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such a glaring historical anomaly, not to say contradiction, should not be
at the very center of scholarly attention. For the problem raised crucial
theoretical issues.
I am writing this very sentence in January °°°, in the same room “
the Rare Books Room of the British Library (erstwhile, “The North
Library”) “ where I wrote my doctoral thesis in ±µ. Non sum qualis
eram “ but more importantly, neither are Romantic studies. Byron does
not loom across the European scene as he did in the nineteenth century
±
 Byron and Romanticism
but there has clearly been a return of the repressed. (Would that the same
could be said for another ¬gure of immensity, Walter Scott! But even as
I write this “the dawn is red,” so to say.)
Why this book, then? If the essential re¬‚exive point was to rethink
Byron and, through him, the history and forms of Romanticism, surely
the past thirty-¬ve years testify to an achievement of that project. And
I™m uninterested in simply gathering a certain record of my written
work, especially since my sense of time has grown, alas, somewhat more
acute. The digital revolution has set in motion, especially in the past ten
years, movements and changes that are upheaving humanities studies
at every level. Making sure that scholars and educators, not technocrats
and administrators, have a hand in guiding and “ in Shelley™s sense “
“imagining” these changes has become a daily educational concern.
Under those circumstances, what is the point of a book like this?
So, double re¬‚ection. The academic history that these essays entered
and sought to in¬‚uence has developed along various dynamic lines, many
of them con¬‚icting lines, during the past twenty-¬ve years. Reading the
essays in the context of the distinguished series of books they are now
joining, I am most struck by the differences between nearly all of these
books and nearly all of the essays.
Of course all exhibit a “turn to history,” a turn taken in the essays and
exhibited in the series™ books. But the latter engage a much more vari-
ous socio-cultural order of materials than the essays do. An objective re-
porter “ myself, for instance “ might say that Michel Foucault, Raymond
Williams, and Pierre Bourdieu are the books™ presiding deities whereas
Mark Pattison, Millman Parry, and Galvano della Volpe haunt the pages
of the essays. “Byron and Romanticism” orbits in a universe of textual
theory, literary-critical method, and a certain history of scholarship and
education.
It is this difference that interests me and makes me believe these essays
have something new to say.

“ But they™re the same essays. Or have you made some kind of radical changes
to them?
“ Some changes to the texts, yes, but nothing that alters the semantic content
in an appreciable way.
“ What™s new then?
“ What™s new is the way we live now. Take any literary work, preserve its
semantic “ even its documentary “ identity as best you can, and then
track its changes of meaning as it passes through the attention of differ-
ent places, times, circumstances. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, taking his cue

General analytical and historical introduction
directly from Dante, commonly handled his works in this way. He shuf¬‚es
“the same” poem into different contexts again and again, as if he knew
it was not a self-identical “thing,” as if he were determined to expose its
many-mindedness “ how it is many-minded “ in concrete and determi-
nate ways. Rossetti™s works are interesting partly because, more clearly
than many artists and poets, he makes a drama of artistic meaning as
performative and eventual. We still often seem to think that art™s multiple
meanings are a function of something they possess on their own, inherently
or essentially as it were. But the truth is that meanings multiply like lives,
through intercourse.

The exchanges I seek are with the scholarship and educational scene
around me, and that is represented in a distinguished way by the books
in this series. In this respect I have two general subjects I want to raise
here as a preface to the essays. One has to do with the relatively narrow
methodology that characterizes these essays (as opposed to what we ¬nd
in the series™ books). The second concerns the stances we may take as
scholars or teachers “ as educators “ toward our work.


