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Imagining the King’s Death: Figurative Treason, Fantasies of Regicide, 1793–1796, John Barrell, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000

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AbstractThis review essay has two divisions. In its first division it sets out a brief overview of recent Marxist research in the field of ‘Romanticism’, identifying two major lines of inquiry. On the one hand, the attempt to expand our sense of what might constitute a ruthless critique of social relations; on the other, an attempt to develop a materialist account of aesthetic disengagement. This first division concludes with an extended summary of John Barrell’s account of the treason trials of the middle 1790s, as set out in his book Imagining the King’s Death. It argues that Barrell’s book is the most significant recent work belonging to the second line of inquiry. In its second division the review responds to Barrell’s concluding discussion, in which the aesthetic consequences of the treason trials are established by means of a close reading of some of the poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The division finishes with some more general remarks on the subject of a materialist aesthetics of disengagement.

Affiliations: 1: Birkbeck College, University of


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1. Barrell John Imagining the King’s Death: Figurative Treason, Fantasies of Regicide, 1793–1796 2000 Oxford Oxford University Press
2. Bowles William Lisle Verses on the Benevolent Institution of the Philanthropic Society, for Protecting and Educating the Children of Vagrants and Criminals 1790 Bath R. Crutwell
3. Bromwich David Disowned by Memory: Wordsworth’s Poetry of the 1790s 1998 Chicago Chicago University Press
4. Coleridge Samuel Taylor Collected Works, Volume 7. ‘Biographia Literaria’, Volume I 1983a Princeton Princeton University Press
5. Coleridge Samuel Taylor Collected Works, Volume 7. ‘Biographia Literaria’, Volume II 1983b Princeton Princeton University Press
6. Coleridge Samuel Taylor Jackson H.J. Selected Letters 1987 Oxford Oxford University Press
7. Goodwin Albert The Friends of Liberty: The English Democratic Movement in the Age of the French Revolution 1979 London Hutchinson
8. Jarvis Simon Wordsworth’s Philosophic Song 2007 Cambridge Cambridge University Press
9. Johnson Samuel Lives of the Poets 1776 Vol Volume III London William Pickering
10. Keach William Arbitrary Power: Romanticism, Language, Politics 2004 Princeton Princeton University Press
11. Linebaugh Peter The London Hanged: Crime and Civil Society in the Eighteenth Century 2003 Second Edition London Verso
12. Löwy Michael , Sayre Robert Porter Catherine Romanticism Against the Tides of Modernity 2002 Durham, NC. Duke University Press
13. Thompson Edward Palmer The Making of the English Working Class 1966 New York Vintage
14. Thompson Edward Palmer The Poverty of Theory and Other Essays 1978 New York Monthly Review Press
15. Thompson Edward Palmer The Romantics: England in a Revolutionary Age 1998 London Merlin
16. Watson J. Steven The Reign of George III: 1760–1815 1963 Oxford Oxford University Press
17. Whale John The Imagination Under Pressure, 1789–1832 2000 Cambridge Cambridge University Press
18. Woodmansee Martha The Author, Art, and the Market: Rereading the History of Aesthetics 1996 [1994] New York Columbia University Press

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