Carlyle and the Economics of Terror

Carlyle and the Economics of Terror: A Study of Revisionary Gothicism in The French Revolution

Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 152
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  • Book Info
    Carlyle and the Economics of Terror
    Book Description:

    Using Aristotle's oikonomia to establish a paradigm of wholeness and authentic engagement, Desaulniers argues that Carlyle returns language to material wholeness by insisting on situating sign within representation so that the materiality of the sign is not surrendered to the idea imposed on it. By focusing on reading as an act of Constitution within The French Revolution, she places the political crisis within a linguistic one: the Constitution becomes both a thematic and self-reflexive constituent of the linguistic process.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6520-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. x-2)
  5. Introduction: Carlyle and the Economy of the Body/Text
    (pp. 3-8)

    In the fall of 1832, a cholera epidemic seized the Dumfries. The casualty rate was high: five hundred souls from a population of thirteen thousands. Panic was widespread, the people succumbing to a “terror” Carlyle felt was “disgraceful” (CL, 6:267). In a letter to John Stuart Mill, Carlyle describes the course of the disease as rather “violent,” “the people in a shocking panic, so that all communication is obstructed ... The terror of the World at this Pestilence is such as if Death had never been heard of. Nevertheless Death isnotnew; moreover, come when or how it will,...

  6. 1 Carlyle and the Economics of Terror
    (pp. 9-33)

    The place of Carlyle’sThe French Revolutionin the context of nineteenth-century narrative tradition is an anomalous one; neither history nor fiction, neither tragedy nor comedy, the work demands an encounter of its own kind. That it stands at a stylistic watershed is evident when Carlyle calls his work “aqueerbook ... one of thequeerestpublished in this Century” (CL, 8:209). Indeed, Emerson gently reproaches Carlyle for writing a work that is “Gothically efflorescent” and insists that “it might be [made] more simple” (C, 1:131). But Carlyle seems wholly committed to the “savagery” of the piece, calling it...

  7. 2 Faustian Analogues
    (pp. 34-59)

    Despite its initially unfavourable reception in Britain/Goethe’sFaustremains an influential work. It is no coincidence that subsequent to the publication of part I ofFaust,we find in England a series of “Faustian texts,” all predicated on the logistics of the wager. The Faustian wager becomes the pivotal argument in two highly popular Gothic works: Lewis’sThe Monkand Maturin’sMelmoth the Wanderer.Here the wager participates as idiom of a commercial bargain - one sells one’s soul in exchange for the devil’s word, but, in a classic “sleight-of-hand,” the wages of sin become the marks of deficit when...

  8. 3 Economics and Economy in The French Revolution
    (pp. 60-93)

    Carlyle’s “Gothic” experiment in “The Diamond Necklace” takes on a more aggressive form inThe French Revolution.The logistics of the wager, the betrayal of the word and the place of the reader in the text become the very means by which the political crisis in France is made not only into an allegory of economic collapse but also into a metaphor of (mis) reading. Central to this misreading is Rousseau’sSocial Contract,the political wager of “contracted” nationhood. The degeneration of this new political text into the Reign of Terror can be seen as an extension of the logic...

  9. 4 Economics and Economy in the King’s Glorious Body
    (pp. 94-104)

    The distinction Carlyle maintains between allegory and symbol is a significant feature of the royal icon. Royal portraits present a unique relationship between body and sign, between the historical body of the King and his portrait, the “constituted” sign of royal power. That which is hidden by these portraits reveals their participation in what de Man calls “metaphorical totalization,”¹ strategies through which an icon suppresses historical reality in its unilateral pursuit of ideal presentation. InAllegories of Reading: Figural Language in Rousseau, Nietzsche, Rilke and Proust,de Man dissolves Rousseau’sSocial Contractby showing that it is a text divided...

  10. 5 Afterword: Sordello and the Economics of Representation
    (pp. 105-119)

    Parallels between Carlyle’sThe French Revolutionand Browning’sSordellohave been the focus of some critical attention in recent years. Mark Gumming, for example, perceives a connection between the dense and resistant prose inThe French Revolutionand the “brother’s speech” in book 5 ofSordello.¹Similarly, David E. Latane views Carlyle and Browning as direct inheritors of the Romantic paradigm of “fit audience, though few.” Their places in this tradition contribute to what Latane calls an “aesthetics of difficulty.” Latané’s exploration of Browning’s linguistic density and its concomitant demands on the reader situates the poem within a Romantic preoccupation...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 120-122)

    InDream Worlds: Mass Consumption in Late Nineteenth-Century France,Rosalind H. Williams makes an explicit connection between the consumer revolution of the nineteenth century and events in French history. Citing the French aristocracy and its definition of “civilization” as the “prototype” of consumer habits, Williams makes a case for the “concept ofcivilization”as “an authoritative guide for the consumer ... by positing a humanistic idea capable of giving consumption a meaning and purpose.” This guide, however, disintegrated towards the beginning of the nineteenth century when the “humanistic ideal ofcivilizationtended to evaporate, leaving behind a residue of material...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 123-128)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 129-136)
  14. Index
    (pp. 137-140)