Joanna Baillie's Rayner and romantic spectacle
European Romantic Review , Volume 21 - Issue 1 p. 65- 76
This essay considers Joanna Baillie's 1804 Rayner, a play about a public execution that never actually occurs, in the context of the dynamics of punishment in the romantic period. Analyzing how the play depicts the scaffold but renders it inaccessible by refusing to represent the death it portends, I argue that Baillie develops a kind of romantic spectacle that moves from the visual to the imaginary. Weaning spectators from their reliance on external forms, it effects their moral regulation by disciplining the imagination to produce such terrifying images on its own.