This dissertation is a work of literary and cultural history focusing on late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century poetics, life sciences, and surgical practices in Britain as a strategy to better understand two major phenomena of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries in the United States: an intensified appetite for depersonalized neo-vitalism in the theoretical humanities and a normative bioethics that tends occasionally toward the sacralization of body parts. It argues that to revisit Romantic concepts of the body and “life itself” exposes some of the neo-Romantic features of American biomedical discourse. The dissertation develops a typology to understand contemporary crises of the body (e.g., genetic engineering, brain death, cadaveric organ donation, etc.) in terms comparable to the various Romantic ideologies and understandings of life, concluding that the British Romantic period gave crucial shape to a rhetoric of biotechnological anxiety that came to a head in the American postwar period. The first chapter, “Stirrings of Life: Romanticism, Agrarianism, and the New Criticism,” constructs a matrix of discourses, including Romantic writing on life, early twentieth-century vitalism, reactionary agrarianism in the American South, and organicist literary theory, to trace the emergence of American neo-vitalism from the first decade of the twentieth century through the beginning of the Cold War. The second chapter, “Cold War Romanticism and the American ‘Culture of Life,’” accounts for the co-development of “the Romantic ideology” and twentieth-century neo-vitalism in the United States by focusing on dominant paradigms of literary criticism and history during the Cold War era. The third chapter, “Sweet Bodies Fit for Life: A Brief Romantic Prehistory of Transsexuality and Trans* Discourse,” develops a close reading of John Keats’s Lamia, using it to bring Romantic vitality to bear on gender, sexuality, and trans* life. The fourth and final chapter, “Romantic Life-Gifts and the Meaning of Blood,” is an investigation of Romantic-era medical research into the function of blood as a seat of life. By examining research in medical anthropology and several case histories, this chapter compares the Romantic imperative to locate life in bodily matter with its rhetorical residue in twentieth and twenty-first-century transplant discourse.