College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Kevin MacDonnell, “Beneath Defoe’s Island: Imperial Geopolitics and the Inorganic Economy of Robinson Crusoe”
This article reads Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) in relation to the rise of subsurface resource extraction in the early eighteenth century. Against the backdrop of Britain’s emergence as what E. A. Wrigley calls the world’s first “inorganic,” or mineral-based, economy, the author positions literary depictions of the subsurface in Defoe’s work as a bellwether for changing attitudes toward extractive industries. The central contention of the article is that Defoe fashions the subterranean and subaquatic settings on Crusoe’s island into ideal sites for colonial capitalist exploitation, repurposing these environments in the cultural imaginary. The detailed portrayal of the subsurface environments Crusoe must navigate, excavate, and inhabit throughout Robinson Crusoe geographically centralizes the resource accumulation and commodity production that sustains Crusoe, while also distinguishing such sites from their counterparts above the surface, thus aligning Defoe’s conceptions of political economy with a distinct “vertical” imaginary. Reading Defoe “vertically” reveals a writer attentive to the political and economic affordances of the subsurface: a discovery that situates his work alongside the conceptual and ideological foundations of industrial modernity.
Katherine Nolan, “A Place for Pleasure: How Eliza Haywood Critiques Didacticism in Betsy Thoughtless”
This essay considers Eliza Haywood’s late-career novel, The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless, in terms of its relationship to realism and didacticism. On the surface, Haywood’s novel reads as a reformed coquette plot, with elements that respond to the popular, didactic novel Pamela, by Samuel Richardson. This essay argues that Haywood is instead critiquing didactic novels and their assumptions about both the merits of realism and the utility of novels to teach women in particular about preserving their virtue, navigating courtship, and, finally, negotiating marriage. The novel does this through a sophisticated use of metafiction to comment on genre and the utility of novels. Haywood adapts genre conventions and amatory plots in this novel to contemplate the importance of pleasure in novel reading. Renewed attention to this novel alters both our understanding of Haywood’s place in the eighteenth-century canon and the centrality of didacticism in the rise of the novel.
Valerie Wainwright, “Reviewing Moral Philosophy for the Critical Review: Issues of Authorship and Orientation for Tobias Smollett and David Hume”
Although the majority of authors who wrote for the Monthly Review at the mid-eighteenth century have been identified, there are many important reviews for its rival the Critical, whose authorship is unknown or contested. In this essay I examine the reviews of Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and of De l’esprit (1758) by Claude-Adrien Helvétius, both previously credited to David Hume, but now attributed to the chief journalist and editor of the Critical, the historian and novelist, Tobias Smollett. The principle of coherentism underpins my argument, which means that a network of reciprocally supportive textual evidence—comprising aspects of method, stance, style, and rhetoric—informs the case for Smollett’s authorship. Significant incongruities undermine the attribution to Hume. Once we analyze these reviews from the perspective of Smollett’s modus operandi at the Critical, we can see how he adapted and revised Hume’s work in the course of elaborating his own views on moral philosophy and philosophers.
Joshua Swidzinski, “Sir William Jones and the Measures of World Literature”
Sir William Jones’s orientalist writings on Arabic and Persian poetry exerted a profound influence over European understandings of non-European literature at the end of the eighteenth century. This article reassesses Jones’s role in the development of world literature as a field of study. It draws upon a series of overlooked treatises that Jones composed in French and Latin—most notably his Poeseos Asiaticae commentariorum libri sex (Six Books of Commentaries on Asiatick Poetry) (1774)—in which Jones privileges discussion of Arabic and Persian metrics. I contend that Jones’s preoccupation with non-European metrics perpetuates assumptions prevalent among eighteenth-century literary critics, for whom “measure” or meter was a basis of literary comparison and judgment. Jones’s scholarship, I argue, evinces a desire to find—or forge—metrical correlations between disparate languages, thereby exemplifying an eighteenth-century theory of world literature enamored with the notion that the universality of poetry dwells in its metrical structure.
Gerard Lee McKeever, “John Paul Jones and the Curse of Home”
This article unpacks stories of John Paul Jones, the Kirkcudbrightshire sailor who mounted a series of raids around the British coast over 1778–79 as a privateer under the flag of the revolutionary United States, including an invasion of his home region in southwest Scotland. This turned Jones into a powerful mythic entity through which contemporaries attempted to negotiate questions of loyalty and belonging. The article pursues this overdetermined figure through a clustering of Romantic-era texts, most prominently Allan Cunningham’s novel of 1826 Paul Jones, yet to receive scholarly attention, with James Fenimore Cooper’s The Pilot (1824) as a counterpoint. It draws on a diverse critical landscape, pairing work on the nineteenth-century Scottish novel and on seafaring narratives with theoretical approaches developed within the environmental and specifically “blue” humanities. It understands the Romantic figure of Jones in littoral terms, Cunningham in particular having turned him into an embodiment of the coastal region of the Solway Firth. In Cooper’s The Pilot, the article finds Jones’s history displaced to the seaboard of Northumberland in northeast England, in proximity of his most famous victory against HMS Serapis in September 1779. This act helps to illuminate Cunningham’s chaotic novel, in which the interest of the historical romance in locale has gone into pathological overdrive. There, Jones’s perceived betrayal of Britain, Scotland, and (most powerfully) his birthplace, generates a narrative context in which the archipelagic circulations of global history are offset by a fixation with the ultimate expression of the local: home.