Essays in Romanticism

Counting the Bodies: Ferguson and Ferguson1

Essays in Romanticism (2020), 27, (2), 153–165.

Abstract

This article examines the political and interpretive possibilities of Romantic Idealism for understanding contemporary American race relations. Working with Frances Ferguson’s Solitude and the Sublime, it puts Romantic aesthetics into a mutually constructive dialogue with afropessimist thought. That is, the underlying logic of Black Lives Matter proves to be one composed of Romantic “counting” as well as an afropessimist stance on Black alterity. Black Lives Matter, in this sense, features an aesthetics of omission and accumulation that reveals how Romantic Idealism intersects with a more expansive notion of materiality. Turning to Ferguson’s reading of William Wordsworth’s “We Are Seven,” the article contends that any analysis of Romanticism’s political stakes should make use of the Idealism central to it, and that such a use does not attenuate the urgency or efficacy of Romanticist work.

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Author details

Diaby, Bakary