Situated at the intersection of affect studies, ecocriticism, aesthetics, and Romantic studies, this book presents a genealogy of love in Romantic-era poetry, science, and philosophy. While feeling and emotion have been traditional mainstays of Romantic literature, the concept of love is under-studied and under-appreciated, often neglected or dismissed as idealized, illusory, or overly sentimental. However, Seth Reno shows that a particular conception of intellectual love is interwoven with the major literary, scientific, and philosophical discourses of the period. Romantic-era writers conceived of love as integral to broader debates about the nature of life, the biology of the human body, the sociology of human relationships, the philosophy of nature, and the disclosure of being.
Amorous Aesthetics traces the development of intellectual love from its first major expression in Baruch Spinoza’s Ethics, through its adoption and adaptation in eighteenth-century moral and natural philosophy, to its emergence as a Romantic tradition in the work of six major poets. From William Wordsworth and John Clare’s love of nature, to Percy Shelley’s radical politics of love, to the more sceptical stances of Felicia Hemans, Alfred Tennyson, and Matthew Arnold, intellectual love is a pillar of Romanticism.
This book will interest scholars and students of Romanticism, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British literature, affect studies, ecocriticism, aesthetics, and those who work at the intersection of literature and science.
‘Amorous Aesthetics is an important contribution to the field of Romantic studies and a successful first book…the book is significant for tracking an indisputably major concept, love, across many decades of Romantic writing and a significant number of canonical poets, which, I think, could make the book foundational for further research in this area.’
David Sigler, The Review of English Studies
'Throughout Amorous Aesthetics, Reno resists the insights of the New Historicism, which subordinated aesthetics and affect to cultural context and ideology. Focusing on 1788 to 1805 (from The Evening Walk to The Prelude), his reading of the former poem is masterful, for it highlights the tension between sublimity (that vertical, fearsome force of nature) and sentimentality (a warmer and more horizontalizing form of affect).'
Colin Carman, European Romantic Review
'With focus on Romantic poetry, Reno's book interrogates quests for transcendental love in relation to the seemingly contrary pull of human bonds. [...Reno's] challenge to the dominant interpretations of young Wordsworth as an unadulterated Pantheist is welcome [...and] the first chapter breaks new ground in explaining Erasmus Darwin's influence on Wordsworth. [...] While much remains for scholarship to say on intellectual love, this book offers substantial contributions.'
Chris Murray, Review 19