The Cultural Work of Empire

The Cultural Work of Empire: The Seven Years' War and the Imagining of the Shandean State

CAROL WATTS
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 352
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3366/j.ctt1r20qk
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  • Book Info
    The Cultural Work of Empire
    Book Description:

    This book argues that the Seven Years’ War (1756–63) produced an intense historical consciousness within British cultural life regarding the boundaries of belonging to community, family and nation. Global warfare prompts a radical re-imagining of the state and the subjectivities of those who inhabit it. Laurence Sterne’s distinctive writing provides a remarkable route through the transformations of mid-eighteenth-century British culture. The risks of war generate unexpected freedoms and crises in the making of domestic imperial subjects, which will continue to reverberate in anti-slavery struggles and colonial conflict from America to India. The book concentrates on the period from the 1750s to the 1770s. It explores the work of Johnson, Goldsmith, Walpole, Burke, Scott, Wheatley, Sancho, Smollett, Rousseau, Collier, Smith and Wollstonecraft alongside Sterne’s narratives. It incorporates debates among moral philosophers and philanthropists, examines political tracts, poetry and grammar exercises, and paintings by Kauffman, Hayman, and Wright of Derby, tracking the investments in, and resistances to, the cultural work of empire.Key Features* Topical in its focus on the making of ‘modern’ subjectivity during the first ‘global war’* Path-breaking in advancing our understanding of the cultural history of eighteenth-century Britain* Timely in its combination of new historical research with a critical engagement with debates in postcolonial and subaltern studies* Original in its account of the literature of the Seven Years’ War and its outstanding analysis of the writing of Laurence Sterne

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-3122-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-vii)
  4. ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. INTRODUCTION: THE CULTURAL WORK OF EMPIRE
    (pp. 1-27)

    Tuesday, 14 September 1762. In the small Sussex village of East Hoathly, a shopkeeper and parish officer, Thomas Turner, sat down to write an entry into his journal. He was an assiduous man, and his diary is full of the detailed transactions of daily life, from his household ledgers to the composition of his dinners, a recipe for leftovers, important in a time of scarcity, saved from the monthly magazines. Despite his concern for self-improvement, voiced with a certain shamefaced regularity after each Sunday sermon, he liked a sociable drink. On this particular evening he had been visited by a...

  7. CHAPTER 1 LUNACY IN THE COSMOPOLIS (1759) : EXPANSION AND IMPERIAL RECOIL
    (pp. 28-64)

    The errant trajectories of people and things that shape the Shandean universe testify to a widespread form of ‘lunacy’ characteristic of the imperial project in mid-century Britain. It was not only philosophers who reflected on the troubling presence of the ‘world in the moon’, and the potential affiliations with the fortunes of unknown others who inhabited it.² These were flows which traversed the globe, connecting lives and territories in previously unimaginable and accidental ways. If the experience of empire itself was not new in the 1760s, though the reach of British power was unparalleled, its administration and governance now required...

  8. CHAPTER 2 PATRIOT GAMES: MILITARY MASCULINITY AND THE RECOMPENSE OF VIRTUE
    (pp. 65-108)

    In late 1761 the first of a series of four large history paintings by Francis Hayman was exhibited at Vauxhall Gardens. It commemorated the taking of Montreal by General Amherst in the previous year, an event which had effectively secured Canada for the British following Wolfe’s success in Quebec. The Surrender of Montreal to General Amherst portrayed a humanitarian act of relief, in which the General was shown extending his arms compassionately to the kneeling population of the city – both French and Indian – who had starved under siege. The painting was inscribed, according to a guide-book, with the...

  9. CHAPTER 3 PRICKSONGS IN GOTHAM: OR, THE SEXUAL OECONOMY OF STATE IMAGINING
    (pp. 109-149)

    In the early volumes of Tristram Shandy the narrator refers to the ‘world’ he is representing as ‘a small circle described upon the circle of the great world, of four English miles diameter’ (TS 1.7.10). If this gesture registers the impossibility of comprehending the extent of that wider world in a single totalising vision, its use of the local is nonetheless a response to such a historical condition; a means, as I discussed earlier, of figuring a form of counter-modernity. Yet there is more to discover in Sterne’s act of enclosure. It emerges in a gendered tale about the balance...

  10. CHAPTER 4 FRIENDSHIP, SLAVERY AND THE POLITICS OF PITY, INCLUDING A VISIT FROM PHILLIS WHEATLEY
    (pp. 150-196)

    The ‘Private Young Gentlemen and Ladies’ whose task it was to correct this ‘promiscuous exercise’ from James Buchanan’s The British Grammar of 1762 were engaged in more than a simple test of linguistic competence. As the passage, entitled ‘On Conversation’, itself suggests, in removing the last grammatical distortions from this model of polite discourse, Buchanan’s students would earn their right to be members of a privileged community. As soon as the way to a certain transparency of sense could be cleared, so the social channels of communication would be opened to them. The errors concern what Locke had generally termed...

  11. CHAPTER 5 WOMEN’S TIME AND WORK-DISCIPLINE: OR, THE SECRET HISTORY OF ‘POOR MARIA’
    (pp. 197-246)

    Imperial competition was the most aggressive of enterprises, even in times of peace. For Josiah Tucker, a pacifist during the Seven Years’ War in the name of le doux commerce, the war at stake was an internal one, to be welcomed in its rigorous conquest of the domestic population. If the realm of sociable commerce made such an imperative palatable through the forms of affective ‘reciprocity’ I have been exploring, it nevertheless could seem a war in all but name. It had, to continue the metaphor, its casualties and deserters, as well as its enemies within. And central to its...

  12. CHAPTER 6 ‘BRAMIN, BRAMINE’: STERNE, ELIZA DRAPER AND THE PASSAGE TO INDIA
    (pp. 247-290)

    Laurence Sterne was never averse to turning his life and opinions into enterprise. This was also true of his death, parodically memorialised in Tristram Shandy’s black page, and personified in the later volumes of the novel pursuing him relentlessly across France. Consumption finally caught up with him in an anonymous London lodging house in 1768. In that year he published A Sentimental Journey, and also created his last work, The Journal to Eliza, the epistolary record of his love for Eliza Draper, altogether more helium-filled in its sentimental fantasy than his previous narratives. ‘If I live not till your return...

  13. CHAPTER 7 CONCLUDING ALONG SHANDEAN LINES
    (pp. 291-307)

    ‘I defy the best cabbage planter that ever existed . . . to go on cooly and critically, and canonically, planting his cabbages one by one, in straight lines, and stoical distances, especially if slits in petticoats are unsew’d up—without ever and anon straddling out, or sidling into some bastardly digression—’ (TS 8.1.655), writes the narrator of Tristram Shandy. The wayward movement of Sterne’s writing can sometimes present his reader, like his embattled historiographer in volume one, with a prospect of ‘endless genealogies, which justice ever and anon calls him back to stay the reading of’ (TS 1.14.41...

  14. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 308-328)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 329-342)