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Article

Romanticism’s Longue Durée: 1968 and the projects of theory

The immediate purpose of this paper is to offer a brief reflection on 1968 as a nodal point in the appropriations and deployments of Romanticism, not least as a diagnostic tool. The article substantiates the case for the continuous after-life of Romanticism in the various guises of post-romanticism, a process which de-emphasizes the notion of period or indeed event, and constructs instead a complex discursive formation that re-negotiates past intellectual agendas and resources by framing them within a discursive longue durée. The article concentrates on the German scene of theory and the student protests during the second half of the 1960s. It traces the mediated links between them and demonstrates how this intellectual and political constellation is traversed by – repurposed and refashioned – Romantic discursive energies that are mobilized in order to make sense of, and respond to, the new developments. The groundwork and the hypotheses advanced in this article require a careful differentiation between two understandings (and projects) of “theory”. In the Conclusion, I discuss the impact of May ’68 on these two different theory projects.