THEORY AND METHOD

There is a history here that must be brie¬‚y replicated. In ±·°, by a
sequence of odd chances, I began the project to edit Byron™s complete
poetical works. To that point I had no interest in or knowledge about
editing. My work had been dominated by “theoretical” and philosophical
pursuits. I wrote a long MA thesis on the theoretical con¬‚ict between
the Chicago Neo-Aristotelians and the New Criticism, and a doctoral
thesis on the theoretical problem of biographical method (in the general
context of the formalist and structural models of criticism that were
dominant at the time).
Editing Byron brought a nearly complete deconstruction of my think-
ing about literature, art, and culture generally. The subject is too large for
this place. It™s suf¬cient to say, I think, that the editorial work threw me
down to where all our literary ladders start: in the concrete circumstances
of those material and ideological histories that engage the production
and transmission of “texts” (in the pre-Barthesian sense of that term):
texts as documents made and remade in a theoretically endless series of
stochastically generated feedback loops, all very particular.
Like so much cultural criticism of recent years, the books in this series
illustrate just how intricate that stochasis is “ at how many levels it oper-
ates, in what remarkable ways these levels connect and interact. Placed
 Byron and Romanticism
alongside it, as these essays now are, my work seems “ is “ limited and
restricted in focus. The objective reader, myself, easily sees in the essays
the permanent in¬‚uence of New Critical “close reading” methods.
We shall have to reconsider the current relevance of such methods
for a scholarship and pedagogy that has recommitted itself to historicist
models of criticism “ models speci¬cally cast off by the New Critics
who promoted the practices of “close reading.” Let me set that matter
aside for a moment, however, in order to comment on textuality and
editing. These subjects and their practices are profoundly important at
this speci¬c historical moment.
For some years now “Theory” has lapsed as a driving force in literary
and cultural scholarship. The main lines of the work have been felt as
complete (for the time being) and we observe a widespread process of
implementation and re¬nement.
“Theory” remains volatile and exploratory in one area, however: in
textual and editorial studies. This remarkable situation is the effect of
an historical phenomenon affecting every level of society, not least of all
education and the humanities: the breakthrough of Internet and digital
technology into our normal practices of work and living. Digital media
are ultimately forms of textuality. It is therefore unsurprising that the ¬rst
practico/theoretical explorations of these technologies in the humani-
ties should be made, as they are, at the foundational levels of literary
scholarship and education: in the libraries and archives and in the work
of editors, linguists, and textual scholars of all kinds. One has to return
to the ¬fteenth century to ¬nd a situation comparable to the one we now
witness and participate in.
None of the scholarly works in this series has been signi¬cantly marked
by these notable events. None makes use of the technology and none en-
gages the theories and methods being experimented with and developed
out of this technology. Yet digitization and intermedia are already altering
the way we perceive and understand cultural phenomena. The recent
explosion of “History of the Book” studies is a direct function of the
nexus of historical studies and humanities computing, for the new tech-
nology has driven our view of books and texts to a higher level of abstract
perception.± The moment when one can make a virtual book, when you
can reconstruct it according to the design protocols of computer tech-
nology, you realize that you “understand” the book in a new way and
at another level of consciousness. Similarly, recent years have shown re-
markable explorations into the structure and relation of image and text.
The most dynamic (not to say the most volatile) developments in these
µ
General analytical and historical introduction
areas are being driven by digital technologies. Indeed, we are beginning
to realize how and why we can deal with (analyze, read, interpret) text
as image and vice versa. The realizations emerge, however, not from the
re¬‚ections of “Theory” in the traditional sense, but from people actually
building and implementing computerized tools and instruments.
Why do I raise these matters here? Because these studies of Byron and
Romanticism were all shaped in a trajectory of textual and editorial work
that reached its fruition only in the hypermedia theory and electronic
scholarship that has dominated my work since I went to Caltech in ±±.
At that point several things began to become clear. First, that textual the-
ory and editorial practice were and had to be the foundation of all literary
studies; second, that all synthetic and interpretive operations “ what used
to be called “The Higher Criticism” “ were implicitly shaped “in the last
instance,” as the Marxists would say, by these forms of so-called “Lower
Criticism” (the processes of language and document transmission; or,
the materials, the means, and the modes of production); and ¬nally, that
at certain critical historical moments the only theory that could serve as
such would have to be some kind of particular, goal-driven practice.
When I began my work as a scholar, Byron and editing were both
marginal literary concerns. To work on Byron in ±µ was perforce to
work on a subject of “purely/merely/largely historical interest.” By ±°
the adverb in that phrase would be replaced by others. But to edit Byron
between ±·° and ± was to drive the historical issues in special direc-
tions. For one thing “ I will come back to this “ it focused my attention on
the ¬eld of the closely read text. For another, it made me aware as I had
never been that the literary works descending to us have been made
and remade by speci¬c people and in particular institutional settings.
Finally, I saw quite clearly that all these makings were historically rela-
tive and relevant, and that the edition I was making was of the same
kind. “Romanticism” itself was objective and determinate only because
(and as) it had been made, revised, and refashioned under different condi-
tions by different people with different agendas and purposes. (A relativist
perspective had of course been fairly widespread in the academy since
the early ±°s at least, and it would grow more acute during the ±·°s
and ±°s. The perspective did not develop robust historicist forms and
methods until the ±°s and ±°s.)
Those last two effects of my editorial work changed everything since
they led me to execute the edition under a regular attention to its
circumstantial character. Editing Lord Byron. The Complete Poetical Works
(±± “±) thus became a continual re¬‚ection on the limits of its own
 Byron and Romanticism
design, and on the material and historical determinants of those limits.
Eventually I found myself needing, seeking after, critical and scholarly
instruments that could incarnate, so to speak, those kinds of re¬‚exive
and experimental demands. History would become the lover of neces-
sity. Editing Byron in codex form passed over to editing Rossetti in online
hypermedia: from editing as a closed system to “Editing as a Theoretical
Pursuit.”

