Monthly Archives: February 2007

My first conference (gulp)…

No, not the first conference paper! I have to organise a conference for the first time, as part of my job. In fact, I have to organise two, one for the Central Criminal Court proceedings project and the other, later on, for Plebeian Lives. This is at once an exciting and utterly terrifying prospect.

At the moment I’m not sure exactly what model the conferences will follow. (If anything like the Old Bailey Proceedings conference (Muse), there won’t be parallel sessions, which will make life slightly easier.) There’s a good chance we’ll have delegates from several different continents and each conference will last for at least two days. I should have more information on this by the end of the week.

So, does anyone have advice (what to do and what not to do!) on any aspects of organising an academic conference? Or pointers to webpages containing good advice? It seems quite hard to find useful resources online.

Any tips will be much appreciated!

Susan Staves on Women’s Writing and the Novel (SCSECS ’07)

Another highlight of the weekend was the set of plenary addresses arranged to honor the 25th anniversary of the journal, Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, featuring Susan Staves, Maram Epstein, and Carla Mulford.  Though all three talks were good, I thought that Staves’s talk would provide some interesting matter for further discussion here.

Staves did a very nice job in her talk distinguishing between the history of women’s writing and the history of the female novelist in her plea for further research on women’s writing in non-fictional genres.  This talk was clearly a spinoff of the long-term work she has done in feminist literary history, not just in her own studies, but in her powerful overview of the field, A Literary History of Women’s Writing in Britain, 1660-1789 (Cambridge, 2007).

http://www.cambridge.org/us/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521858658

What I found most interesting about Staves’s talk was her claim that it was women’s non-fiction, not fiction, that contained the least ideologically determined representations of women.  The female characters in the novels will resemble the characters in the conduct books, but the products of feminine experience found in diaries, memoirs, essays, histories, etc., will necessarily contain more complicated representations, and more realistic examples of how women worked within and against contemporary codes of conduct and decorum.  [this is all from memory, but I think I’m doing justice to SS’s points here]

This seems plausible to me, insofar as I’ve always wondered about how resolve the tensions between the prescriptive, conduct book images of femininity and the related though not identical images offered in both the novel and social history.  Bringing the non-fictional genres of women’s writing to bear upon this question seems like a good way to approach this problem.

But to do this, we need to start taking not-quite-literary genres like the periodical essay or the familiar letter much more seriously than we have in the past, and stop isolating the novel from other, concurrent genres.  Any sign that we might follow Susan Staves’s excellent advice?

Best,

DM

Back from SCSECS 2007, @ Tulsa, OK

Hello everyone,

I’m back in Houston today, after a very nice weekend in Tulsa, presenting at SCSECS ’07.  Laura Stevens did a fine job running the conference, whose program can be found here:

http://www.scsecs.net/scsecs/2007/2007program.html

I heard a number of interesting talks, but I wanted to post today about one particularly good set of talks.

Eugenia Zuroski, at U Arkansas, put up a very nice panel on nationalism and national identity, with fine papers from Natalie Bayer, Elizabeth Thompson, Jason Holinger, and Amanda Hines (those interested in learning more about these talks may consult the program link above, which  gives affiliations and titles). 

The papers described a number of different aspects of nationalism and trade during our period: Russian freemasonry,  settler/native american intermarriage, nabobs and the gentlemanly ideal in colonial India, and British tea-table rituals.  One of the most interesting topics to emerge from was the convergence of modernization and nationalism as large-scale historical processes significantly driven yet complicated by commerce and trade.  Yet some 18c witnesses to these processes fought against these developments, as well: tea was denounced as a luxury and a drug, and the nabobs of India were disapproved of for their excesses or ostentation.  We talked a little about the “pollution” and destabilization that trade seemed to introduce into those societies, and the heavy fire that such symptoms of trade and change drew from contemporary moralists.

But the usual opposition of Enlightenment cosmopolitanism to a nascent 19c nationalism seems too simplistic to describe the events described in this panel.  It seems that “enlightenment” and “nationalism” seem to be phases of a single process of modernization taking place in Europe and elsewhere, which involves the incorporation of places like Russia, India, China, or the American colonies into the world-market run by English and European traders and merchants.  It’s important to note, moreover, that these exchanges affected not just patterns of consumption for these goods, but also “manners” in every sense of the word.

In any case, it was a fine set of talks.  More later on other stuff I saw at Tulsa.

Best,

DM

Carnivalesque #24

Welcome to the 24th Carnivalesque! There are lots of great links here, so let’s get started.

Maps
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Strange Maps discusses California’s history as an island, possibly home to the Garden of Eden.

