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By Paul Gilmore

Aesthetic Materialism: electrical energy and American Romanticism specializes in American romantic writers' makes an attempt to theorize aesthetic event throughout the language of electrical energy. according to clinical and technological advancements, so much particularly the telegraph, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century electric imagery mirrored the mysterious workings of the actual brain in addition to the doubtful, occasionally surprising connections among participants. Writers corresponding to Whitman, Melville, and Douglass drew on photos of electrical energy and telegraphy to explain literature either because the fabricated from particular financial and social stipulations and as a way of transcending the person made up our minds by way of such stipulations. Aesthetic Materialism strikes among ancient and cultural research and shut textual interpreting, difficult readers to work out American literature as right now formal and old and as a made from either aesthetic and fabric experience.

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Additional info for Aesthetic Materialism: Electricity and American Romanticism

Sample text

While Coleridge’s romantic electricity illustrated an eternal law of structure and opposition that should be replicated in a traditional hierarchical society, spiritualists’ more sentimentalized telegraph revealed a vast egalitarian spiritual union. In both cases, however, the individual experiences of historical forces, social stratification, and lived bodily (sensuous, aesthetic) existence were sublimated in favor of the universal truth they suggested—either the universal law governing all relations or the reduction of human life and differences to a spiritual equality.

It also has important political consequences, for it ennobles and empowers all of humankind: “This rapid progress of knowledge . . extends itself not this way or that way only, but in all directions, [and] will . . be the means, under God, of extirpating all error and prejudice, and of putting an end to all undue and usurped authority. . ”14 As historian James Delbourgo century—to reincorporate ideas of free will and Christian theology with an emphasis on a mechanically determined physical world.

15 While electricity suggested the possibility of a divine presence in a physical and political world governed by Newtonian mechanics, the drive to understand and control electricity simultaneously underscored the competing intentions of humanism. 16 By the end of the eighteenth century, then, electricity simultaneously could represent both a divine force beyond humankind’s control and the human capacity to use God’s gifts to perfect himself. Coleridge’s Electricity and Romantic Ideology In deploying electricity as a metaphor in his earlier poetry, Coleridge drew on these two meanings, connecting a scientific understanding of electricity with a political-spiritual utopianism; after his conservative turn, however, he would reject such revolutionary and material understandings and posit electricity as simply revealing a complex universal law.

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