Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Rajan, Tilottama


This dissertation reads the unpublished texts of Romanticism not as fragments on the road to publication but as psychoanalytic “partial objects” that re-figure our understanding of the relationship between Romantic authors and publication. Against positivist interpretations of literary production that limit writing to the professionalization of the author and to a sociology of texts, Unread develops the concept of the (un)published whose parenthetical bracketing signals an unstable suspension of textual instability that is at once prior to and yet persistently remains a part of the writing of the published text. I argue that non-publication also arises from the author’s relation to the act of writing itself, which reached its own point of crisis in the writing of Romantic authors. Drawing especially on Jacques Lacan’s re-imagining of object-relations, and the method of textual studies known as la critique génétique, the (un)published simultaneously promises unity and completion as well as disintegration and instability.

In Chapter 1, I analyze the three versions of Friedrich Schelling’s unfinished The Ages of the World (1811, 1813, 1815) to develop the different valences of the Romantic author’s relationship with the (un)published, which can be summarized as an encounter with the crisis (1811), the negation of crisis (1813), and the involuntary affirmation of crisis (1815). In Chapter 2, Wordsworth’s negation of the crisis of writing in the different versions of the Salisbury Plain poems (1790, 1795-98, 1842) and The Prelude (1798, 1805, 1850) result in an incorporation of that crisis that unworks his poetic project of self-constitution. In Chapter 3, I argue that Coleridge’s revisions to “Christabel” (1798-1834) before and after publication represent a relation to the text as a textual abject, which traumatically confronts Coleridge with the Real of his desire and transforms revision into a function of the psychoanalytic drive, whose end is to have no end. In Chapter 4, John Clare’s (un)published writing reveals a dissatisfaction with both personal and impersonal perspectives and leaves no place for a stable subjectivity. Finally, in Chapter 5, Mary Shelley’s Mathilda represents an affirmation of the (un)published as a partial object, because it rejects the Symbolic of literary community while it still includes itself within the Symbolic as both that which exceeds it and as that which it lacks.

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