and the War on Terror
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The Age of Romanticism in a Time of


While conventional narratives of Romantic literature emphasize the imagination of the lyric poet and cultural expressions of sentimentality during a period of intense social transformation, the Romantic era is defined by the emergence of modern political terror and many of its related concepts and concerns. Beginning at the end of the Enlightenment, the Romantic era bears witness to the emergence of human rights and republican liberty; the abolition of slavery and decisive calls for women’s rights; anxieties about empire and transformations in domestic public culture. Above all else, it is the French Revolution of 1789 that defines the social and political milieu within which Romantics authors imagined, debated, and represented the world around them.  Romantic literature responds energetically to this defining event in European culture and democracy and its aftermath as the Revolution became defined by Robespierre’s state-sanctioned violence that became known as the Terror, beginning in 1792. Romanticism bears witness to these events and records, moreover, the ways in which ideals of rationality and the social contract are transformed first by the Terror and then further by the unrelenting wars in Europe and the colonies at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The term Terrorism comes into being during this time, as British critics of Robespierre first identify this enemy of the state as a terrorist. But the birth of the idea of terrorism is not the only legacy that matters for our own time. Here are just a few key ideas that bear upon the works included to the right. Romanticism witnesses a collective recognition of the horrors of slavery and a growing concern with the British Empire, as leading thinkers becoming more critical than ever before of the destructive idea that some on this globe are less human than others. Romanticism also records how individuals grappled with challenges to homeland security and developed biometric tactics of combating the troubling anonymity that accompanied urban growth and increasingly cosmopolitan populations. Moreover, this era powerfully re- inscribed the logic of fundamental differences between east and west. And it sought to understand violence and ethics amid the pressing need to negotiate the idea and ideal of hospitality toward strangers. In short, this rich period of artistic and cultural production marks a particularly vibrant archive of concerns, anxieties, and aspirations that continue to impact what it means to live in an age defined by terror. This website collects an eclectic range of Romantic-period writings that mediate concerns with political terror and terrorism, as well as a number of related concepts. There are many relevant texts not included here and this is not meant to be an exhaustive survey, but an attempt to emphasize and introduce several works that very much deserve to be at the heart of discussions of what it means to live amid terrorism and to think about the demands that such a time makes upon us all. Alongside source materials from Romantic authors, this site contains rich supplementary materials that are designed to help to explain surrounding historical and conceptual events that are important for these works.  
This website has been designed and is maintained by Dr. George C. Grinnell Department of Critical Studies, UBC, Okanagan campus   Personal Website Documents on this website have been authored by Dr. Lindsay Balfour, Daniel Tracy, Dr. Natasha Rebry, and Dr. George C. Grinnell