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The Age of Projects

The Age of Projects

Edited by Maximillian E. Novak
  • Book Info
    The Age of Projects
    Book Description:

    The Age of Projectsuses the notion of a project as a key to understanding the massive social, cultural, political, literary, and scientific transitions that occurred in Europe during the late seventeenth century.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8734-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. chapter one Introduction
    (pp. 3-26)

    Daniel Defoe’s description of the 1690s as ‘The Projecting Age’ in hisEssay upon Projects(1697) is the starting point for this collection of essays.² Whereas for us the word ‘projects’ has a relatively neutral meaning, in Defoe’s time it had a distinctly unsavoury connotation, being associated with unscrupulous schemes for getting money. One contemporary definition described the projector as a ‘speculator, a cheat,’ and Defoe refers to ‘the Despicable title of aProjector,’ in his dedication of his work to Dalby Thomas.³ But Defoe attempts to transform the meaning of the word. For him, projectors are people who find...


    • chapter two Family, Inheritance, and Clarendon’s History of the Rebellion
      (pp. 29-50)

      In the opening pages of hisHistory of the Rebellion, the earl of Clarendon attempts to justify the seemingly vain exercise of writing historical manuscripts in an age of violence and printed polemic, asserting that ‘we may not yet find the cure [of England’s ills] so desperate, but that, by God’s mercy, the wounds may again be bound up; though no question many must first bleed to death ... And I have the more willingly induced myself to this unequal task, out of the hope of contributing somewhat to that end; and though a piece of this nature (wherein the...

    • chapter three The Interplay of Past and Present in Dryden’s ‘Palamon and Arcite’
      (pp. 51-72)

      The cultural world in which John Dryden lived after the Revolution of 1688–9 was in some important respects an imagined world, a world of his own making. Increasingly in the 1690s Dryden turned to translation, not only to earn a living, but also, imaginatively, to fashion a world that was peopled with congenial companions – Juvenal and Persius, Virgil, and, in theFables Ancient and Modern, published in 1700, just months before his death, Homer, Ovid, Chaucer, and Boccaccio. The textual and temporal world that Dryden created through his translations was eclectic, macaronic: the translation of Virgil was both a...

    • chapter four Trojan Originalism: Dryden’s Troilus and Cressida
      (pp. 73-90)

      ‘He laid aside his Epick Poem, perhaps without much loss to mankind; for his hero was Brutus the Trojan, who, according to a ridiculous fiction, established a colony in Britain. The subject, therefore, was of the fabulous age; the actors were a race upon whom imagination has been exhausted and attention wearied, and to whom the mind will not easily be recalled when it is invited in blank verse.’ So writes Samuel Johnson in hisLife of Pope, speaking of Pope’s flirtation with the English national myth of its own Trojan origins.¹ Pope never completed his muchplanned epic poem describing...

    • chapter five Canon versus Survival in ‘Ancient Music’ of the Eighteenth Century
      (pp. 91-112)

      I have been involved for some time in writing about patterns by which old music was performed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In my bookThe Rise of Musical Classics in Eighteenth-Century England(1992), I argued that that country was the first to establish a performing repertory one can call ‘canonic.’¹ By the 1790s, works of some age appeared on concert programs far more often in the British Isles than anywhere else in Europe, and a set of values became accepted by which such works might be revered. An identifiable repertory of works from the late sixteenth century to...


    • chapter six A Revolution in Political Economy?
      (pp. 115-140)

      ‘What greater demonstration can the world require concerning the excellence of our national government, or the particular power and freedom of this city, than the Bank of England,’ gushed one later seventeenth-century Englishman. This new institution, this bedrock of the so-called Financial Revolution, was so much to be lauded because it, ‘like the Temple of Saturn among the Romans, is esteemed so sacred a repository, that even foreigners think their treasure more safely lodged there than with themselves at home; and this not only done by the subjects of absolute princes, where there can be no room for any public...

    • chapter seven ‘Wandring Ghosts of Trade Whymsies’: Projects, Gender, Commerce, and Imagination in the Mind of Daniel Defoe
      (pp. 141-165)

      One of the most prolific writers on commerce, Daniel Defoe may be our greatest source for social attitudes about emergent capitalism in the early eighteenth century. But his ideas about the imagination were as forward-thinking for poetry as they were for economics, and we can say so without claiming that he innovated dramatically in either arena. In his time, Defoe was a brilliant synthesizer and gifted register of contemporary wisdom on a variety of topics, including spirits. Indeed, ghosts and spectral realities preoccupied Daniel Defoe for reasons very similar to his fascination with the imaginative generation of aesthetic and economic...

    • chapter eight Living Forever in Early Modern Europe: Sir Francis Bacon and the Project for Immortality
      (pp. 166-184)

      The long eighteenth century seemed to represent a crisis for health and medicine in Britain. As Daniel Defoe observed in hisTourof 1724, the nation was clearly getting wealthier–but as the physicians saw, it was not getting any healthier. In fact, the opposite appeared to be true: if anything, the English were getting sicker. Dr William Stukeley was not alone in attributing the growth of nervous distempers to the rise in wealth and luxury: ‘Our leaving the country for cities and great towns, coffeehouses and domestic track of business, our sedate life and excesses together, have prepar’d a...

