The Romantic period sits in a liminal historical space when radically different ideas about the
categories of past, future, progress, and change coexisted in popular consciousness. The French Revolution inaugurated the concept of an Event, something that appears to come out of nowhere, and that not even the most well-informed historian could predict. In its immediate wake, we find a set of uniquely challenging, hotly contested questions: Is it still possible to predict the future from the past? Where is history going? Is it, or must it be, materially determined?
An Evental Romanticism examines the ways in which the questions about history that arose during the Romantic Era, and which find their expression in the literature and philosophy of the period, are echoed in some of the philosophical thought of our own time. It turns especially to Alain Badiou, whose primary contributions revolve around his own philosophy of the Event, which rises as strikingly against the popular determisms of our time as the works of William Blake, Percy Shelley, and William Wordsworth did in their own era. Bringing these different points of thought into constellation, An Evental Romanticism also draws on the work of a number of historical thinkers, both from the Romantic context and our own, including Walter Benjamin, Immanuel Kant, and Reinhart Koselleck.
It argues that there exists within the Romantic period a radical historical discourse that wrestles with the challenges of an “Evental historicism” in a way that both illuminates and is illuminated by the challenges of contemporary philosophy of history. By examining this discourse, we can understand how the Romantic poets were attempting to formulate strikingly nuanced answers, answers that may find a renewed relevance today.