chapter  1
Geoffrey Hartman Romanticism and Anti-Self-Consciousness
Pages 35

Geoffrey Hartman's work concerns the aspirations of modern poetry, the idea of literary history, and the history of interpretation, as well as the poetry of Wordsworth. He has tried to grasp and characterize a distinctively literary kind of 'mediation', of deliberately produced relation to the real. What resources enable Wordsworth or Marvell or Rilke - or Freud or Derrida - to temporize with the inescapable 'wish to put ourselves into an unmediated relation to whatever "really is" is'? Hartman's first book, The Unmediated Vision: An Interpretation of Wordsworth, Hopkins, Rilke, and Valery (1954), examined the effects of the gesture which for him defined poetry (including Romantic poetry) as 'modern': doing without the role of mediator of received religion or of a unified authoritative literary tradition and making 'the attempt to find and represent things immediately significant, aesthetic things, signs of the creative nature of perception' (p. 163). 'The unmediated vision' names both a desire and a particularly desired, properly aesthetic kind of mediation: the immediate or intuitive conveying, through forms and images, of the fact of mediation, of self-reflexive subjectivity or consciousness. Hartman finds a dialectic of this sort in Romanticism, in the essay included here. In asserting the 'precariousness' of 'the transition from self-consciousness to imagination', he indicates difficulties and disruptions of aesthetic mediation through language which are traced in detail in close readings such as Andrzej Warminski's 'Missed Crossing: Wordsworth's Apocalypses' (see Further Reading) or de Man's 'Time and History in Wordsworth' (in this volume).