Spectral Artifacts: Natural Supernaturalism and Commodity Fetishism in Romantic Literature Open Access

Peck, John Mitchell (2013)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/vd66w0093?locale=en



Spectral Artifacts:

Natural Supernaturalism and Commodity Fetishism in Romantic Literature

By John Mitchell Peck

"Spectral Artifacts" investigates the status of the romantic artifact within the nexus of historicist, materialist and deconstructive scholarship. Beginning with the observation that the romantic artifact's mediation of the past and present is often represented through scenes of reification and reanimation, I draw on Jacques Derrida's reading of conjuration and spectralization in the Marxian tradition to relate this phenomenon to misunderstood and irrational absences that lingered (and linger) in concepts of material exchange. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries British antiquarianism privileged curiosities, relics and antiquities in the creation of historical knowledge, subjecting them to circulation between scholars, artists, writers, and readers. At the same time, the rise of political economy led to a wider cultural awareness of the markets in which circulation took place. In its treatment of artifacts, romantic writing explores how the overlap of an object's historical and financial values makes visible, and strange, the otherwise naturalized operations of these economies of knowledge. At the confluence of two kinds of epistemological concern, the romantic artifact becomes an alienating source of historical awareness, destabilizing the boundaries demarcating past and present, public and private, self and other. From the reversed perspective, the production of commodities which arises in the Industrial Revolution can also be seen as the production of history in the form of potential artifacts. I demonstrate that the artifact's susceptibility to reappropriation through circulation leads to the romantic treatment of historical objects as specters, at once alive and dead. My reading adds a new interpretive lens to the study of the historical novel, or the "antiquarian" novel as I re-term it in the case of Walter Scott. The circulating artifact, though, also implicates the private work of memory and mourning in William Wordsworth's interactions with the past in the context of an explicitly staged capitalist framework. Opening the scope of my investigation, I also consider the transatlantic ramifications of the romantic artifact in its deployment by Nathaniel Hawthorne and the way in which British romanticism in particular becomes an artifact for Hawthorne.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Artifacts, Commodities, Ghosts


Chapter 1
Specters, Specimens and Specie:
Antiquarianism and Scott's Bride of Lammermoor


Chapter 2
Figuring Subjects:
Artifacts, Commodities and Violence on Salisbury Plain


Chapter 3
The (Ruined) Cottage Industry
and the Competing Economies of the Artifact


Chapter 4
Scraps of Treasure:
Artifacts, Influence and Style in Hawthorne






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