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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: May 2009

25 - Representation restructured

from Part IV - The Ends of Romanticism

Summary

John Stuart Mill, in his essays on Jeremy Bentham and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, observes that 'these two men', though 'they agreed in being closet-students'. Mill's account helps to bring out certain similarities in their projects. Both were crucial participants in a massive change in the understanding of representation that occurred within their lives and those of their Romantic contemporaries. The various different kinds of attention to representation, essayistic evaluation, the contribution of acceptance by an audience, and detailed analysis of the differences between one use of language and another, help to indicate the extent to which the Romantics restructured representation. Didacticism, conceived as the effort to promulgate particular beliefs in literary works, came to seem less like an unpleasant option and more like an unavailable one. While Bentham sought to evaluate individual actions in relation to systematic social action, Shelley repeatedly described poetry as lending 'systematic form' to social imagination.
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