This is a book of “double reflection,” as we used to say twenty-five years ago (early 1970s), when the earliest of the writings gathered here was first published. In a moment I'll try to explain why it is, and also why I'm putting this book together now.
Double reflection, perhaps one has to recall, is a Hegelian/Marxist phrase that named the kinds of theoretical passions driving so much of everyone's work in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It seems slightly quaint now – a sort of kangaroo among the beauties of current scholarship.
“Return with me now to those thrilling days of yesteryear!” That was how the narrator introduced The Lone Ranger radio program, a passion of mine twenty-five years before I wrote anything in this book: “The Lone Ranger,” that is to say another (mid twentieth-century) avatar of The Giaour, The Corsair, Mazeppa. Beyond Baudelaire, Berlioz, Kierkegaard, Melville, Nietzsche, etc., the Byronic generations do go on.
But in 1964, when I began my research on Byron and Romanticism, those generations had been dispersed almost entirely into popular cultural venues. A first reflexive move for me was therefore my graduate research: a doctoral thesis on Byron and the theoretical problems of “biographical criticism.” I wanted to study why Byron, who for nearly a hundred years fairly defined, in the broadest international context, the “meaning” of Romanticism, had all but disappeared from the most serious forms of academic and professional attention.