    • chapter nine Johnson before Boswell in Eighteenth-Century France: Notes towards the Impossible Project of Reclaiming a Man of Letters
      (pp. 185-214)

      Recorded eighteenth-century French translations of Johnson’sLife of Savage, one; portions of theRambler, five; of theIdler, one; of theAdventurer, two; ofRasselas, ten; of the Preface toShakespeare, one; of theJourney to the Western Islands, two.¹ Studies of these twenty-one works, their implications, their many possible cousins, or their possible influence–none. Samuel Johnson as perceived in eighteenth-century France and francophone culture remains terra incognita.

      The dissuasive force is not a mythical cartographic monster, but the real Dragon Preconception. Since Johnson was unknown or irrelevant in eighteenth-century France, we do not investigate whether Johnson was known...

    • chapter ten Art from Nowhere: The Academy in Utopia
      (pp. 215-240)

      In this paper I will explore some links between utopian thought and academic institutions in the hopes that we can shed light on the conventional stereotype that academies are unyielding bulwarks of conservatism and that utopias are unalloyed dreams of benevolent wisdom. In the course of my investigation, I was surprised to discover that academic and utopian ideals have more in common that might at first be supposed, sharing similar ideological and cultural aims in both developing models for social change and reform and, at the same time, maintaining and reinforcing certain cultural norms common to their respective historical points...


    • chapter eleven Composing Westminster Bridge: Public Improvement and National Identity in Eighteenth-Century London
      (pp. 243-270)

      One of the most frequently articulated complaints about London in the eighteenth century was its lack of magnificence. As London, Westminster, and Southwark grew into one large metropolitan environment, politicians, statesmen, and ‘public-spirited’ gentlemen aired their concerns and offered their ideas about the shape the modern city should take. The above observation, from a pamphlet outlining the steps taken towards the building of Westminster Bridge in the two years following the act of parliament for its construction, argues that the appearance of a city, especially a capital city, should articulate a country’s political, commercial, and national identity. The author describes...

    • chapter twelve Here Comes the Son: A Shandean Project
      (pp. 271-296)

      If, as Walter Benjamin has said, ‘The hero is the true subject of modernism,’ the search for that hero can be considered a dominant theme of the early modern period, on the Continent but especially in England.¹ Hanoverian England was a dismembered country whose citizens sought a deliverer of their nation–be he prince, general, admiral, even poet–who would lead them out of the swamp of misery, failure, and despair. How could it be otherwise, when, as Paul Langford explained in hisNew Oxford History of England, ‘the traditional structures of corporate and communal life were either absent or...

    • chapter thirteen Science, Projects, Computers, and the State: Swift’s Lagadian and Leibniz’s Prussian Academy
      (pp. 297-317)

      Neither individuality, nor wit, nor knowledge and education, nor free speech made up enlightenment and modernity, but rather a potentially universal, fast-growing linking of information and organization. That is the thesis I want to pursue with this paper. The idea is doubtlessly very general and matches, in a wry sense, the goals of the members in Swift’s famous Academy of Lagado, who were obsessed with turning the world upside down with their projects and research.⁴ Accordingly, I was less proud than worried about the claim, until I realized that the idea is in fact not only already old, but the...

    • chapter fourteen Geographical Projects in the Later Eighteenth Century: Imperial Myths and Realities
      (pp. 318-343)

      While the earlier part of the eighteenth century was littered with the corpses of failed or abortive projects–the Darien Expedition, the South Sea Bubble, Bishop Berkeley’s Bermuda Project–the latter part of the century, according to the received wisdom, was filled with great and successful ones. These projects were spurred on by the period’s scientific advances, animated by Enlightenment ideas, and enriched by the accumulated experiences of the preceding six decades of global exploration. The air was filled with anticipations of grand discoveries and with visions of vast knowledge in the process of being collected, organized, and systematized–knowledge...

    • chapter fifteen Forging Figures of Invention in Eighteenth-Century Britain
      (pp. 344-369)

      When a scholar mentions Rudolf Erich Raspe (1736–94) in the same sentence as projection, the writer is usually invoking that quintessentially twentieth-century usage of the term, referring to the process of projecting unconscious fears or fantasies onto others.¹ Raspe’s anonymous authorship ofBaron Munchausen’s Narrative of his Marvellous Travels(1785), in which the eponymous baron recounts outlandishly tall tales, has been interpreted as a ‘projection’ in precisely this sense. In fact, Raspe’s twentieth-century biographer, John Carswell, discusses Raspe’s composition of the narrative in a chapter of his 1950 biography entitled ‘Baron Munchausen: The Projection.’ The consensus of scholars who...

    • chapter sixteen Measure for Measure: Projectors and the Manufacture of Enlightenment, 1770–1820
      (pp. 370-390)

      Almost a century after Daniel Defoe had penned hisEssay on Projects, the English MP Edmund Burke railed against the calculators who brought the world to the brink of ruin. For Burke in 1790, it was not France alone that then agitated him, but the whole reformist gang who relied on the manipulation of numbers, who made of the amalgam of trade, commerce, industry, and invention an elixir that corroded authority and tradition. France and its revolution was not his ultimate alarm. The Revolution was only a symptom (as another Irishman in another age would sense) of one ‘rough beast...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 391-394)
  10. Index
    (pp. 395-404)