding Romanticism as part of modernity.