Jacob Henry Leveton responds to Elizabeth Oldfather

I’m fascinated by Elizabeth Oldfather’s spectral reading of Newman’s illuminating book. Romanticists tend to be haunted by romanticism, and I’m no exception. I suspect that many of us—as well as the Victorianists amenable to hosting us from time to time—are attracted to the field for two reasons: the politics and the company. Oldfather’s response explains both with razor-sharp precision, and contributes an important focus on the cognitive. In bringing our attention to the poet Charles Morris’s reflection on the ghostliness of space, Oldfather locates a significant slippage. It is not that the interior of the Star and Garter tavern space is absent the energizing presence of taverngoers, but that the space itself has been destroyed and become absent. The implications of this interplay of absent presence and present absence, relative to the tavern as a historical architecture seems essential. As a corollary of Oldather’s reading, it strikes me that the romantic tavern propagates in rather interesting ways Henri Lefebvre’s notion of the social in the production of space as a suspended tension between ways of knowing and the physicality of persons and things in a given location.[1] A significant consequence of Lefebvre’s thinking is that spaces, and particularly urban spaces—the places where radical thinking becomes most possible, and where the romantic tavern appeared—are not just physical, though they are that. Rather, they are carried—to follow the cues of Oldfather’s cognitive criticism—as afterimages in minds long after the sites themselves have disappeared, remediated and assuming differentiated forms thereafter: Wordsworth and Coleridge’s lyrical ballads, James Gillray’s Crown and Anchor caricature as antipodes of romantic revolution and reaction.

[1] Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), 72-73.

Back to Forum

Reflection by Elizabeth Oldfather

Michael Gamer responds

%d bloggers like this: