This study, published in 2000, examines the dialogue between Romantic poetry and the human sciences of the period. Maureen McLane reveals how Romantic writers participated in a new-found consciousness of human beings as a species, by analysing their work in relation to discourses on moral philosophy, political economy and anthropology. Writers such as Wordsworth, Coleridge, Mary Shelley and Percy Shelley explored the possibilities and limits of human being, language and hope. They engaged with the work of theorisers of the human sciences - Malthus, Godwin and Burke among them. The book offers original readings of canonical works, including Lyrical Ballads, Frankenstein and Prometheus Unbound, to show how the Romantics internalised and transformed ideas about the imagination, perfectibility, immortality and population which so energised contemporary moral and political debates. McLane provides a defence of poetry in both Romantic and contemporary theoretical terms, reformulating the predicament of Romanticism in general and poetry in particular.
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