Resounding Footnotes Understanding the Pre-Romantics Through the Footer
Labels can be highly problematic metaphysical entities when they suggest and lead to the creation of unity where little exists. When exactly did the Romantic Period start and stop? Some individual works are certainly seminal to a period, but who were its progenitors and at what point does a collection of eccentricities constitute a new era? It seems to me to be the case that the only answer to these origin issues is to accept that there is an inexhaustible multiplicity of histories, aesthetic regimes, and critical lenses. By highlighting the tensions within the “Romantic” label, I do not wish to declare it impotent, but rather take a sympathetic look at the nomenclature and think about the philosophical problems I will encounter as I offer a revision for how we think of pre-romanticism. I will argue that while sentiment did in fact play a crucial role in the development of Romanticism, it did so as an adversary and not just as an aid. Through the adoption of the term “post-Augustan” as the new era nomenclature, we will free ourselves as 18th century scholars from the critical mindset of “overlooking” that “pre-Romantic” construal provides us.