THINKING AND WRITING

These essays tell that history, I think, more clearly than the edition of
Byron “ which was constructed during the period when these essays were
written and which created the conditions, if not all the conditions, that
made the essays possible and even necessary. The clarity of the essays is
in certain ways greater than the edition because of a difference in form
and genre. Nothing appears more monumental, more ¬nished, than a
large scholarly edition. The volatile history I summarized in the previous
section of this Introduction is latent but largely invisible in Lord Byron. The
Complete Poetical Works. The forms of such things wear robes of authority,
order, and a massive integritas. They lend themselves not to openness
and self-re¬‚ection, least of all to change. Narrativity, even in a discursive
mode, has greater ¬‚exibilities.
Under the horizon of a literary practice that has idealized the standard
critical edition, however, critical commentary itself re¬‚ects that aspiration
to “ that apparition of “ ¬nishedness. Walter Pater, M. H. Abrams,
Harold Bloom: all are pilgrims of the absolute, more or less modest,
more or less imperial. Even writing in the essay form we have wanted to
get things right, to say something de¬nitive (the supreme quality, we used
to imagine, of the critical edition). And while we can achieve this under
certain limitations and conditions, we can never know that we have done
it. (Alas, we often imagine that we do know such things.)
In certain disciplines “ engineering for example, perhaps the hard
sciences “ aspiring to correctness is a needful thing. But in humanities
I think the aspiration is misguided and ¬nally misleading. The aspira-
tion should rather be toward thoroughness, clarity, candor. Being clear,
open, and as meticulous as possible are goals exactly as problematic as
being correct and complete. They are goals, however, resting in an initial
re¬‚ection on the self and its uncertainties.
As I read these essays now (objectively) I recall some of the stories they
tell, some of the histories “ Lilliputian, intramural “ they re¬‚ect. One
·
General analytical and historical introduction
of these I™ve already told. Another interests me as well and seems worth
retelling here. It™s the history of the (failed) pursuit of a satisfying form of
critical commentary, a form to mirror or index the editorial instruments
I also grew to need. As I said earlier, when I began trying to make a
critical edition of Byron I knew virtually nothing about editing. Making
the edition was a passage from the utter dark. I have put “Byron and
Milton” at the beginning of this book because as an essay it appears
to me the least successful in the collection. It™s in fact the earliest of the
essays, but that™s not why it comes where it does. I initially thought not
to include it at all, it seemed so unsatisfactory. But in truth it did not seem
unsatisfactory to me when I wrote it in ±·, it only seems so now. So
now it also seems an effective, even a satisfactory way to begin a story of
failure. It™s also satisfying to admit that my ¬rst impulse was to exclude
it. That™s an important element in the story too.
Note that I still think I™m correct about many things I wrote in the
essay. Certain matters of fact are beyond dispute, like the clear literary
allusions. But the essay isn™t satisfying because of those matters of fact.
However, it seemed satisfactory in ±· “ it was written, I now think I
remember, to make a show of myself at the English Institute “ in January
°°° it™s satisfying to put it at the head of this book and to wrap it in this
commentary.
I would grow dissatis¬ed with that kind of essay and would try to
escape it. For a while I was much taken with the style of the polemical
pamphlet, and after that with the dialogue. I tried the latter early on,
in ±·°, and wrote a book in dialogue. It won a prize from a society of
poets ( ! ) but seems to have had no other success at all, nor any impact
on scholarship. When I returned to the form in the late ±°s I tried to
crossbreed it with Poe™s hoaxes and then stage the writing as a Wildean
truth of masks. These are the critical works I get greatest pleasure from
having done. As Wilde wisely said, “Give a man a mask and he will tell
you the truth.”

“ But Jerome, we™re always wearing masks.
“ This is true, I now see. But once upon a time I thought otherwise. Byron, that
masked man and lone ranger, helped to free me from the illusion.
“ Because?
“ Because I™m a Romanticist and hence completely involved with a “poetry of
sincerity.” With ideals of the Self, and of self-discovery through a dynamics
of spontaneous over¬‚ow and re¬‚exive turns. Nor do these operations cease
to interest me. But Byron, a great practitioner of such manoeuvres, was
also “ not always but often, and often enough “ their clear-eyed student.
 Byron and Romanticism
Reading Byron™s romantic spontaneities and over¬‚ows one came to see that
they were masked forms, rhetorical strategies. All gods reside in the human
breast, Blake said. So do all poems. They are dictated from the eternity of
embodied mind.
“ So?
“ “Sincerity: if you can fake that you™ve made it.” So goes one of the most
notorious proverbs of post-Modernism. It™s an X Generation™s version

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