By Paul Gilmore
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Additional resources for Aesthetic materialism : electricity and American romanticism
6 While readings of electricity as the animating force and Galvani’s theory of animal electricity were largely discounted in the early decades of the nineteenth century (only to re-emerge at mid-century), their premises about an electrical fluid or aether fostered speculations about the relationships between electricity and the nervous impulse, electricity and life, and 23 24 Idealist Aesthetics and the Republican Telegraph electricity and other natural forces such as gravity and magnetism. Such hypotheses would continue to appear in the work of even some of the leading thinkers on electricity throughout the first half of the nineteenth century.
Where in his early career, Coleridge embraced revolutionary politics and explored a materialist understanding of the world and human consciousness, his later works consistently define truth as reflecting the ideal, mirroring relationship between consciousness and immutable natural laws. In the process, Coleridge rejected revolutionary social and political changes and refigured electricity less as a natural force than as an emblem of eternal universal laws. In the midst of this conservative turn, Coleridge met a young American painter, Samuel F.
36 Despite maintaining his commitment to a more liberal politics, Schiller’s aesthetic politics parallels Coleridge’s as attempts to delimit the imagination as the basis for politics in reaction to the French Revolution. ”37 Kitson’s argument that Coleridge’s political thought largely derived from commonwealthsman republicanism is important for filling in the contours of this aesthetic politics. While the historiographical debates about the rise of liberalism and its relationship to the classical commonwealth republicanism of the eighteenth century has died down, the so-called republican synthesis remains an important touchstone for understanding eighteenth-century British and American political thought.
Aesthetic materialism : electricity and American romanticism by Paul Gilmore