Daniel M. StoutCorporate Romanticism: liberalism, justice, and the novel
New York: Fordham University Press, 2017, 254 pp.
Corporate Romanticism offers an alternative history of the connections between modernity, individualism, and the novel. In early nineteenth-century England, two developments―the rise of corporate persons and the expanded scale of industrial action―undermined the basic assumption underpinning both liberalism and the law: that individual human persons can be meaningfully correlated with specific actions and particular effects. Reading works by Godwin, Austen, Hogg, Mary Shelley, and Dickens alongside a wide-ranging set of debates in nineteenth-century law and Romantic politics and aesthetics, Daniel Stout argues that the novel, a literary form long understood as a reflection of individualism’s ideological ascent, in fact registered the fragile fictionality of accountable individuals in a period defined by corporate actors and expansively entangled fields of action.
Examining how liberalism, the law, and the novel all wrestled with the moral implications of a highly collectivized and densely packed modernity, Corporate Romanticism reconfigures our sense of the nineteenth century and its novels, arguing that we see in them not simply the apotheosis of laissez-fair individualism but the first chapter of a crucial and distinctly modern problem about how to fit the individualist and humanist terms of justice onto a world in which the most consequential agents are no longer persons.
Introduction: Personification and its discontents
-- The pursuit of guilty things: corporate actors, collective actions, and romantic abstraction
-- The one and the manor: on being, doing, and deserving in Mansfield Park-- Castes of exception: tradition and the public sphere in The private memoirs and confessions of a justified sinner
-- Nothing personal: the decapitations of character in A tale of two cities
-- Not world enough: easement, externality, and the edges of justice (Caleb Williams)
-- Epilogue: Everything counts (Frankenstein).
Daniel M. Stout is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Mississippi