In Unfettering Poetry: The Fancy in British Romanticism, Jeffrey C. Robinson argues that politically progressive Romantic poets write with a politically progressive or radical poetics, coded during the Romantic Period as “the Fancy.” Traditional readings of Romantic poetics that emphasize the drama of the speaker or lyric subject reveal a pervasive “fanciphobia,” or fear of the Fancy’s inclination for a poetry of inclusiveness, expansiveness, and visionary transformation of the object or “the world,” and of an experimentation with and unfettering of poetic form and content. In fact, Robinson locates a poetry of the Fancy as the bedrock of Romantic poetic intention (having resonances in the experimental poetries of the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries), with extended readings of the relatively unexplored poetry of Robinson, Hunt, Reynolds, Clare, and Hemans, as well as a radical rethinking of the familiar poetry of Wordsworth and Keats.
'Unfettering Poetry will unsettle, excite and inspire all students and scholars of Romanticism. Challenging Coleridge's hierarchy of poetic faculties, Jeffrey Robinson presents a brilliant argument for the Fancy as the most spirited, searching and experimental form of Romantic writing- the source of a vital counter-poetics that continues to the present. Robinson redraws the landscape of Romantic literary culture and the scholarly/critical tradition; highlights the Della Cruscans, Mary Robinson, Felicia Hemans and Leigh Hunt as key proponents of the New Romantic Poetics; and enables us to read those poets alongside the canonical Wordsworth and Keats with fresh eyes and enhanced understanding.' - Nicholas Roe, University of St Andrews, Scotland
'Jeffrey C. Robinson's new book rethinks the shifting, often contradictory Romantic concept of 'fancy' in ways that release it from its traditional positioning as the degraded and impoverished sibling of a privileged 'imagination.' By attending with a fresh eye to Romantic critical discourse and to poetic practices based upon continuing investments in the agency of 'fancy,' Robinson is able to offer surprising readings of texts that range from the fragility of lyrical self-discovery to the compelling drama of boxing. As a poet himself, Robinson writes with a fellow practitioner's feel for the often elusive interaction of verbal exploration and historical circumstance. This is a book that everyone who cares about British Romantic culture will be eager to read.' William Keach, Brown University
'Since his stunning book of 1987, Radical Literary Education, no one has done more than Jeffrey Robinson to define the immediate need we always have for poetry. Though its subject matter is some 200 years old, this new book is about poetry and poetics in what Gertrude Stein would call its continuing present. It is, in its own words, an 'experimental poetics both for the history of British Romanticism and for the later history of nineteenth- and twentieth-century poetry.' It is a book to wake its neighbours up.' - Jerome McGann, University of Virginia