Enlightened Violence – Violent Enlightenment

Session at the Eleventh Quadrennial Congress of

isecslogo3.jpg (10087 Byte)



Louise Barnett: Swift's Satiric Violence
Swift's construction of his persona as a satirist in An Epistle to a Lady embodies the ambivalence of his practice, which he first describes as "Still to lash, and lashing Smile" (139). Lashing and smiling turn out to be, if not mutually exclusive, highly problematic in the satiric pose that Swift attributes to himself. The sudden eruption of violence, more startling because Swift described his satire so differently, deserves examination as a repeated phenomenon in his writings.
François-Emmanuël Boucher: Fénelon, Lesage and the desasters of the War of Succession of Spain
In this paper, my aim is to analyze the critics that the French authors, particularly Fénelon and Lesage, did about warfare at the beginning of the 18th Century, more precisely about the War of Succession of Spain. The end of the reign of Louis 14th coincided with an age where, because of the continuous efforts of Louvois, the army became centralized, dependant of the sole will of the king and striving for the good of the population and the glory of God. It was then important to impose a uniform, protect civilians, work accordingly to a chain of logistic and, most of all, enforce a discipline that will replace, ultimately, the importance of individual courage that has been too often the cause of insubordination and anarchy.
During the War of Succession of Spain, new means of conscription and an innovative system of promotion were being developed. They permitted to a greater number of people from the "petite noblesse" to reach some position of commandment within the army. They didn’t adopt a behavior that was completely different from before, but some new values appeared and became more and more admitted. Most of all, the good of the state, and not of such or such family, became essential.
Fénelon and Lesage have, although in quite different means, critiqued the ways in which war was conducted at the beginning of the 18th Century. I will first make an analysis of their means of argumentation. I will demonstrate that despite the dissimilarities that characterize their discourse, neither of them condemns warfare (unlike l’abbé de Saint-Pierre, for instance), but both question the ways in which it is conducted. The understanding of their premises will make it possible to understand more specifically what opposes and what unites these two authors and, finally, in what sense they can be seen as precursor, on the matter of the critic of warfare, of Voltaire, d’Holbach and some encyclopaedists.
Murray L. Brown: Sir Charles Grandison: Violence Depicted and Diffused
Richardson clearly believes in imitation. Ian Watt’s discussions of Richardson’s innovative use of "formal realism," for example, take this notion as a given, but Richardson believes more strongly still in the power of example – in affect. Further, all of Richardson’s major works are studies in violence (and the violent temperament), each with the object of defeating it. Sir Charles Grandison’s main character, the "good man," is under a physician’s advisement regarding how he, a man of quality and sensibility, may overcome violent tendencies in himself and others. This reformation is the novel’s main reason for being. Richardson’s habit is to use ekphrasis with object and effect of reproducing what are probably best understood as an "iconic moments." These moments always occur at a culminating point in the narrative. They mark crescendo; and by way of their strong visual presence, serve to iconographically tag (to signal and to signify) scenes of violence.
One of the most striking of these moments occurs shortly after Sir Hargrave Pollexfen abducts Harriet Byron (the future Mrs. Grandison) from a masquerade. Sir Charles overtakes Pollexfen and Harriet as they make their way in a coach from the ball. Hargrave has Harriet’s mouth stopped and she is bound, this while Hargrave acts out a scene from what Richardson surely considered to be a prurient work of art, Correggio’s "Jupiter and Io." Although the picture is not named, it is cited by way of Hargrave’s actions: he envelopes the heroine in his cloak and while making other allusions to his fantasized role as Jupiter, he further projects upon Harriet his intended role for her as the sexually receptive object of his advances. We must watch as he attempts to reenact this painting. It is Richardson’s object to offer insights into the psychology of sexual violence, and so he presents us with examples of how he feels violence is engendered – how art, in this case, can serve as both the progenitor and vehicle of moral corruption. It is invariably the case that moral corruption leads to violence.
At his point, I should mention that although it is not widely known SR used his influence in the attempt to have The Aenied and The Illiad removed from the Oxford-curriculum on the grounds of their violent and corrupting influences because of their dangerous affects. Richardson reasons that England’s future ruling class should be taught that there are ways of managing conflict other than resorting to armed confrontation and that these works have long inspired and transmitted falsified senses of honor and justice. Like dueling, this particular reform was the subject of public debate. But Richardson apparently believes that dueling is merely an affective response to these and similar works – and he seeks to reform what he identifies as the root causes of violence. He recognizes that life often imitates art, and so he is engaged in producing art with a reformed affective purpose.
In the instance above (and in a number of others), it should be argued that SR is really taking Augustan sensibilities to task. Pollexfen is, after all, possessed of a certain privileged classicism – so much so that he believes he is a god and he acts with the prerogatives of a god. This novel, however, has at least five subplots all of which possess and culminate in similar fashion; that is, all ultimately employ these allusive iconic qualities – all of which end in the frustration of violence.
I will have time to discuss but one or two instances. The first I have mentioned above. If there is time, however, I would also like to discuss the stylized violence of the drawing room where a musical keyboard and a song substitute for the sword. Richardson is sensitive to this type of "domestic" violence as well, and takes much care to illustrate its damaging effects. It is Harriet Byron’s recognition and defeat of this sort of violence that truly qualifies her to become Lady Grandison.
John R.J. Eyck: Losing Your Head over Lady Jane Gray, or How a Sentimental Revolution Turned Revolting