George Goodall at Facetation writes on the influence of engineering on early modern maps. Why didn’t maps develop more quickly into the representational structures we recognize today? I’ve recently heard a number of interesting answers from the aesthetic angle to this question, but Goodall frames it as a question of technology and knowledge.

The Conventicle‘s H.C. Ross posts a series of links to maps of interest to students of Puritanism.

Early Modern America
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Walking the Berkshires describes a fascinating episode of the American Revolution.

Mary Mark Ockerbloom at Merrigold discusses the life and poetry of Phillis Wheatley.

Language, Literature and Philosophy
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Conrad H. Roth at Varieties of Unreligious Experience on the language of alchemy and the history of writing about the London Bridge.

Paul Robinson at Novice Philosopher wonders how Hume and Bayes never crossed paths.

Brad Pasanek at The Mind is a Metaphor explores the implications of mechanical imagery for the mind through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

John Holbo wants you to come talk about Diderot’s Rameau’s Nephew at the Valve.

Simplicius at Blogging the Renaissance wonders how to avoid getting anti-Semitic responses to The Merchant of Venice.

Brett Hirsch at Sound and Fury explores the relationship of Jewishness to poison-making, and how poison makes a dog burst.

Loveliness
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Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society posts this beautiful representation of Linnaeus’s “Flower Clock.”

Philobiblon visits the plague wall in Provence.

PK at Bibliodyssey gives us this extraordinary series of illustrations of a Tuileries Tournament.

Fun
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Also at BtR, play along with this New-Yorker-style caption contest, from Truewit.

Mark A. Rayner at the Skwib brings us more of the The Lost PowerPoint Slides, Gutenberg Edition.

This Gaudy Gilded Stage offers the first two installments of Hottie of the Month, Sir Charles Sedley and William Congreve.

(And, of course, everything here and at the Eighteenth-Century Reading Room offers early modern content nearly as oft as you could wish it.)

Carnivalesque this weekend!

This is just a reminder that the Long Eighteenth will be hosting Carnivalesque this weekend. This is a history-related blog carnival, with a special emphasis on posts related to the early modern period (1500-1800ish). I have received a few submissions so far, but we’d love to have more! Please submit your posts using the submission form here, or by emailing me directly at carrieshanafelt at gmail.

The politics of gesture: Historical perspectives

[Michael Braddick, whose essay on civility I just discussed a few days ago, forwarded the following conference announcement, and hopes to post about it here when the conference website goes live in the spring.  We look forward to hearing more about this event.–Best wishes, DM]

(Conference at Humanities Research Institute, Sheffield 15-16 Sept 2007)

Gestures can be powerful means of communicating affirmation and solidarity and, for the same reason, can be powerful means of expressing dissent.  Class, gender and generational relationships are all expressed and reproduced in gestural codes; so, too, are ethnic identities.  Such codes are therefore central to the process of structuration described by Giddens: through individual actions we express, and reproduce, broader social relationships (structures).  By the same token, transgressive gestures, or infractions of gestural codes—such as failing to take off a hat, or an over-familiar use of the hand shake, for example–-can modify or even transform the patterns of social interaction, leading to a more coercive expression of power or, in the absence of such, a dilution of the cultural weight and effectiveness of authority.  Gesture, in other words, can be the battleground over which divergent visions of social and political order are fought.  Of course, these clashes can be  unconscious—for example, in unintended miscommunication at moments of inter-cultural contact—but such unfortunate miscommunications are no less important for their accidental nature, nor less revealing to historians of larger assumptions about social relationships and their regulation.


On the whole, historians have paid more attention to the politics of ritual than of gesture.  Ritual, like gesture, has these functions, and is regularly reproduced, but the distinction perhaps centres on the more consciously articulated and choreographed performances implied by the term ritual, and the greater regularity of gesture.  That more attention has been paid to ritual is in part a reflection of the sources, and by the same token, this has tended to restrict the range of arenas in which these ritual politics are studied, for example by privileging royal and religious authority.  Histories of gesture, on the other hand, have often been preoccupied with chronological change rather than with politics and contestation: for example, shifts from one bodily regime to another, the rise of politeness, or the self.  It is suggested here that through an approach to gesture (as opposed to ritual) which focuses more closely on who is communicating what (and with what success), historians can gain access to a wider range of politics—within the home, between generations and status groups, or between ethnic groups—and of politics in more routine situations.  


