The Eighteenth-Century and Romantic Studies Research Group meets for the first time this term on Thursday 14th January, at 5pm. The speaker will be Professor Paul Hamilton, the title of whose paper will be ‘”The Experience of Everything”: Romantic Writing and Post-Kantian Philosophy’; the abstract follows below. Please note that this paper was originally advertised as being the last, not the first, in our series for Lent term.
“In English Romanticism, Coleridge and Crabb Robinson aside, there was little awareness of the way continental philosophy and literature shaped itself with ingenuity and versatility in response to Kant’s /Kritiken/. And at the present time, the phenomenon of post-Kantianism still awaits a comprehensive treatment of the discursive dissemination given such momentum by its treatment of the aesthetic. In this paper I make a Hegelian wager, though, that philosophically unselfconscious English writing was still, arguably, /reflective /of its epoch and configured itself accordingly. This premise allows me to hazard some Anglo-German comparisons directed by three main reactions to Kant which I will fill out in more detail. However, for me this is an opportunity to ask the question of whether or not that post-Kantian variety does indeed ingeniously transform itself into such very /different/ kinds of writing of the period (rather than, say, being arrested in Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy’s monolithic ‘literary absolute’). In this I believe my paper does chime with a discontent with inherited views of the aesthetic, which ‘turn art into an object for philosophy’. These range from Alain Badiou’s proposal of an ‘inaesthetic’ to the view associated with Simon Jarvis and others, deriving from Adorno, that poetry has its own philosophical song to sing and can think paratactically, independent of the constraints of philosophy’s propositional idiom. But post-Kantians had already argued that the experience of feeling unconditioned by conceptual or ethical coherence could be phenomenologically caught. Or else they staged expressive dilemmas as apparently different as Wordsworth’s Godwin crisis (/The Borderers/) and Kleist’s /Kant-Krise/. in which the persistently unassimilable status of Kant’s unconditional ground of /everything/ becomes what writing is about.”