Current Issue Article Abstracts
Winter 2018, Vol. 59, Num. 4
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Drawing inspiration from Michel Foucault’s lectures on the emergence of biopolitics and liberalism in the eighteenth century, this essay considers eighteenth-century debates about genius through a biopolitical lens. The starting point for the essay is William Petty’s late seventeenth-century “political arithmetical” account of how best to maximize genius within a national population. Mitchell argues that the link Petty established between genius and population was consolidated neither in political arithmetic nor in its successor, political economy, but in two more “literary” arenas: mid-eighteenth-century debates about the nature of genius and mid- to late eighteenth-century poetry that reflected on ways in which geniuses might be overlooked or lost. In both cases, genius is tied to the imaginations of populations, and they ways in which the difference that characterize populations might be channeled and regulated. In Mitchell’s account, “literature”--understood as especially valuable instances of imaginative writing, primarily in the genres of poetry and drama--emerges as the concept and institution that fully sutures Petty’s biopolitical hope of maximizing genius with mid-century biopolitical worries about losing genius.
In recent historiography, Raynal’s and Diderot’s Philosophical and Political History of the Settlements and Trade of the Europeans in the Two Indies plays a central role as part of a broader reaction against postcolonial Enlightenment critique: many scholars enhance the so-called “Radical Enlightenment” with the intention of defending the idea that at least some Enlightenment thinkers were truly progressive and did not link their civilizing agenda to an imperialistic one. The History appears in this context as a paragon of Enlightenment anti-colonialism. Recently, doubts about the qualification of the History as fervently “anti-colonial” have arisen, however. This article seeks to contribute to a further revision of our view on the History. It criticizes the view according to which the History is an anti-colonial book as an anachronistic interpretation. It explores the overall narratives of Raynal’s and Diderot’s book, interprets them in the context of French colonial policy and patronage networks, and reads Diderot’s most radical passages in the larger context of the book. Doing so, it comes to the conclusion that the History is best understood as a patriotic book reflecting the classical republicanism of French elites and the visions of French “enlightened” politicians in power after the Seven Years’ War.
This essay examines Samuel Jackson Pratt’s, Emma Corbett: Or, the Miseries of Civil War (1780), a popular novel about the American Revolution that mounted an argument against the violence of the war. Pratt’s critique of the transatlantic conflict between the colonies and the mother country arises from his depiction of suffering veterans with injuries and missing limbs. In an interpolated tale that he titles “A Military Fragment,” he uses what I call a “typographical prosthetics” to represent their absent body parts. Through a creative typography that includes extended dashes and multiple asterisks, he creates an architecture of the page that visually describes the placement and displacement of limbs. He thus criticizes and remediates discourses of national conflict by making the disabled bodies of injured soldiers discernible on the page.
The critical literature on Bernard Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees has tended to focus just on its first volume (1725). By turning to the Fable’s second volume (1729), we can see more clearly how Mandeville takes up the human’s transition from nature to state-based society as a serious problem. Attending to that problem, what becomes apparent is Mandeville’s grounding of his moral and economic theory in a state metaphysics, whereby the human is said to secure itself as itself, as human qua human, only in the political state, which is to say: it is by separating itself from what it is in the state of nature, transforming itself into a state-based being, that the human realizes its vocation as a human being. As I show, Mandeville institutes his state metaphysics in shoring up certain features of his preferred forms of commercial society which put it radically at odds with life in the so-called savage state of nature but not, as one might expect, due to a difference of conditions (savage on the one hand, civilized on the other). At issue is a challenge to condition’s constitution, the challenge being put to constituting anything in the face of what is unconditional, in a “condition” of being without condition--which is to say, in a certain sense, of statelessness. The problem of savage being then appears more fully as one of representing what remains antagonistic to Mandeville’s order of state-based existence, an antagonism around which Mandeville nonetheless--and perversely--attempts to claim the State as one of the names of Being.
This article argues that Radcliffe’s novel The Mysteries of Udolpho produces the cognitive and readerly experiences of memory not as absolute but as instrumental, as a tool with which the past can be and is shaped by the interests of the present. In a world where there is no past other than what the present desires it to be, memory exists only rhetorically, only as a pretext that deflects attention away from the interests or ideologies that actually do structure current preoccupation. In this world, the text that appears as memory is always already refracted through the present, always already subject to a kind of amnesia. Ultimately, this article suggests, Radcliffe’s complex articulation of a spatialized—and flattened—topography of memory provides both an alternative gothic historiography and a presaging of the complex narrative forms of the nineteenth-century novel.
This essay argues that Sydney Owenson employs botanical imagery in her novel, The Wild Irish Girl (1806), to represent many facets of Irish colonialism as well as the 1800 Act of Union that formed the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Depicting the Irish as metaphorical plants, as food for England’s “body politic,” Owenson gestures toward a symbolic cannibalism as just one form of England’s colonial consumption of Ireland within the novel, and highlights this notion further through comparisons between the Irish peasantry and African slaves in the West Indian colonies. Melding ideas of science and sensibility, as well as natural history and national history, Owenson subtly exposes England’s exploitation of Ireland in this Act of Union.
Notes on Contributors
pp. 535 - 536