The Soul in British Romanticism

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Ralf Haekel

The Soul in British Romanticism. Negotiating Human Nature in Philosophy, Science and Poetry

ISBN 978-3-86821-527-4, 256 S., kt., € 28,50 (2014)

(Studien zur Englischen Romantik, Bd. 14)

The Soul in British Romanticism provides a history of the modern concept of the human and the nascence of the human sciences during the long eighteenth century as well as a theory of Romantic poetry. The book investigates the forms and functions of the human soul from the late seventeenth to the early nineteenth century: during the Enlightenment, the traditional notion of an immortal and immaterial soul was replaced by immanent concepts such as vitalism, the nervous system and the brain. In the course of this development, the key faculties associated with the soul – transcendence, immortality and imagination – were increasingly negotiated in poetry. Thus, the transformation of the soul, leading to a fundamentally new and different understanding of what it is to be human, also created a new conception of the medium of literature. Romantic poetry tries to recapture the lost qualities of the human soul in and through the creative imagination whichbecomes the essence of poetry and a warranty of art’s transcendence and immortality. On the other hand, this triggers a reflection on the immanent and material basis of poetry because, paradoxically, the constant reference to transcendence in immanence ultimately leads to a profound reflection on language, texture and on the materiality of the medium of poetry. Through this medial self-reflexivity, Romantic poetry becomes the first form of modern literature.

Buchvorschau / Inhaltsverzeichnis (pdf)


"The book should not only be of great interest for scholars in the field of Romanticism, but also for anyone interested in key questions in late 17th to early 19th century metaphysics and epistemology."

Justus Conrad Gronau, ZAA: Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik 64.4 (2016)