Romanticism and Malevolence (Panel Proposal for NASSR 2024)

deadline for submissions: 
January 5, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
North American Society for the Study of Romanticism 2024
contact email: 

In Literature and Evil, Bataille argues for a close connection between literature and "Evil" as a sovereign and productive value, which is defined against an oppressive use of reason that "flattens" all knowledge into a reductive uniformity. Bataille finds in Blake's A Marriage of Heaven and Hell "agitations", "poetic violence" and "lacerations" that occur in Blake’s drive towards human totality and death. At the same time, Bataille observes that this violence and Evil also "raise us to glory" in Blake's attribution to Evil of "the wisdom of Hell that heralds ... truth” --albeit a truth irreducible to representation, priority of the logos, and assimilation by reason. Thus, Bataille recognizes in literature a profound disorder, evident in the drive towards evil, violence, and death, that is, at the same time, a productive excess beyond representation-- often found in philosophy and historical transformations that not even Blake's heaven "could truly reject." This panel takes up Bataille's imperative that we "look [evil] boldly in the face" to determine the ways in which Romantic literature embraces evil in various material, historical, affective, and philosophical forms, but also the possibility (or impossibility) of Evil's productive capacity in undoing, refiguring, and contradicting the internal logic or conventional reason of Romantic texts. If “good and honored things” are “artfully related, knotted and crocheted to wicked, apparently antithetical things,” as Nietzsche speculates in Beyond Good and Evil, and if evil is simply a name that represses what Blake calls “Energy” in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, to what extent does (or does not) evil contain productive value? These panels seek papers that explore the extent to which Romantic literature posits both a violent and productive evil.


Topics of interest include (but are not limited to):

- Deconstructive and post-structural approaches (e.g., Romantic texts that attempt to structurally/violently exclude aporias either in an artistic, historical, or a philosophical sense).

- Material forms like violent revolutions, protests, and events (e.g., the French Revolution, Peterloo Massacre)

- Philosophical systems and their relationship with evil (i.e., Schelling’s association of freedom with evil).

- Colonial and historical registers like slavery and its aftermaths, imperialism, and


-The relation between evil and political utopias and dystopias (e.g., Queen Mab, The Triumph of Life, etc)

-Posthuman approaches

-Approaches that consider the relationship between evil and gender (e.g. Mathilda).

-Approaches related to affect theory (rage, violence, agitations and frustrations etc.) and their productive potential

-Approaches that consider the differences between evil and its subclassifications, such as malice.


Please email abstracts (350 words) to Adam Mohamed ( or Liam Rockall ( 

Organizers: Adam Mohamed (, Liam Rockall ( -- fourth year PhD Candidates at the University of Western Ontario