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dc.contributor.authorDeGabriele, Peter
dc.date.accessioned2016-03-29T15:55:52Z
dc.date.available2016-03-29T15:55:52Z
dc.date.issued2009
dc.identifier.isbn9781109342765
dc.identifier.other305084380
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10477/45414
dc.description.abstractMy dissertation argues that eighteenth-century fiction and historiography provide a radically different epistemology of social formation and sovereignty than can be found in the philosophy of the period. Reading fiction and history alongside the political philosophy and epistemology of the time, I argue that fiction presents and amplifies the limits and aporias of philosophical concepts of the social, while at the same time providing an account of society and sovereignty which distances itself from such foundations of authority as contract, propriety, general happiness and paternity. Far from forming an ideological buttress to emerging institutions and concepts of society and state, as many critics have asserted, eighteenth-century novels and histories reveal a social space which is not reducible to structures and institutions of authority. Chapter Two, "Plotting the Moment of Contact: Hume and Richardson," argues that the possibility of political consent is undermined by epistemological problems surrounding the concepts of body and property. This chapter continues the focus on the intimacy of political subjects, turning to the importance of the contact between bodies. Hume's account of the origins of civil society is reliant upon notions of property and propriety which begin with determining what is proper to a body. Richardson's Clarissa, I argue, probes the limit of this knowledge and, in doing so, challenges the epistemological foundation of civil society. I contend that Hume's writings on the sense of touch allow us to raise new questions about consent as a literal "feeling-together." At the limit, Hume remains uncertain whether it is possible for one body to properly touch another. Accordingly, I show that the narrative of Clarissa is structured around just such an uncertainty. Richardson demonstrates the existence of a space of insensibility at the point of contact between bodies which cannot be resolved by any consensual agreement. Clarissa's insensible, numb, body literally cannot "feel-with" Lovelace. Chapter Three, "Sympathy for the Sovereign: Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, " addresses the question of the social contract, not from the side of the subject, as in the previous two chapters, but from the side of the sovereign. Gibbon's history looks somewhat strange in it focus on the sovereign when compared to sentimental account of the social bond prominent in such mid-century political philosophers as Hume and Adam Smith. It repeatedly demonstrates the radical disjunction of the happiness of the sovereign from the happiness of the people, showing their relation to be purely accidental and coincidental. Indeed, Gibbon goes so far as to show that the sovereign's position even disjoins him from his own pleasures and from the knowledge of his own senses. This representation of the person of the sovereign as a persistent gap in the social link is, I argue, particularly significant both in Gibbon's account of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, and in the context of the flagging British Empire of the latter part of the eighteenth century. Gibbon represents the real dissension between the interest of the sovereign and the people as re-emerging in a contemporary, supposedly cosmopolitan, Europe as the radical disjunction between the interests of the domestic power and the colonial territory. Chapter Four, "Law Spirit and Witness in Ann Radcliffe's The Italian, " argues that Radcliffe's fiction challenges an emergent idea that there is a spirit of the laws that buttresses the law and makes it autonomous. In a reading of Montesquieu, I show that he inaugurates a tradition that would become prominent in the 1790s and which argues that the law itself is sovereign. This conception does away with the need for any reference to a particular sovereign power outside the bounds of the law. However, even within Montesquieu, this concept is troubled by the figure of the witness, for the law, despite relying on the witness as the basis of its knowledge, is unable to adequately account for the witness' own knowledge. In The Italian, Radcliffe dramatises this problem, especially around the question of paternity. In the climax of the novel, in the Inquisition, we are presented with a supplementary series of witnesses that radically challenges the ability of the law to contain the witness within its epistemological space. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)
dc.languageEnglish
dc.sourceDissertations & Theses @ SUNY Buffalo,ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global
dc.subjectPhilosophy, religion and theology
dc.subjectSocial sciences
dc.subjectLanguage, literature and linguistics
dc.subjectContract theory
dc.subjectEmpiricism
dc.subjectNovel
dc.subjectSovereignty
dc.subjectAuthority
dc.subjectHistoriography
dc.subjectEngland
dc.subjectEighteenth century
dc.titleThe space of sovereignty: Authority, literature and historiography in eighteenth-century England
dc.typeDissertation/Thesis


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