Revolutionary Subjects in the English "Jacobin" Novel, 1790-1805
Miriam L. Wallace
Jacket illustration: John Chapman (British, active 1772-1816), "The Genius of Literature presenting her Pupils to Minerva," 18th-19th century. Stipple engraving, 26.4x19.7 cm (image). Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, 1963.30.12470.
Revolutionary Subjects in the English "Jacobin" Novel engages ongoing debates on subject formation and rights discourse through the so-called "English Jacobin" novels. Ostensibly celebrating the universal rights-bearing subject, these political novels inadvertently also questioned the limitations of such universal conceptions. Including works by both men and women, and those normatively identified as radical alongside others considered more conservative or even "anti-Jacobin," this work examines the shared efforts to represent developing political consciousness and to inculcate such consciousness in readers across a reformist continuum. These novels' efforts to expand the citizen-subject threatened to reveal the cost implicit in accessing subjectivity on universal terms. Wallace argues that subversive narrative strategies in fiction, including William Godwin's Things as They Are (1794), Robert Bage's Hermsprong (1796), and Amelie Opie's Adeline Mowbray (1805), undercut and question the sovereign subject modeled as the ideal republican radical subject and describe a discourse that is not always in line with the work's overt "moral." If the concept of human rights appears both necessary and inadequate in 2009, it was likewise problematic in the revolutionary 1790s.
About the author:
Miriam L. Wallace is Associate Professor of British and American Literature at New College of Florida. She has written on embodied masculinity in Tristram Shandy, gendered subjects in Elizabeth Inchbald's A Simple Story, feminism in Mary Hay's Emma Courtney, and on Thomas Holcroft's 1794 trial for "constructive treason." Co-winner of the 1997 ASECS Teaching Award for "The French Revolution and the Cultural Imagination," Wallace produced a classroom edition of Memoirs of Emma Courtney and Adeline Mowbray; or the Mother and the Daughter (2004). Her current research examines sites of transgressive speech and legal fictions, including riots, trials, mutinies, Quaker writers, and crim.com cases.