Drawn from an upcoming monograph (with the working title Patriots and Other Lovers), the proposed presentation compares three stage versions of the tragic life of England’s "nine-day’s queen", Lady Jane Grey, to wit: the original British drama by Nicholas Rowe (Lady Jane Gray, 1715), then Christoph Wieland’s infamous rewriting (1758), and finally a Dutch adaptation (begun 1787) by the writer Rhijnvis Feith. As sentimentalized biographies, each account becomes more revolutionary as their eighteenth century comes to a close. In these three successive adaptations, the transformation of what is actually shown on stage documents Enlightenment theater’s increasing fascination with political and social violence wreaked on individuals, and inscribed on their bodies. In point of fact, as each version stages Lady Jane’s experience of her husband Guilford’s beheading (foreshadowing her own very end), the series of retellings reveals the crucial change occurring in the eighteenth-century view toward violence. In Rowe, this execution receives scarcely passing treatment; by Wieland, Lady Jane mournfully witnesses her beloved’s murder; with Feith, however, Jane woefully kisses the corpse of her dispatched/detached spouse.
When placed in their historical contexts, a shift that might seem merely sentimental instead becomes critically significant for the Enlightened body politic. Thus, Rowe’s portrayal of political expediency turns into an opportunity for inner reflection in Wieland, then into a ritualized performance in the embrace of violence by Feith – a development paralleled in Grafton’s Bring Out Your Dead and Schama’s Dead Certainties. Furthermore, the increasingly physical reenactment confirms a more radical psychological confrontation with psycho-social realities – much like the terms put forward by Elaine Scarry’s The Body in Pain. While Rowe’s England is dealing with dynastic legitimacy in legal terms, Wieland’s Germany sees rule as a principally psychological phenomenon (as a kind of imagined community, which has to be invoked with a change of mind). Finally, Feith’s Low Countries stood at the brink of political upheaval, when a corpse of a republic, no matter how rich, was about to decompose – a political diagnosis of necrophilia on the part of its radical author.
Flavio Gregori: The Domestication of Belligerence in the Eighteenth-Century Epic: Alexander Pope’s Iliad and Odyssey as the Abandonment of the True Grand Style
The paper will investigate the eighteenth-century writers' rejection of the impolite and barbarian belligerence of the ancients and its attempts to mediate between their reverence for the epic poetry of Homer and the authors of the classical antiquity, and the refusal of their ethics and aesthetics of war. In the late seventeenth century and in the eighteenth century, Homer and his times, mores and war-codes had become impervious to the polite mores of modern culture and society, thus originating a set of "anti-homeric paradigms" (H.D. Weinbrot) that affected the understanding of the epic genre and fostered a redefinition of its ideological scope. Not only the "modernists" (in the ancients vs moderns controversy), such as Rapin, Perrault, Bayle, La Motte, Terrasson, Wotton, Joshua Barnes, Gildon, Blackmore, maintained that the modernity did not have anything to learn from the violent savagery of the ancient times, but also the pro-ancients (Boileau, M.me Dacier, Pope) found it impossible to adapt their poetry and aesthetics to the "dirty", "gory", "ruthless" (and, apparently, rule-less) world of the ancient war-making. War had to be sanitized, and its obscenity reversed into the ideological glory of civilization bringing (Rule Britannia etc.). Homer (as violence) became an absolute alterity, but the neoclassical writers were unable to fully understand the meaning of that alterity: in order to interpret and rewrite the epic of the classical antiquity they subsumed it under abstract (sanitizing) categories, of which they nevertheless intuited the inapplicability and ineffectuality (a fracture felt by Pope when warmaking was synonymous with Marlborough’s res gestae). The result of such an aesthetic operation was the writers' hypostatization of their poetic intention (the will to write an epic poem) as purely poetic prescription, as conceptual axiology dominating the actions and the mores of heroic characters (which were thus reduced to allegorical prosopopaeia). The epic subject cannot be completely heroic, in the modern versions of Homer, because he runs foul of the whole community of which he is part, unless he limits his action to the allegorical-administrative sphere allotted to him (thus paradoxically becoming less than heroic). In Lukàcsian terms, when the epic hero's subjectivity is understood (as he was by neoclassical writers) as larger than life and full of hybris, then he becomes liable to domestication and reduction, otherwise he is dangerous, excessive, anti-social. Such a narrative trajectory (from excessive, violent, larger-than-life subjectivity to one’s adaptation to the ways of the world through the subjectivity’s acceptance of objective limitations, through Entsagung) is fully visible in the later Bildungsroman; nonetheless it is already present, in nuce, in the Homeric translations of Alexander Pope, who, especially in the footnotes to the poems, downgrades the belligerent heroism of the ancient warriors to a bureaucratic activity lubricating the gears of the State machine (as in his portrayal of Agamemnon), even to a household tool (Eumeus, Ulysses) allowing the functioning of the oikos (where Pope, with a wishful thinking, would like to say polis). Conversely, in order to give a form of martial grandeur back to such an aseptic epic, Pope dresses his thoughts with a high diction and with exalted moral overtones (the formal version of Le Bossu's morale). His version of the "grand style", however, gets entangled in the poetics of the improvement, the grandiloquence, and the over-refinement, and is never able to achieve that totality which alone justifies the violence of life and world (its obverse obscene is Sir Richard Blackmore's fustian style, which Pope so much stigmatized in his Peri Bathos). Furthermore, the non-violent policy of Pope's epic style and ideology is not able to cope with the violence of the world: it is only a dress that covers the ugly body of reality that continuously resurfaces in terms of (his own) discontent for the shortcomings of civilization (for instance, in the resurfacing of the satiric mode, which puts the sanitized sublime on a par with the repressed violence of the repellent, typical of those allusions to those eighteenth-century political events that fell short of the Bolingbrokean idealism Pope embraced). To paraphrase Adorno and Horkheimer, not even in the form of romance did Pope's epos become a fable.
