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By J. Robinson

In Unfettering Poetry: the fondness in British Romanticism, Jeffrey C. Robinson argues that politically innovative Romantic poets write with a politically innovative or radical poetics, coded through the Romantic interval as "the Fancy." conventional readings of Romantic poetics that emphasize the drama of the speaker or lyric topic exhibit a pervasive "fanciphobia," or worry of the Fancy's inclination for a poetry of inclusiveness, expansiveness, and visionary transformation of the thing or "the world," and of an experimentation with and unfettering of poetic shape and content material. in reality, Robinson locates a poetry of the fondness because the bedrock of Romantic poetic purpose (having resonances within the experimental poetries of the late-nineteenth and 20th centuries), with prolonged readings of the fairly unexplored poetry of Robinson, Hunt, Reynolds, Clare, and Hemans, in addition to a thorough rethinking of the accepted poetry of Wordsworth and Keats.

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Discord, for Storey, signals the failure of a reconciling imagination, not—what Fancy offers—insight into the contradictory nature of reality and the playful nature of the mind: poetry, for that matter, has little primary interest in the world, or referent. 17 In all of these recent critics, the features of poetry and mind associated with the Fancy dwindle to various judgments of immaturity and are naturalized to sites of immaturity, in particular youth. 18 Even more recently, Helen Vendler’s Coming of Age as a Poet actually gives case studies of four poets—Milton, Keats, Eliot, and Plath—overcoming the forgivable inadequacies of their apprenticeship in order to achieve the first “perfect” poem of maturity.

Moreover, the voices of women poets—so effectively suppressed over the past century—both as individual phenomena and as embodiments of various poetics of the Fancy, must enter that conversation. Chapter 4 presents Della Cruscan poetry, as an openly acknowledged poetry of the Fancy, first in its own right and then as a major driving force in the poetry of Mary Robinson, from its early Della Cruscan idiom (ca. 1790) through the erotic poetry (Sappho and Phaon), the urban poetry, and finally Lyrical Tales (1800).

Moreover, it is possible to find in these thinkers both imagination and fancy capable of making new combinations, both capable of gathering images, both instances of the free play of mind. At this point one sees the terms almost as shifting signifiers in a larger system—both poetic and political—of control and release, shapings and playings, containment and overflow. The bifurcation of Imagination and Fancy in the eighteenth century has its analogue in the history of the sublime and the beautiful, in which, as Elaine Scarry has argued,7the former acted to diminish the power of the beautiful; the beautiful prior to the eighteenth century enhanced the exercise of justice and the position of being just.

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