This contribution counts as a preliminary to a careful rereading of
Thomas Carlyle's ethical and political engagement of literary discourse.
Starting from Paul de Man's critique of aesthetic ideology, an alternative
constellation of Carlyle's texts will be argued, taking the dynamic
presence of the aesthetic ideology as primary criterion. Carlyle's Heroes
is then read as a rhetorical recuperation from an incisively critical moment
in his performative aesthetic critique of Sartor Resartus, which in
its turn is prepared by the philosophical investigation into the category
of the aesthetic in the early essay "The State of German Literature". In
the latter, it is primarily Carlyle' s failure to posit Kant' s Critical Philosophy
as the ultimate legitimisation of his transcendental aesthetics
and his eventually aporetic critique of the mystical act of reading which
establish the complex rhetorical condition of his writing as dynamically
dealing with aesthetic ideology. Finally, some suggestions will be made
concerning the relevance of Carlyle's writing for literary theory and his
position within the Victorian tradition.