In most historical contexts it is difficult to get at actual examples of bodily deportment, except where they were a cause of conflict.  However, it does seem possible to take an historical approach to such moments of conflict, when breaches of gestural codes prompted to violent confrontation, or were perceived to be deliberate subversions of dominant political values—examples of the refusal of deference, or the affectation of unacceptable ‘styles’ provoked attempts to forcibly reassert a particular vision of social and political order.   A second area of interest is in the disruption of political and religious ceremonies—it is easy to think of examples from medieval and early modern
England, but presumably in any number of other places.  Here again the study of gesture offers a way into subaltern, or popular, political attitudes, shedding an oblique light on the everyday politics of class, race and subversive politics.  A final area of interest is the issue of representation and the history of the body.  The politics of the smile, or the kiss, or the handshake are all possibilities; so too the unruly body as a signifier of disorderly life.  These cultural history approaches seem to have the most to offer in opening up the politics of gender and age hierarchies.  Overall, it is clear that the topic prompts diverse responses, but also that there is coherence in a recurrent engagement with, for example, Elias, Goffman, Bourdieu and Foucault.  

Speakers: 

Leslie Brubaker, Birmingham: ‘Gesture in Byzantium’ 

Philippe Depreux, Limoges: [tbc: Investiture?]

Peter Coss, Cardiff: ‘Gesture and judgement’ 

Miri Rubin, London: ‘Gestures of pain, implications of guilt: Mary and the Jews’

John Walter, Essex: [tbc: 17th century England]

Jim Sweet, Wisconsin: ‘Gesture, gender, and healing in the African-Portuguese world, 1550-1750’

Karin Sennefelt: Uppsala, ‘The politics of hanging around and tagging along: everyday practices of politics in eighteenth-century Stockholm’ 

Colin Jones, London: ‘Meeting and greeting in late eighteenth-century Paris’   Dallett Hemphill, Ursinus: ‘Manners in the Age of Revolution: A Transatlantic comparison’

David Arnold, Warwick: ‘Salutation and subversion: the gestural politics of nineteenth-century
India’

James Hevia, Chicago: ‘“The ultimate gesture of deference and debasement”: Kowtowing in
China’

Mary Vincent, Sheffield: ‘Expiation as performative rhetoric in national-Catholicism’

Bill Chafe, Duke: ‘Politics in post-world war II America: the politics of gesture writ large’

Mary Fulbrook, London: ‘Enacting the social self: embodiments of status in the two German dictatorships, 1933-89’

Stephan Feuchtwang, London: ‘Commemoration, inclusion and exclusion in China and
Taiwan’

Richard Handler, Virginia: ‘Erving Goffman and the gestural dynamics of modern selfhood’

How can we talk about race in English literature?

[Cross-posted to the Valve]

Last night I attended a particularly fruitful talk by Kim Hall (Director of Africana Studies at Barnard) on sugar production in the seventeenth-century West Indies and the use of “sweetness” in English writings about domestic economy and husbandry. Her talk, “Foreign Encounters with Domestic Economies,” covered a great deal of ground, moving from historical descriptions of the African slave labor that produced sugar from cane (making it, for the first time, readily available to English people outside the very wealthiest class) to the kinds of advertisement writing that appeared in the seventeenth century describing the West Indies to the English, and therefore to prospective investors. Not surprisingly, these latter texts largely skip over the facts of slave labor, instead describing the land as itself somehow yielding up not only ready-to-use sugar, but also candies, cakes, and marmalades. Later, she went on to discuss the use of “sweetness” in C17 English poetry, the valuation of “sugar” metaphors over “honey” ones, and especially how the use of “sweetness” relates to English conceptions of English husbandry, as employed at home and in the colonies.

The range and depth promise good things for her forthcoming book, The Sweet Taste of Empire, which promises to cover all this material in greater depth and detail.

Obviously, narratives of labor and empire have had a wonderful effect on our analysis of historical texts. One can’t imagine reading something like Edmund Hickeringill’s 1661 Jamaica Viewed (one of Hall’s main source texts) without considering the ways that slave labor have been erased from its narrative of production in the West Indies. But what I found quite revolutionary about Hall’s work was the way she goes on to show how anxieties about that erasure appear even in the more “literary” texts of the period. She quotes the following lines from Robert Herrick’s “A Country Life”:

Who keep’st no proud mouth for delicious cates:
Hunger makes coarse meats delicates.
Canst, and unurg’d, forsake that larded fare,
Which art, not nature, makes so rare,
To taste boil’d nettles, colworts, beets, and eat
These and sour herbs as dainty meat,
While soft opinion makes thy genius say,
Content makes all ambrosia.

