In "Romantic Voices" Paul Privateer provides a philosophical history of a key component of the Romantic ideology - the problem of a speaking self - by tracing its migration through the literary theory and poetry of the Romantic period. Romanticism, Privateer asserts, can be read as a metaphor of the emerging merchant class and its ideology. This ideology of autonomous individuality is subverted poetically, he contends, by the very voices that presumably should be acting as its agent. Drawing on related modern critical thought, Privateer shows how ideology is both the crucible in which the notion of "Romantic ideology" is created and the measure of soundness by which the representation of individuality in Romantic texts is exposed as false and inherently problematic. Privateer traces the philosophy of identity in Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche, analyzing the influence of philosophical notions of self on the ideology of traditional and post-structural forms of Romantic literary criticism.
He also shows how such Romantic texts as Blake's "Milton", Wordsworth's "The Prelude", Coleridge's "Kubla Khan", and Shelley's "Alastor" subvert their ideological obligations and, in the process, challenge a dominant component of nineteenth-century socioeconomic thought. "Romantic Voices" provides a new historical study of the evolution of theories of self-identity and the ways in which 18th and 19th century theories of the self became an ideological construct in Romanticism.