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Current Issue Article Abstracts

Spring 2017 Vol. 58.1

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The Emotionality of Moral Judgment in Diderot’s Literature and Philosophy

Arthur Edward Kölzow

While Diderot believes that the emotions have a generally deleterious influence on moral judgment, his work nonetheless tends to the conclusion, in parallel with Hume’s primacy of the passions, that they are at its very foundation. However, because the emotions are hard to control and easy to sway, Diderot believes that every moral judgment people make has some potential for being self-serving or otherwise untrustworthy. Diderot does, however, identify two types of judgment that can mitigate this potential unreliability: judgment by people from later times and judgment by people from other cultures. These types of judgment combine the emotions with thorough research and a neutral viewpoint, allowing Diderot to concede the essentiality of the emotions in moral judgments while also endowing them with something of an empirical basis. From such a perspective, which recalls Adam Smith’s ideal spectator, moral judgment bears a strong resemblance to the aesthetic judgment of art and literature. Although both moral and aesthetic judgment are meaningless without the emotions, they both gain in depth and nuance from impartiality.

Making Pins, Fashioning Laborers: The Manufacturing Logic of the Object-Narrative in the 1790s

Benjamin Hudson

This essay situates two late—century object narratives‚The Adventures of a Pin (c. 1796) and The History of a Pin (1798)‚apposite Smith’s opening description of the division of labor from Wealth of Nations (1776). Smith’s manufactory fits neatly into the changing poetics of the pin as literary pins come to be more closely associated with national industry and the processes of manufacture over the course of the century. At first, these two narratives seem out of place in this literary development, yet this essay shows that instead the craftwork has been displaced from the factory and into the readers’ young minds. Considering these stories against the pin’s associations with production, moreover, allows this essay to identify the manufacturing logic at the heart of the generic construction of the it-narrative more generally.

Training the Picturesque Eye: The Point of Views in Jane Austen’s Persuasion

Mary Beth Tegan

This essay explores the relationship between landscape representation and narrative point of view in Jane Austen’s Persuasion, arguing that her innovations with focalization and free indirect style are informed by her knowledge of Reverend William Gilpin’s work on the picturesque and her own travels and sketches. By examining the various spectatorial stances Austen’s characters assume in light of Peter de Bolla’s insights upon eighteenth-century visual practices, the essay demonstrates how Austen uses these narrative techniques to shift the locus of authority to those who were historically marginalized.

Akrasia and the Explanation of Action in Rousseau and Sterne

Thomas Salem Manganaro

This essay examines the case of acting against better judgment—historically called “akrasia”—in two narratives of distempered selves: Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey (1767) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions (1781). An ancient concept based in the conceptual frameworks of Aristotle and St. Augustine, “akrasia” ceases to be coherently parsed in Enlightenment metaphysics of the “self,” and perhaps for this reason it has also gone unexplored by the dominant critical paradigms of feelings, actions, and autonomy in eighteenth-century literary studies. This essay argues that Sterne’s and Rousseau’s narratives recuperate this ancient trope and in doing so self-consciously highlight the privilege of the genre of “narrative” in examining a “self,” insofar as it departs from the systematic clarity of Enlightenment philosophy and instead demands an interpretive process that is continually under revision.”

The Islander Kadu and Adelbert von Chamisso: Relations in Oceania

Chunjie Zhang

Reading the French-German writer and naturalist Adelbert von Chamisso’s travel narratives on his journey to Oceania, this essay highlights the co-constitutive role of the Pacific Islanders, in particular the Islander Kadu, in the making of German transcultural consciousness around 1800. I argue that the concepts of mutuality and relationality give more visibility to the contribution of the Islanders in the event of beach-crossings and provide meaningful perspectives in addition to the model of imperial domination and control for the understanding of European-Pacific encounters in a shared global network of knowledge. I first discuss the generic oscillation of Voyage Round the World between scientific travel report and autobiography. Then I turn to Kadu as the connector of words, actions, emotions, and cultural perspectives between the European travelers and the Islanders. Voyage Round the World offers a porous discursive environment in which Kadu and Chamisso have the opportunity to articulate their mutual influence and transformation. Hence I conclude that Oceania permeates Chamisso’s travel writings, induces the generic instability, and gives Kadu voice and gestalt. Chamisso’s German texts document Oceania’s immensity, vitality, and connectivity both within and beyond the Pacific.

