Manual Aesthetic Materialism: Electricity and American Romanticism

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Here the ideality of human will tracks along the anatomy of sensation, and this means that the human body is not trapped by the world of sensation: will is the counterforce to sensation. Occupation complicates the materiality of the will by giving it the idea of a locus without an essence beyond the power of extension. The concept of chemical affinity means that substances, like human beings, have desires, and that matter is unstable.

Moreover, affinity could explain change through the rearrangement of basic particles, atoms, with simple properties. Tracing the importance of affinity to eighteenth-century chemistry, Mi-Gyung Kim shows how chemists attempted to harness affinity to finesse a philosophical chemistry that sought to explain chemical phenomena as part of the order of the universe using a language of principles like affinity, with a practical chemistry that, by contrast, considered substances and chemical operations Materiality was therefore capacious because it had to satisfy the demands of making nature intelligible, while at the same time, delivering practical laboratory results.

Within chemistry, the distinction between ponderable and imponderable immeasurable substances further allowed for kinds of matter like electricity that could not be delivered by experiment. The British chemical Newtonian tradition was generally suspicious of attempts to give elements property-bearing qualities Thackray Keats thus had no need to anticipate deconstruction by replacing the materiality of matter with the materiality of language simply because matter itself in the period was mobile, becoming, ethereal.

Finally, electricity helped Keats to understand matter as more subtle, ethereal. Time collapses the divine and mortal into a swoon in much the same way that the instantaneous conduction of electricity seems to short-circuit time. The speed of electrical conduction helped to make the seeming instantaneity of nervous action intelligible. My point here is that ideality and materiality are compatible, not antagonistic, and such compatibility is named through concepts of location, secretion, and communication.

I have argued that Romantic poets had no need to turn to language to escape the risk of essence. I have also argued that deconstruction relies on a mattercentrism that makes the turn to language the very ground of materiality. I conclude by thinking about what Romantic materialism might do for aesthetics. Although Keats criticism has signed on to an understanding of aesthetics that is necessarily class based so that the poet can be seen to be confronting that base and the phantasm of the human, I consider Romantic matter as aesthetic.

Indeed, the sensuous immediacy of the thing itself indicated a materiality that could only be known through its phenomenality as form or appearance. Romantic accounts of matter thus relentlessly foreground an aesthetic problem: the adequacy of Romantic forms of materiality to idealism. As dynamic, matter is less a substance and more an event Schleifer citing Russell, In highlighting the ways in which Romantic matter allegorizes the very problem of the aesthetic—as Hegel frames it, the ability to sensuously embody ideas—I seek a Romantic aesthetics that refuses to choose between materiality and ideality, substance and event, but rather seeks a possible ground of synthesis.

Such an aesthetic is beyond the narrow interests of class insofar as it neither presumes the triumph of things over ideas, nor those of substance over event, but rather the ability of one to communicate to the other through the formality of matter. I am indebted to Wang for this distinction between embodiment and indexing. Works Cited Anastopoulos, Charis. Particle or Wave. Princeton: PUP, Altieri, Charles. Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter: a political ecology of things. Durham: Duke UP, Boscovich, Roger. A Theory of Natural Philosophy. Cambridge: MIT Press, Melbourne: re. Butler, Judith.

New York: Routledge, I would respond by insisting upon the necessary figurality of Romantic matter--its very aesthetics resists logocentrism--and in so doing, resists ideology by not mistaking figuration for nature. I also think that Priestley was right to think about how materialism could engage with immaterialism.

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Cambridge: MIT P. Knight, David M. Atoms and Elements. London: Hutchinson, London: Routledge, LaPlace, Pierre Simon. A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities. New York: J.

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Wiley, Latour, Bruno. Levere, Trevor.

Affinity and Matter. Oxford: Clarendon, Levinson, Marjorie. London: Basil Blackwell, Loesberg, Jonathan. A Return to Aesthetics. Lussier, Mark. Romantic Dynamics. Harmondsworth: Palgrave Macmillan, Modiano, Raimonda. Coleridge and the Concept of Nature. Aesthetic Materialism moves between historical and cultural analysis and close textual reading, challenging readers to see American literature as at once formal and historical and as a product of both aesthetic and material experience.

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