Anthony Jarrels: Why Literature Rose but not the People: Writing and Violence in post-1789 England
My paper looks at ways in which the Enlightenment conception of literature as a republic of letters gets conflated with violence – specifically, revolutionary, or popular, violence. Many journals and reviews in the 1790s responded to issues relating to escalating violence in France (and the potential for it at home via radical societies like the LCS). One of these issues, though, seems to have been literature itself. That is, some types of writing were seen not only to sympathize with violent revolution, or even to foment violence, but actually to comprise violent acts in themselves. Edmund Burke blamed the "political men of letters" for the Revolution in France. T.J. Mathias, in his Pursuits of Literature, referred to Mathew Lewis' The Monk as "a new species of legislative or state-parricide." Whereas Habermas has argued that the institutionalization of a public sphere in the eighteenth century marked a movement of violence into the realm of civic debate, by the end of the century it seems exactly the opposite was happening. The problem with print was linked to the problem with political representation: too much inclusion with regards to either one could lead to violence. This connection between writing and violence was a relatively simple and straightforward one for those who wielded it against real and suspected Jacobins (in Pitt's own "regime of Terror," for example; or in the many conservative reviews, such as The Anti-Jacobin, or Weekly Examiner). However, it posed an interesting and often urgent problem for those committed to an Enlightenment ideal of literature as a space of open debate.
Two writers who were opposed in many ways politically took up this problem and came to very similar conclusions regarding the place and value of literature. Neither writer accepted uncritically the connection between writing and violence. But both William Godwin and William Wordsworth thought it necessary that literature be severed from its association with the collective – and thus with its Enlightenment foundations. Both attempt to posit a more individualistic definition of the literary and both do this in part through swearing off a genre that had become synonymous with a kind of enlightened violence: system. This was more difficult for Godwin, the major Enlightenment figure in England at the time – and a systematizer to boot. Yet Wordsworth too was an heir to Enlightenment; for awhile he was an advocate of Godwin's "new" philosophy. (Wordsworth went further in his (unpublished) letter to the Bishop of Llandaff, arguing that violence was an unfortunate but necessary part of progress.) What unites them here is that as various journals made literature a subject of debate about violence so these writers – among others – in turn made literature a response to violence.
Andrea Pühringer: Violence in War. The Presentation of Physical Violence in Eighteenth-Century Literature and Art
A wide range of research has used seventeenth-century texts, like Grimmelshausen's "Simplizissimus" and several mercenary diaries as examples for the presentation of physical violence in war. A comparably wide attention for the eighteenth century is yet missing. Despite dozens of wars the eighteenth century is not considered as martial as the seventeenth. On the contrary, it is perceived as the age of enlightenment and rationalism and of "tamed Bellona". Several questions result from this general finding, but only two can be looked at more closely:
The purpose of this paper is to investigate the specific role of violence in the presentation of war. How is violence described and what were the functions of the respective descriptions within certain texts? Several types of texts like Voltaire’s Candide, Sterne's Tristram Shandy and Gleim's Prussian soldier-songs will be considered.
To increase the findings from the examination of these texts, in a second step some contemporary examples of pictorial art will be analysed. It seems sensible to use two different types: engravings and history- or battle-painting respectively. These allow different approaches because they were made under different circumstances, emerged from different motives, fulfilled different purposes and addressed different audiences. It will be shown that, on the one side, there was a very close interchange between engravings and the contemporary theory of literature and arts. On the other, side the changing historiography played a crucial role for history- and battle-painting as far as narrative structure was concerned. During the eighteenth century the terms of presentation varied, a generalising and moralising style being succeeded by a more individual view of events. It has to be emphasised that especially for battle-painting there are hardly any specialised studies. In particular the theme of "violence" - actually an implicit part of the genre - is widely neglected by art-historians. And most general historians use pictures for illustration only without regarding their story, the circumstances of their making and their functions.
Both groups of records under examination, the literary texts as well as the pictures, will be considered as fictional and individual records, asking for an adequate interpretation. Therefore it is not intended to study the real forms and occurrences of martial violence, which are, anyway, more or less an anthropological constant. Indeed, these records are conceived as more or less unsuitable to deliver insights into the violent reality of war. But seen in context they are well suited to detect changes in the perception of violence in military action during the Enlightenment. Beside the changes in warfare, the increasingly "refined forms of life" (Bourdieu) in the elegant world of the eighteenth century were of crucial importance and resulted in an "aestheticizing" of war and, above all, of the presentation of violence in war.
Monika Ritzer: Representations of Violence in Enlightenment Tragedy  
Since the days of Antiquity »violence« and the genre of »tragedy« are inseparably linked: Violence is one of the most important themes and motifs of tragedies, and it plays a central role in the effect which tragedies are meant to have on their spectators (»catharsis«). In the eighteenth century the latter aspect becomes dominant. The paper will discuss new theories of the dramatic effects of violence and their consequences for the poetry of the genre centring on German authors and plays from the second half of the century.  
Ricarda Schmidt: Virtue and Violence. Naive, Ironic, Rationalising, and Critical Presentations of this Nexus in 18th-Century European Prose

