Author Q&A: Dr. Larry H. Peer, “Romanticism: Seminal Insights”

Dr. Larry H. Peer of the Comparative Arts & Letters department recently published his 18th book, titled Romanticism: Seminal Insights (Brigham Young University Press). He has studied Romanticism extensively for over four decades, and his coauthored text Romanticism: Comparative Discourses won the 2006 Jean-Pierre Barricelli Prize, an international award given for the year’s best book in Romanticism studies. Dr. Peer serves as the Executive Director of the International Conference on Romanticism, and his latest book was released earlier this year.

Romanticism: Seminal Insights is your 18th published book, most of which center on Romanticism in one way or another. What distinguishes this book from your other titles?

For many years my books, essays, invited lectures, conference presentations, and professional activities have addressed some facet of a basic idea:  periodization problems in literature, history, philosophy, musicology, and the visual arts are best studied and discussed in a forum of linguistic and disciplinary inclusivity. When I was a delegate to the American Council of Learned Societies some years ago, I was able to speak up on a national level for deeper and more comprehensive scholarship in periodization studies, particularly Romanticism studies. This current book is the result of a long period of working through an explanation and example of using the skills and adopting the mindset for proper Romanticism scholarship.

Take us through the writing and research process. When did you start the book, and how long did the project take?

I have always read all the scholarship I could get my hands on about the theory and history of Romanticism, particularly secondary sources in German, Russian, Italian, and French. Along with that, I have read everything I could on major Romantic figures, from Beethoven and Mickiewicz to Gauss, Schelling, and Petöfi, etc. About five years ago a colleague from Princeton challenged me to summarize and write. I worked on it steadily until its publication this Fall (2019).

Your book focuses heavily on diversity of discipline, language, and culture amongst Romantic writers and artists. What inspired you to take this inclusive approach?

Since I am trained in the old-school comprehensive discipline of Comparative Literature, the book’s reference to several disciplines and texts in several languages is my natural way of looking at things. And Romanticism studies in particular seems to demand this breadth.

What was the most challenging part of writing this book?

It was somewhat difficult to access certain materials, particularly holograph writings in specialized European libraries. Another challenge was extensive re-writing and virtually sentence-by-sentence editing of materials by major scholars of previous generations.

What can readers hope to gain from a study of Romanticism: Seminal Insights?

My hope is that this book may challenge readers of and writers on Romantic themes, types, motifs, and figures to conceptually frame their activities in multi-linguistic and interdisciplinary ways, and to avoid the narrowed-down view of Romanticism and its texts that guts the Protean power of the movement.

—Samuel Benson (Sociology ’23)