Romantic Immanence

Interventions in Alterity, 1780–1840

By Elizabeth A. Fay

Subjects: Literary Criticism, Nineteenth-century Studies, Romanticism, Philosophy
Series: SUNY series, Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century
Hardcover : 9781438494746, 270 pages, October 2023
Paperback : 9781438494753, 270 pages, April 2024

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

Spinozist Alterity and British Romanticism

Section I Corporeals: Embodied Egos

1. Blake’s Mythical Interval

2. Coleridge’s Wilding

Section II Corporeals: Embodied Difference

3. Barbauld’s Sisters: Immanent Bodies

Section III Incorporeals: Dream Visions and Nightmares

4. Percy Shelley’s Immanent Language

5. De Quincey’s Eventful Dreams

Section IV Corporeal Bias: Bodies as Incorporeals

Epilogue Immanence and Racial Alterity
Works Cited

Offers a new, Spinozist framework for understanding encounters with otherness in Romantic literature as experiences of immanence.


Romantic Immanence examines literary examples of an alternative experience of otherness—an experience of alterity the Romantics understood as an embodied, immanent encounter with raw reality. The Romantics' enthusiasm for encounters in nature and the imagination that exceeded the limits of rational thought is well known. Yet these encounters have largely been interpreted in terms of the sublime or the Gothic. Drawing attention to the influence of Spinozist and Stoic philosophy on Romantic thought and aesthetics, Elizabeth A. Fay argues that immanence was another, perhaps even more important, form of alterity, particularly during this era of social and political upheaval. Investigating works such as Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Dorothy Wordsworth's Grasmere Journals, and Percy Shelley's Triumph of Life alongside Schelling's unfinished Ages of the World and Schlegel's Athenaeum Fragments, Fay demonstrates how Romantic immanence, despite going largely unrecognized with the loss of its initial context, remains vividly present in these works.

Elizabeth A. Fay is Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She is the author of Romantic Egypt: Abyssal Ground of British Romanticism and Fashioning Faces: The Portraitive Mode in British Romanticism, among other books.


"Fay brings together two much discussed topics—alterity and immanence—to reveal new ways of thinking about both. Especially welcome is the book's interest in turning away from alterity as necessarily bound with violence and abnegation. Romantic Immanence turns instead toward alterity as a joyful revelation the Romantics used to support major reconsiderations of ethics and ethical action." — Jonathan Crimmins, author of The Romantic Historicism to Come