From Hobbes to Kant, it was widely assumed in the Enlightenment that the application of reason would not only produce scientific and technological progress as well as individual and social liberation, but would also promote virtue and, in consequence, the renunciation of violence, which was conceived of as something primitive. Rousseau stands for the opposite tradition of regarding mankind as naturally good; in his view, vice and violence are products of society. But for him too, the regaining of virtue and the overcoming of socially produced violence were the desired aim of individual and historical development. Yet while philosophers in the 18th century were arguing that virtue and violence were in principle mutually exclusive, European prose writers were exploring their interdependence.

In this paper I will examine two comic novels and two autobiographical texts from three different cultures, all of them written before the French Revolution and published between 1742 and 1790: Henry Fielding's Joseph Andrews (1742), Laurence Sterne's Sentimental Journey (1768), Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Confessions (1782 and 1789), and Karl Philipp Moritz's Anton Reiser (1785-1790). My purpose is to explore manifestations of behaviour where a concept of virtue legitimizes the use of violence in the mind of the agent. I am here not concerned with political violence, but with violence on the personal level. I am particularly interested in how narrative strategies position the reader in suggesting acceptance, doubt or rejection of the agent’s legitimation of violence.

I will be asking the following questions with regard to the narrative legitimation or delegitimation of violence:

1. What different forms does violence take (physical, verbal/emotional, imaginary)?

2. To what extent is individual intention in violent acts presented as heterogeneous?

3. How is the effect of violence on its recipient presented?

4. To what extent does the narrative explore a discrepancy between intention and effect of violent acts?

5. What psychological concepts of agency are expressed in the presentation of violence motivated by virtue?

 6. What influence does the gendered dualism of the private and public spheres and of Enlightenment epistemology have on the individual’s choice of violence?

