Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Mark Canuel  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Non-Fiction

Audience: Adult;


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Illinois Connection

Canuel lives in Chicago.

Biographical and Professional Information

Mark Canuel is professor and the head of the English department at the University of Illinois, Chicago. He served on the Executive Committee of the UIC Institute for the Humanities and the Chancellor’s Committee on Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Issues.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

Justice, Dissent, and the Sublime
ISBN: 1421405873

Johns Hopkins University Press. 2012

In the past ten years, theorists from Elaine Scarry to Roger Scruton have devoted renewed attention to the aesthetic of beauty. Part of their discussions claim that beauty―because it arises from a sense of proportion, symmetry, or reciprocity―provides a model for justice. Justice, Dissent, and the Sublime makes a significant departure from this mode of thinking.

Mark Canuel argues that the emphasis on beauty unwittingly reinforces, in the name of justice, the constraints of uniformity and conventionality. He calls for a more flexible and inclusive connection between aesthetics and justice, one founded on the Kantian concept of the sublime. The sublime captures the roles that asymmetry, complaint, and disagreement play in a complete understanding of a just society―a point, the author maintains, that was appreciated by a number of Romantic writers, including Mary Shelley.

Canuel draws interesting connections between the debate about beauty and justice and issues in cosmopolitanism, queer theory, and animal studies.

The Shadow of Death: Literature, Romanticism, and the Subject of Punishment
ISBN: 0691129614

Princeton University Press. 2007

The Shadow of Death is a timely and ambitious reassessment of English Romantic literature and the unique role it played in one of the great liberal political causes of the modern age. Mark Canuel argues that Romantic writers in Great Britain led one of the earliest assaults on the death penalty and were instrumental in bringing about penal-law reforms. He demonstrates how writers like Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, William Wordsworth, and Jane Austen defined the fundamental contradictions that continue to inform today's debates about capital punishment.

Celebrated reformers like Sir Samuel Romilly and William Ewart campaigned against the widespread use of death to punish crimes ranging from murder to petty theft, but they were most influential for initiating a system of penalties built upon conflicting motivations and justifications. Canuel examines the ways Romantic poets and novelists magnified these tensions while treating them as uniquely aesthetic opportunities, seized upon contending rationales of punishment to express imaginative power, and revealed how the imagination fueled the new penal code's disturbing vitality. Death-penalty reform, Canuel argues, in fact emerged from a new way of thinking about punishment as a negotiation among rationales rather than a seamless whole, with leniency and severity constantly at odds. He concludes by exploring how Romantic penal reform continues to influence contemporary views about the justice--and injustice--of legal sanctions.

Religion, Toleration, and British Writing, 1790-1830 (Cambridge Studies in Romanticism)
ISBN: 0521021588

Cambridge University Press. 2005

Mark Canuel examines the way that Romantic poets, novelists and political writers criticized the traditional religious conformity of British political unity. Canuel reveals how writers (including Jeremy Bentham, Ann Radcliffe, Maria Edgeworth and Lord Byron) undermined the validity of religion in the British state, and envisioned a tolerant and more organized mode of social inclusion and protection. He asserts that these writers considered their works to be political and literary commentaries on religious toleration.

Speaking Engagements

Speaking Engagement Availability (No)