“Bells and Spells” suggests that the feature of repetition, so often linked in a deprecating way with Gothic, is shared by Romanticism. The article explores the frequent apparition of repetition in typically “high” Romantic texts and shows how repetition tends to render impotent the language of transcendence usually associated with Romanticism. Readings of Novalis, Lord Byron, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Edgar Allan Poe indicate the point of default at which repetition causes the language of unification to falter. The language of love fails to fuse its interlocutors in Novalis and instead devolves into an almost inane redundancy, while the proximity of Gothic and Romanticism in Byron's Manfred shows the dependence of the invocative power of language on the “other.” The figure of tolling bell in Keats, Poe, and Shelley shows the movement back and forth between repetition and redundancy, a movement through which language is pushed to its limits but falls back into the metonymy of syntax and finitude that it would transcend.
Susan Bernstein; Bells and Spells: Gothic Repetition and Romantic Redundancy. differences 1 December 2010; 21 (3): 53–72. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-2010-009
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