7. What are the texts’ intentions with regard to the transformation of dominant value systems?

8. Are there any national differences in the presentation and legitimation of violence?

The aim of this investigation, which combines a narratological approach with perspectives informed by psychology (Freud), philosophy of law (Walter Benjamin), moral philosophy (Nietzsche), and sociology (Anthony Giddens), is to distinguish different concepts of agency and different ways in which agents and structure can be seen as mutually constitutive entities in 18th-century prose. I will finally attempt to classify the presentations of violence as suggesting to the reader a source in individual pathology or in social pathology, and an evaluation of violence as destruction, as radical therapy, as a challenge to dominating values and discourses, or as an expression of unconscious problems.

Mary Trouille: Buried Alive. Genlis's Gothic Tale of Domestic Violence

It is certainly no coincidence that the proliferation of gothic tales of  sequestered wives and spousal abuse occurred in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries at a time when the laws and customs concerning marriage and parental authority had become the subject of intense scrutiny and debate. In the sinister family dwellings of Gothic romance, eighteenth-century women writers expressed their  sense of entrapment by and subjection to patriarchal family and legal structures.

I am devoting a chapter of my book on conjugal violence in eighteenth-century France to the sequestration of wives in the gothic  novel as emblematic of the oppressed legal and marital status of women of the period. In my paper, I will focus on Stéphanie de Genlis's »Histoire de la Comtesse de ***« (a 100-page embedded narrative in her 1782 novel Adèle et Théodore). Genlis's tale tells the story of a woman secretly imprisoned by her jealous husband for nine years in a dungeon under his palace after he drugs her and then simulates her death and burial. After intercepting her correspondence with a friend, he had suspected her - unjustly - of an adulterous affair with a man she refuses to name, but who is in fact the Duke's own nephew Belmire, with whom she had had a platonic love affair before her marriage. The Duke gives her the choice either to name her supposed lover or to be imprisoned for the rest of her life. Fearing that her husband will have Belmire killed, she sacrifices herself for the man she loves, even though it means that she will be separated, perhaps forever, from her parents and infant daughter.

In a footnote, Genlis maintains that this is a true story based on the experiences of the Duchess of Cerifalco, daughter of the prince of Palestrina, who (according to Genlis) was passed for dead and then held captive for nearly a decade by her husband in a dungeon beneath his castle near Naples. Genlis claims that the Duchess told her the story herself in 1776 during Genlis's visit to Rome that year. The events of the story purportedly took place in the 1750s and 1760s.

The story is dominated by the image of the castle - a place of sequestration and persecution subject to the absolute will of the châtelain, who functions as judge, jury, and executioner, seemingly beyond the reach of the law. It presents an innocent victim at the mercy of an all-powerful adversary, whose abuse of power is all the more horrifying in that the victim is his own wife. Yet the Duchess proves far from helpless, since she draws strength and consolation from her religious faith as a means of resistance to her husband's injustice and violence. Moreover, in the course of her long captivity, the power relations between the Duke and his captive become curiously reversed. The Duke becomes a prisoner of sorts to his role as jailer. Unwilling to take others into his confidence, he is unable to leave the castle for more than three or four days at a time because he must provide food and water for his wife. When the Duchess falls into deep despair over her captivity and refuses to eat, he fears that she will die and that he will be responsible for her death. However, hearing that her parents are well and are caring for her daughter, she resolves to live in the hope of one day being reunited with them. This hope leads to a renewal of her religious faith, which grows stronger and sustains her for the remainder of her captivity. In contrast, the Duke's life becomes utterly poisoned by his jealousy, by his desire for revenge, and later by doubts and remorse for his actions, particularly in light of his wife's fortitude and repeated claims of innocence. The stronger his wife becomes, the weaker he grows until he falls into a mysterious illness that eventually kills him. On his deathbed, the Duke sends his nephew to release his captive, who is then reunited with her young daughter and parents.

 Like a number of other gothic tales of the period (such as Wollstonecraft's Maria, Louise de Kéralio-Robert's Adélaïde, Pierre de Lesconvel's Comtesse de Château-Briant, or Claudine de Tencin's Mémoires du comte de Comminge), Genlis's »Histoire de la Comtesse de ***« expresses the period's uneasiness concerning the oppressed status of women and their defenselessness in the face of spousal abuse. By portraying extreme cases of violence and the resistance - and ultimate vindication - of the victims, these texts present both a call for reform and hope for the future. For, as Hélène Cixous has suggested, »writing is precisely the very possibility of change, the space that can serve as a springboard for subversive thought, the precursory movement of a transformation of social and cultural structures«.