Here we see sweetness (associated with the class-marker-yearnings of the country gentry) rejected in favor of the humble, local products of English husbandry. Nettles and beets are associated with what one’s own hands can gather, rather than what can be bought from overseas labor. The content he urges is not only content with what is simple or cheap, but with what is readily within one’s grasp. Hall demonstrates how the surpassing sweetness of sugary confections is coded with distance, class, and the labor of foreign hands.

Miriam Burstein’s Valve post on “The historicist’s useful fiction” got me thinking about how much one can read into, for example, Herrick’s treatment of sweetness. After all, the narratives coming back to England from the West Indies, as Hall says, tend to erase the labor that goes into planting cane, harvesting, pressing, rendering, and storing. How much would Herrick have known about the vast industry of slave labor that fueled the sugar production that makes the “delicates” fit for the tables of the upper class?

Not much, probably, but, in the end, does that much change the validity of Hall’s claim that anxieties about sweetness and husbandry begin to infuse the poetry of domestic economy in the seventeenth century?

In conversation with Prof. Hall after the talk, I began to think about the ways that I teach literature of this era as aware of globalization and foreign labor. I’m about to start doing Gulliver’s Travels with my British Lit Survey students, and, for me, it’s clearly not just a satire on British society, but also on imperial English perspectives, foreign labor, racism, and genocide. For some reason, these were never really issues that any of the professors I’ve studied Swift with have ever brought up much. We talked about British religion, philosophy, government, and class, all things that Swift obviously knew and cared about, but we never really discussed whether Swift was concerned about slavery, subjugation, and murder. We know he read Dampier and patterned GT on it closely (and to quite humorous effect, if you’ve read Dampier), but the explicitly racist depiction of the Yahoos is rarely discussed. There is a queasiness about whether Swift aligns himself with the Houyhnhnms who wish to annihilate these beings, or whether he is satirizing Gulliver’s creepy eagerness to distance himself from them. To me, the text suggests the latter, but certainly this requires a bit of faith in the amount to which Swift associates the English treatment of the Irish with the European treatment of other peoples around the world. I’ve taught it before with this assumption, while offering the possibility that I’m wrong.

It’s a difficult, and perhaps uncomfortable question that one may not wish to raise about an author whose opinion of human nature is so low that it’s hard not to see some satisfaction in his character’s willingness to turn away from humanity altogether.

I worry sometimes, though, that in our hesitance to suggest too much about an author’s knowledge or opinions, we may be unwilling to bring up issues of colonial power, slavery, and racism while teaching, even if we willingly accept these issues as valid subjects of critical discussion. Is it wrong to suggest the possibility of an author’s awareness of global struggle to undergraduates?

18th century versions of local and universal knowledge in Michael Braddick

Hello folks, sorry to have slowed down on my posts these past few weeks, but it’s been a hectic time: I was redoing the index for my book (now off my desk: woo hoo!),  and I’ve been pulled in to the accreditation stuff going on on our campus.  (If anyone else has had experience dealing with SACS QEPs [don’t ask], write me offline at dmazella@uh.edu).

In the midst of all this, I’ve been going through a book I just picked up, David Armitage and Michael Braddick’s The British Atlantic World:  1500-1800 (Palgrave, 2002), and was really impressed by the quality of the essays.  Braddick himself contributes a terrific essay on “Civility and Authority” in the Atlantic world, which I’d like to recommend to you.  It seems like a precis of the argument of the Cambridge UP book he published in 2000, State Formation in Early Modern England, which I missed, but which I will now definitely look at.

Braddick’s essay is interesting because he begins with what I’d call the “cultural history” approach of, say, Lawrence Klein on politeness and civility, reading “civility” R. Williams-style as one of a series of “key words” or “structures of feeling” for understanding behavior in this period, but then shows concretely and convincingly how these terms helped determine practices of political power and authority up and down the social scale.  This combination of approaches, semantic and material, is useful, because it takes Klein’s groundbreaking insights into 18c politeness, as well as Bryson’s excellent work on the cultural stakes of a rhetoricized “civility,” and pushes the discussion of the history of manners into a whole new phase.

In brief, MB reframes the discussion by taking civility and the material culture undergirding it, and treating both together as part of a social apparatus that allows the “gentleman” to project power and authority over others, in a social order “based explicitly on difference and inequality” (94).  He says, “Political authority was projected and sustained in terms of a language of rule which included the material expression of social distinction: to rule one had to be able to live appropriately, ‘to bear the port, charge, and countenance of a gentleman.'” (95).   We can all think of literary examples of this vision of social order, early and late, that more or less approximates this vision of social hierarchy: 17c pastorals like “Upon Appleton House,” but also nostalgic variants like Matt Bramble’s estate in Humphry Clinker.

