This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book describes a middle ground between the recognizability which can only be achieved by location within the canon and the renovation of critical tradition which depends on interrogating that canon. Forms of language, ideology and socio-political relations are the given basis on which the very possibility of any individual growing up as a recognizable human being depends. The ‘text’ and ‘background’ approach seems to worth commenting on because, as a critical orthodoxy, it has to a large extent replaced the notion of the transcendental autonomy of the ‘verbal icon’ as a controlling academic myth. In ‘Romantic literature and childhood’, contrasting attitudes towards childhood are used to initiate an investigation of conservative and radical formations within the ‘romantic’, focused on Wordsworth and again on Blake.