Essays in Romanticism

What Remains: Geoffrey Hartman and the Shock of Imagination1This essay is a shortened and modified version of Chapter 3 of my Theory at Yale: The Strange Case of Deconstruction in America (New York: Fordham University Press, 2015), and appears here with t

Essays in Romanticism (2015), 22, (2), 183–201.

Abstract

This essay examines ways in which Geoffrey Hartman’s classic study Wordsworth’s Poetry (1964) troubles the notion of the imagination as an integral identity or power. Despite his book’s famous identification of the apocalyptic imagination with self-consciousness, Hartman makes legible the possibility that self-consciousness is a reaction formation to something akin to an experience of shock. Far from being an exaggerated instance of the egoistic sublime or of so-called Romantic ideology, this violent, haunted, and rhetorically complex imagination operates on the near side of trauma and seems in its most intense manifestations a non-human, even non-animate force.

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Author details

Redfield, Marc