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Common ThingsRomance and the Aesthetics of Belonging in Atlantic Modernity$
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James D. Lilley

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780823255153

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823255153.001.0001

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No Thing in Common

No Thing in Common

Chapter:
(p.168) 5 No Thing in Common
Source:
Common Things
Author(s):

James D. Lilley

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823255153.003.0006

Chapter 5 shows how Walpole and Poe refuse to imagine community as a simple collection of common things. They instead practice a philosophy of “uniquity” that values and collects the singular for its totally accidental and inessential forces of relation and difference. Eschewing the modern logic of belonging that ties the singular’s place in the common to some essential property that it somehow possesses, Walpole and Poe instead view being-in-common as an open and fugitive process that is enacted on the level of the verb rather than collected on the level of the noun. Walpole writes histories that foreground the contingency of time rather than offer any definitive account of its passing, and his always-expanding collection of curiosities exhibits the harmonious confusion of the Wunderkammer rather than the taxonomic pretensions of the modern museum. And for Poe, at stake in the speculative cosmology of “Eureka” is the aesthetic form of a “brotherhood among the atoms.” Poe attempts to think community as an assemblage of intensive differences that vibrates “among” atoms rather than as a collection of common, atomic things. I end with these “hospital[s] for everything that is Singular” because they show us how to reopen the problem of belonging’s form at a moment of crisis in our own conceptions of cultural, economic, and political community.

Keywords:   Horace Walpole, Edgar Allan Poe, Architecture, Historiography, Cosmology, Community

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