(2019): ‘Trouble in Paradise: Misbehaviour and Disbelief in Isle of Pines‘, The AnaChronist, 18:2, 390–400.
(2016): ‘In Mendacio Veritas: Telling the Truth through Lies in 1&2 Henry IV and Henry V’, Cahiers Élisabéthains, 91, 1–14
(2015): ‘Feeble Heroism: 1&2 Henry IV and Intellectual Liberty’, Deutsche Shakespeare-Gesellschaft, Seminar Online, 13, 63–74
(2014): ‘Richard II: History, Degeneracy and Deformity’, Theta, 11, 131–148
(2012): “Civil Monsters’: The Enlightened Dialectics of Othello’, The Postgraduate Journal of Aesthetics, 9 (2012), 15–28
Work in Progress
The article detailed below was originally a preparatory study for my next monograph, entitled The Invention of Home: Dwelling and Belonging in History and Utopia 1500–1700.
Utopia, Determinate Negation and the Humanities
In a radio discussion from just over fifty years ago, Ernst Bloch and T.W. Adorno sought to restore “honor” to the concept of utopia. For many, it had almost become a dirty word, designating either something utterly impractical, or even evoking the totalitarian horrors perpetrated in its name. Although utopia’s reputation can hardly be said to have improved, there is still a pressing need to better understand its constitutive contradictions. This article concerns itself with the utopian aspects of what the Frankfurt School thinkers termed the “determinate negation” that art offers to reality. Not only does it show how this form of negation is apparent in diverse ways in a vast array of artworks, spanning from Hungarian poetry to Nina Simone’s songs, but it also suggests that understanding this process is of importance to humanities scholarship. While much of the reactionary rhetoric about the “crisis in the humanities”, allegedly brought about by digital analytical techniques, is perhaps melodramatic, it is, nonetheless, vital to remain critical about an insidious ideology of big data, networks and pseudo-connectivity, which risks muting the eloquent discontent with the way things are that lies at the heart of art, music and literature.
KEY WORDS: Hope, Frankfurt School, Critical Theory, Digital Humanities
The Invention of Home: Dwelling and Belonging in History and Utopia 1500–1700
The Invention of Home: Dwelling and Belonging in History and Utopia 1500-1700 traces the conceptual development of dwelling and belonging in early modernity. It contends that the genesis of nationalism, which is essentially a discourse about home, can be better understood through a comparative analysis of the tropes, themes and narrative techniques of early modern histories and utopias. It take the relationship between dispossession, history and utopia to be primary and draws its theoretical framework from Exilliteratur––especially from the theories of Ernst Bloch and T. W. Adorno––and Fredric Jameson’s remarkable utopian project, An American Utopia (2016), as well as E. M. Cioran’s History and Utopia (1960), which was written in exile in Paris.
Our sense of belonging and the very notion of a homeland depend, to a large extent, on certain historical narratives, which vary in veracity from the ostensibly factual to the manifestly fictitious. The first stage of this project interpreted Exodus as a piece of exile-writing––it is, after all, a memory and a promise––and, therefore, a generic progenitor of both history and utopia. The study then examines the embedded narrative of the regicidal Gyges, which is shared by Herodotus’s History and one of the first explicit designs of a perfect society, Plato’s Republic, before analysing the first German translation of Tacitus’s Germania by the polemicist and utopian writer Eberlin von Günzburg, along with Thomas Münzer’s theology of revolution. The following chapter focuses on two early modern histories: Simon Grunau’s Preussische Chronik (1511) and Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Ireland and Scotland (1577; rev. ed. 1587). Through close textual analysis and discussion of the editorial history of these texts, it shows that an overt ideological aim of these texts was to forge states by inculcating a shared sense of belonging.
My basic contention is that the stories we tell ourselves about the events of the past can be profitably compared to those we tell about an ideal future. After all, rose-tinted histories and utopian thought clearly collided in nineteenth and twentieth-century nationalism, which evoked a morally purer heroic past, while promising a future transformed by technological and scientific progress. The second part of the project, upon which I am currently working, devotes a chapter to each of the following concepts: Law, Nature, Race and Nation. It focuses on reformist utopias that call for a return to a more authentic form of religious practice––especially von Günzburg’s Lutheran fantasy Wolfaria (1521) and Andreae’s Christianopolis (1619)––and the techno-scientific utopias of More, Godwin, Cavendish and Bacon.
Ultimately, this project seeks to expose the shifting sands upon which the ostensibly solid notions of dwelling and belonging are constructed. While the foundations of these concepts were laid in the early modern period, they remain far from stable and this intrinsic instability is of more than antiquarian or philological significance. With the recent resurgence of nationalism, what it means to dwell and belong––in short, to be at home––have once again become matters of pressing social and political importance. I hope to offer an alternative account of dwelling and belonging that might go some small way towards contesting earlier conceptions of these ideas, which had a hand in providing a philosophical basis for the catastrophes of the twentieth-century.
Please e-mail me for further details.