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Palgrave Macmillan

John Thelwall and the Materialist Imagination

ISBN 9781137426130
Publication Date July 2014
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Series Palgrave Studies in the Enlightenment, Romanticism and the Cultures of Print

Drawing on a range of new archival materials, John Thelwall and the Materialist Imagination reassesses Thelwall's diverse body of work – literary, political, and elocutionary – from the vantage of his heterodox contributions to Romantic-era science. This book argues that Thelwall's scientific materialism merged with his reformist politics and literary imagination in previously unexplored ways to anchor his career over four decades, as he attempted in speech and writing to catalyse democratic reform in the body politic. Through the prism of Thelwall's works, the book demonstrates that materialism was not merely a relic of Enlightenment empiricism and the utopian optimism of the 1790s, but a formative element of British culture well into the nineteenth century – one that was intertwined with idealist modes of thought to make up the double-helix DNA of Romanticism.

Yasmin Solomonescu is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of Notre Dame, USA. Previously she held a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Postdoctoral Fellowship at York University, Toronto. In addition to publishing articles on Thelwall and Romantic-era literature, she has edited John Thelwall: Critical Reassessments (2011) and, with Michael Scrivener and Judith Thompson, Thelwall's The Daughter of Adoption (2013).

List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations
Introduction: 'Mister Surgeon Thelwall'
1. Vital Principles: From the Animal Body to the Body Politic
2. Errant Sympathies: The Peripatetic
3. From Self to Sentient Nature: Poems Written in Close Confinement and Poems, Chiefly Written in Retirement
4. Between Hope and Necessity: The Fairy of the Lake, The Hope of Albion, and The Daughter of Adoption
5. The Language of Nature: Elocutionary Writings and Poems, Chiefly Suggested by the Scenery of Nature
6. The Materialist Imagination: Late Poetry and Criticism


"John Thelwall and the Materialist Imagination covers the range of Thelwall's writing, including the novel Daughter of Adoption and the manuscript of poetry recently discovered in Derby. It includes an impressive account of the import of Thelwall's elocutionary writings to his other work. The presentation of John Thelwall as the 'Champion of Materialism' for his period is the key contribution of this monograph. Not only does it develop recent interest in Thelwall in his own right, but it provides a new perspective on the understanding of his role in the period's materialist thinking. In this regard, Solomonescu's work will speak to medical historians and historians of science as well as scholars of the Romantic period." – Jon Mee, University of York, UK
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