Theresa Kelley

Position title: Marjorie and Lorin Tiefenthaler Professor Emerita of English


Romanticism--poetics, aesthetics, visual culture; history and philosophy of scientific practice
Theresa Kelly

Degrees and Institutions

  • MA and PhD, Northwestern University, 1973 and 1977
  • BA University of Washington, 1965

Selected Publications

Recent Essays

  • “Romantic Frictions: Introduction.” Special Issue of Praxis. September 2011.
  • “Romantic Science.” Blackwell Companion to Romanticism. Ed. Julia Wright and Joel Faflak. Oxford: Blackwell, 2011.
  • “Romanticism’s Errant Allegory.” Cambridge Companion to Allegory. Ed. Rita Copeland and Peter Struck. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. 211-28.
  • “Adorno / Nature / Hegel.”  Language without Soil: Adorno and Late Philosophical Modernity. Ed. Gerhard Richter. N.Y.: Fordham University Press, 2009. 99-116 and 262-67.
  • “Restless Romantic Plants: Goethe Meets Hegel.” Special issue on “Romantic Diversity,” European Romantic Review 20:2 (2009): 187-195.
  • “Romantic Temporality, Contingency and Mary Shelley.”  ELH 75.3 (Fall 2008): 625-52.
  • “Reading Justice:  From Derrida to Shelley and Back.” Festschrift for Jacques Derrida. Ed. David Clark, Studies in Romanticism 46:3 (2007): 267-288.

Research Interests

Theresa M. Kelley writes about and teaches romanticism, aesthetics, visual culture, the philosophy and history of natural science, and contemporary narrative.  She understands these inquiries as they thread through literary forms and rhetoric in the literature of modernity.  The inquiries that she follows consider: forms of life and knowledge in modernity; autonomy and mastery as disciplinary and human inquiries; and relations between materiality, practice, and theory in scientific writing. She has written widely on these questions in articles and books, including Clandestine Marriage; Botany and Romantic Culture(forthcoming, Johns Hopkins, 2012), Reinventing Allegory (Cambridge, 1997), and Wordsworth’s Revisionary Aesthetics (Cambridge, 1988). She is at present working on the relation between materiality and its representation in word and image in romantic era scientific practice and theory; and a book on romantic futurity in post-Terror narratives and contemporary writing.

Together with other UW-Madison faculty colleagues and graduate students, Theresa Kelley works in the cross-disciplinary group Middle Modernity (1700-1910), which concerns itself with literary culture and knowledge practices during this long era in modern culture and thought.

Recent Books

  • Clandestine Marriage: Botany and Romantic Culture cover
    Kelley (Editor), Theresa. Clandestine Marriage: Botany and Romantic Culture. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012. Print.

    Romanticism was a cultural and intellectual movement characterized by discovery, revolution, and the poetic as well as by the philosophical relationship between people and nature. Botany sits at the intersection where romantic scientific and literary discourses meet. Clandestine Marriage explores the meaning and methods of how plants were represented and reproduced in scientific, literary, artistic, and material cultures of the period.

    Theresa M. Kelley synthesizes romantic debates about taxonomy and morphology, the contemporary interest in books and magazines devoted to plant study and images, and writings by such authors as Mary Wollstonecraft and Anna Letitia Barbauld. Period botanical paintings of flowers are reproduced in vibrant color, bringing her argument and the romantics’ passion for plants to life.

    In addition to exploring botanic thought and practice in the context of British romanticism, Kelley also looks to the German philosophical traditions of Kant, Hegel, and Goethe and to Charles Darwin’s reflections on orchids and plant pollination. Her interdisciplinary approach allows a deeper understanding of a time when exploration of the natural world was a culture-wide enchantment.

    “Richly documented and deeply researched, Clandestine Marriage displays a wide conversancy with literary criticism and the history of science, recognizing the ways in which the meaning of plants regularly exceeds or disrupts the conceptual categories in which they are placed or found.”—Alan John Bewell, University of Toronto

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  • Reinventing Allegory cover
    Kelley, Theresa. Reinventing Allegory. Cambridge University Press, 1997. Print.

    Winner, Best Scholarly Book, South Central Modern Language Association (1998).

    Reinventing Allegory asks how and why allegory has survived as a literary mode from the late Renaissance to the postmodern present. Three chapters on Romanticism, including one on the painter J. M. W. Turner, present this era as the pivotal moment in allegory’s modern survival. Other chapters describe larger historical and philosophical contexts, including classical rhetoric and Spenser, Milton and seventeenth-century rhetoric, Neoclassical distrust of allegory, and recent theory and metafiction. By using a series of key historical moments to define the special character of modern allegory, this study offers an important framework for assessing allegory’s role in contemporary literary culture.

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  • Romantic Women Writers: Voices and Countervoices cover
    (Editor), Paula Feldman, and Theresa Kelley (Editor). Romantic Women Writers: Voices and Countervoices. University Press of New England, 1995. Print.

    This collection of essays forges a new definition of Romanticism that includes the wide range of women’s artistic expression.

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  • Wordsworth's Revisionary Aesthetics cover
    Kelley, Theresa. Wordsworth’s Revisionary Aesthetics. Cambridge University Press, 1988. Print.

    This book offers a fresh understanding of the role of aesthetics in Wordsworth’s major poetry and prose. Professor Kelley proposes aesthetic and geological precedents for this aesthetic model and evaluates its differences from the models developed by Burke, Kant and Hegel.

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