Riotous Life: The Rhetoric and Politics of Romantic Organisms


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




In 1816, S.T. Coleridge wrote that “the frame of the man is the perfect frame of the state,” thus formulating the anthropocentric politics with which critics of romanticism have long since identified it. This project attends to a parallel poetics that unsettles Coleridge’s organic metaphor of human and state formation. It examines a poetics of riotous—rather than lawful—life, one that analogizes nonhuman life (both plant and animal) to disruptions of British empire (from urban uprisings to slave marronage). Ultimately, this project argues that in romantic rhetoric the pairing of politics and life cannot be reduced to “the frame of the man." It thus offers an important reminder that although the sovereign relation between the human and the state was proposed in the romantic period, it was articulated through the ongoing repression of other possible arrangements between living forms and political force.