Systems of Power, Systems of Space: Maria Edgeworth, Charlotte Smith, and John Keats in Romantic Greater London
This study considers the suburban spatial environment in the works of three Romantic-eraauthors. I argue that these authors use the suburbs as outlets to express the economic and cultural systems of power as capitalism defines the spaces where nineteenth century texts are set and also the literature, whether poetry or the novel, being produced. Furthermore, this study asserts that the suburb and its physical features, whether man-made or natural, can be used as interpretive tools that add new valences to the works addressed in the following pages. To explore the contradictions of the suburbs, this study develops an approach that combines historical data with a reading of economic forces. The first chapter considers domestic ideology, bourgeois culture, and the subversion of these structures in two elite suburbs depicted in Maria Edgeworth’s Belinda and Charlotte Smith’s Emmeline, Or the Orphan of the Castle. The second chapter interprets the role of Hampstead in John Keats’ later poems. In works like “Ode to a Nightingale,” Lamia, and “La Belle Dame sans Merci,” a landscape and narrative of exile emerges that is informed by Keats’ dejected position outside mainstream literary culture. His later poems transmute the motifs of his earlier works to express his distrust of a quickly commodifying world. The poetry of Keats’ waning years also doubts the power of poetry as a transportive medium as a part of a system that seeks to possess ephemerality, though this possession is impossible. The suburbs provide an additional site of interpretation that contends with the contradictions of cultural and economic life.