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This symbolic activity is introduced under the name "schematism" and is further characterized as a "product and, as it were, a monogram, of pure a priori imagination, through which. In Kant's transcendental theory, then, all justification is necessarily internal, a metonymic chain of hypotheses that, by virtue of their repeated usage as pseudo-explanations, congeal into valid components of what Kant calls "transcendental reflection. Kant's answer comes in the form of something he calls "transcendental schematism," a subterranean synthetic activity designed to restore the epistemic coherence of the subject and its world from which Kant's argument, until just now, had taken such pains to estrange us.

The kind of conspiratorial hermeneutics here at issue has been described as "a method for begging the question on a grand scale," which is to say, a "method for proving things, independent of empirical appeals, by demonstrating that they are self-evidently presupposed by what is supposedly self-evident" Herrnstein-Smith, The larger question to be addressed by the study of social and cultural history of which romantic studies is a vital part is how to respond to a past that has defined the rhetorical, disciplinary, and institutional mechanisms which the historical positivism in the last century and the New Historicism in ours have been devising in the vain hope of transcending that past.

To redeem the past either through exhaustive contextualization or by articulating its contradictions through a "self-consciously belated" hermeneutics of disbelief is ultimately to take the bait of hypothetical narratives that rose to prominence in an age of rapidly collapsing revolutionary ideals. The question, I suspect, is more than "academic," and answers to it will have to be larger in scope than can be hoped for from "disciplinary" adjustments, nor is an imaginative response to the problem of historical knowledge likely to be found in a hyper-professionalization of academic practice or in the languid anti-professional ruminations of a so-called "experimental critical" writing.


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Given the postmodern intuition that the past conspired in the manufacture and transmission of the very intellectual methods and institutions through which we might attempt to comprehend and redeem it, criticism ought, perhaps, to be written in a spirit of ironic dedication. For when the study of history has exhausted its disciplinary resources -- having recognized them, finally, as effects produced by the very object of its study: the past -- the question of criticism will not be merely intra-institutional in which form it could always be "solved" by following curricular and methodological paths of our own devising but ethical.

We may thus conceive of criticism in terms of ethics rather than technique, a mode of thinking, teaching, and writing always obligated to reflect on though never able to indulge in the seduction of methodological and narrative closure. For any attempt to reify the past in purely discursive and conceptual form invariably loses all perspective or "distance" on the ideological dynamics of the present in which such belated "knowledge" is being produced and circulated. As Lee Patterson has put it, "[t]o apply the conditions of our scholarship to life is an almost inevitable transaction, but it in fact denatures, because it dematerializes, our historical existence.

America: A Prophecy by William Blake

Indeed, the lines of influence ought really to run the other way, from our lives to our scholarship" The remarkable collusion between the cultural output of Romanticism -- in the broader sense of European cultural history as it unfolds between the later eighteenth and the mid- nineteenth century -- and the historicist methods committed to identifying and resolving the enigmas and antagonisms of that output suggests that one of the motives encoded in the formal and material practices of the Romantic aesthetic involved the emergence of "criticism" and its institutional forums as a desirable and legitimate "supplement" to that aesthetic.

Given the logic of Romanticism's critical, fictional, and prophetic narratives examined earlier, the project of a belated, "critical" articulation of Romanticism's allegedly "symptomatic" or "aesthetic" ideology may, in fact, constitute but a repetition, a supplemental effect of that very symptom. In reconsidering our present technologies of critical knowledge as having been shaped, a forteriori , by the very culture which these technologies hope to possess in conceptual and disciplinary form, we may not only accept but, perhaps, welcome Schlegel's distinction between criticism as a form of intellectual conquest "a laborious game of dice with hollow phrases" and as the reflexive experience of the Idea, that "continual self-creating interchange of two conflicting thoughts.

Schlegel's concept of irony thus throws into relief the undecidable place of "criticism" Kritik : can it legitimately hope to correct retroactively, as it were Romanticism's ideological entanglements, or is that period distinguished by having bequeathed us the irony of a critical enterprise vacillating between a quest for conceptual and methodological authority and a reflexive understanding of that quest as an impossible one? Simultaneously elated and disillusioned, that is, we may be in a position to pursue our daily activities of teaching and writing as fundamentally "open" in their implications.

To think through those implications, however, requires that we make a genuine effort at gauging the distance between our discursive and institutional practices and habits and what those ought to be. It is, I am sure, a conversation worth pursuing. A substantially expanded version of this essay is forthcoming in Lessons of Romanticism ed. Robert F. A special thank you goes to Joseph Viscomi for his generous and expert assistance with reproducing the Blake illustrations.

As I have argued elsewhere, the crisis of the subject at the very moment of its logical determination becomes itself the point of origin for an essentially narrative conception of philosophy in the work of F. Schelling, who paid particularly close attention to the schematism in his early writings. See my Idealism and the Endgame of Theory , Benjamin, Walter. Hannah Arendt. New York: Harcourt Brace, Blake, William.

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The Urizen Books. David Worrall. Princeton: Princeton University Press, Godwin, William. Caleb Williams. Maurice Hindle. Harmondsworth: Penguin, Herrnstein-Smith, Barbara. Kant, Immanuel. Kritik der Reinen Vernunft. Wilhelm Weischedel. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, Critique of Pure Reason. Norman Kemp-Smith. New York: Macmillan, Levinson, Marjorie. Wordsworth's Great-Period Poems.

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Cambridge: Cambridge UP, McGann, Jerome. The Romantic Ideology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Patterson, Lee. Madison: U of Wisconsin Press, Rosen, Stanley. Hermeneutics as Politics. New York: Oxford University Press, Schlegel, Friedrich. Philosophical Fragments. Smith, Paul.


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    Romanticism and Conspiracy. About this Page. About the Author s. JSON What's this? As you're browsing RC, you might see small buttons scattered on various pages. In the lines that follow Blake mentioned ancient temples going back to the Druids and beyond. Thought chang'd the infinite to a serpent; With the second paragraph Blake universalized the British scene to the World as we know it.

    Blake and the New Age

    The dominating figure is of course the reptile Dragon? At the top it's mouth emits flames. Posted by Larry Clayton at AM. Labels: Europe. No comments:. Newer Post Older Post Home.