Critical Conversations: Globalizing Eighteenth-Century Literary History

Globalizing Eighteenth-Century Literary History (A View from 2016)

Chi-ming Yang

This Introduction argues for the ongoing relevance of “global” to eighteenth-century, postcolonial, and Comparative Literature scholarship. It assesses the development of critical global studies since the 2000s and calls for further linguistic, cultural, and geographic diversity and representation on eighteenth-century academic panels, in particular those sponsored by the Modern Languages Association. The five essays included in this Critical Conversation emerged from a roundtable panel on “Globalizing 18th-century Literary History” organized for the Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies, 18th-Century Forum at the MLA Conference in Austin, 2016. Scholars from the fields of Arabic, Japanese, German, and African studies reflect on the states and stakes of translation, literary, and genre history from non-Anglo perspectives.

The Modern Regime of Translation and the Emergence of the Nation

Naoki Sakai

Can translation be regarded merely as a bridging of a gap between national languages? Is it not an act with which to produce difference, inscribe borders and thereby identify the unity of a language? It is in the eighteenth century that the modern regime of translation – a conventional representation of translation we take for granted today – was introduced. Accordingly, a regime for the modern representation of translation is construed in terms of the schema of co-figuration. Here translation is understood not only as the bridging of a gap or distance between two language communities. It is also an ambiguous act of creating continuity out of discontinuity; it pertains to a certain power which generates a new type of community in imagination. This community is called “the nation.” Translation is investigated with a view to bordering.

Global City Eclipses Small Town, or How to Tell a New Story of Eighteenth-Century (German) Literature

Birgit Tautz

In a departure from both nationalizing histories of German literature and existing approaches for positioning German literature vis-à-vis other European and World literature, this essay introduces global/local as a conceptual pair for re-imagining telling the story of eighteenth-century (German) literature. It previous a forthcoming book, and by working with the example of Lessing’s Hamburg Dramaturgy (1767-1769), the essay models how different acts of translation reposition literature vis-à-vis urban and global contexts.

Tropicalizing Philip Quaque: On African Atlantic Literatures

Taiwo Adetunji Osinubi

Whereas slave narratives are classics of eighteenth-century studies, there has been scant attention to African eighteenth-century writing written by parties implicated in the slave trade. That absence reduces the diversity of African statements about the slave trade and African participation in the pre-abolition Atlantic world. Using the letters of Philip Quaque, as a case study, I argue that attention to the sparse eighteenth-century West African literary culture complicates the repertoire of African representations of the slave-trading Atlantic world.

The Arabic-Speaking Peoples and “Globalization”: The Eighteenth Century

Nabil Matar

In the eighteenth century, there could be no globalization without navigation and ocean-worthy fleets that could carry trade, ideas, colonists, and missionaries far and wide. The Arabic-speaking peoples from Morocco to Iraq did not have such means of communication and therefore whatever was ‘globalized’ in terms of books and ideas was done by means of European Arabists and publishers. Two cases in point are Hayy ibn Yaqzan and the Arabian Nights. In that century, there was a globalization of western culture, but not a culture of globalization.

The Already-Globalized Eighteenth Century: Lessons from Arab Translators

Rebecca C. Johnson

This essay argues that eighteenth-century literature had been globalized long before literary scholarship’s transnational turn, by translators as well as by readers encountering its texts in translation. Taking as an example Arabophone authors and translators of the nineteenth century and their engagement with eighteenth-century texts like Robinson Crusoe and Tristram Shandy, we see that they had posed similar questions to those we now consider, about the circulation of ideas, texts, and material goods in the context of intellectual Eurocentrism and empire. Treating them as translation theorists and commentators on literary histories, we can better understand the way that eighteenth century English literature and its forms—the novel in particular—circulated in the non-Anglophone world, as it did so in ways that might challenge our own understanding of literature’s “globalization.”