Braddick’s discussion of how social position was supposed to mirror, and reinforce, political authority (in what Judith Butler would call a mimetic relation) feels like the missing piece of the puzzle in analyses like Klein’s, which stress the consistency and systematicity of such regimes of politeness, but perhaps neglect the reasons why they were sustained with such passion for such a long time, because of the incremental advantage they gave individuals striving to assert authority over others, who were forced to respond in kind.  So yes, civility and power need to be thought together more systematically.

As I indicated to Laura in our exchanges over Berg, this aspect of civility as projection or display of social position and power could be brought over to the function of antiquarians in such societies, especially under conditions of increased change.  MB notes:

A distinctive genre of writing developed in Elizabethan England, referred to as “chorography.”  In these writngs landscape, history, legal liberties, and local genealogies were intertwined.  They celebrated not simply material aspects of local life but their history and antiquities, particularly the history of important local families.  Distinctive local societies were erected over the land and around local social hierarchy.  These local and social distinctions were expressed in display.  The chimney, the parlor, the glazed window were all signs of social status–in effect they represented a material expression of the right to rule.  As we have seen, keeping up appearances–playing the part of a gentleman–was essential to the maintenance of “natural” authority.  This rested in part on material expressions of taste and distinction on the landscape, in the home, and on the body (102).

In some ways, I’m glad I waited to finish this post until after we discussed Berg, because I believe that MB has put his finger on the historical differences between consumption practices in an inegalitarian setting of inherited birth and worth and contemporary consumption, their power to signify not just money but inherited social rank and consequently social position and genuine power.  I think Bourdieu has taught us all to think in terms of “distinction” and “cultural capital,” but I wonder to what extent these terms can translate backwards to talk about the cultural capital represented by a  family portrait gallery or a pew in a local church.  (Williams is very good on this aspect of the large country houses and the estates they sat on)  I suppose the key here is the fact that the distinction they represent is peculiarly local, and therefore untranslatable, in the same way that local histories are assumed to have little interest for outsiders.

One of the virtues, however, of MB’s little essay is its ability to portray such systems of signifying practices not as closed, but as open and evolving–one of the benefits, perhaps, of its Atlanticist perspective.  And so we find a dialectical counterpart to the local antiquarian’s interest in civility, the cosmopolitan merchant, who had his own perspective on civility:

For many contemporary commentators, trade was closely associated with civility, something demonstrated by the history of Greek and Roman civilization–classical republicanism had as its model a society in which expansion came through the establishment of towns with improved agricultural hinterlands . . . . [T]rade created an Atlantic mercantile elite whose members connected the port towns and their hinterlands in Britain and the New World.  They dominated government in those places, and operated as effective lobbyists in London.  In England, they were often skeptical about the possibilities, or value, of pursuing the status of gentleman in the narrow sense, adhering to their roles in urban life rather than seeking an uncertain acceptance into country society.  But these people nevertheless acquired the trappings of refinement that made them, and their counterparts elsewhere, substantial figures in the port towns of the Atlantic world.  Their charitable acts, their officeholding, their art collecting marked out their place in local society–these grave civic figures bore rule, not as gentleman in the strict sense, but as men of refinement.  Their refinement was in relation to aristocracy a statement of independence; for their social inferiors it continued to mark out a superior local role.  They were not only the products of the Atlantic world of course, but were also the means by which it was created and held together–their associational life was at the heart of the Atlantic world, and it was transnational.  Here were the original “citizens of the world” (104).

For me, this is a better explanation of the complex class status of a figure like Benjamin Franklin, than the one provided in Gordon Wood’s biography, which feels a bit flat in its analysis of Franklin’s fraught relations with the elites in Philadelphia and London.  Moreover, we find here an interesting account of alternative “uses” of consumption (art collecting etc.) for this particular class.  But I particularly value this essay because it really opens up the complexity of the local/universal knowledge distinction in our period.  Clearly, “Enlightenment” is at work on both ends of this dialectic, but for different purposes and with complex ramifications.

So where does Braddick leave us in the discussion on consumption, civility, and the local and cosmopolitan versions of Enlightenment?

Best,

DM

Just How Long is the Long Eighteenth?

This semester I’m teaching “Later Eighteenth-Century Literature” an upper-level class, offered by the English department, mostly filled with junior and senior English majors seeking to fulfill their pre-1800 requirement, most of whom has already taken the required Brit. Lit. survey.

On the first day of class this semester, I asked them to write down “everything you know about British literature from the 1740s to the 1790s.” My goal had been to shake loose a certain stereotype of the eighteenth century (reason, decorum, powdered wigs, the suppression of human emotion), which I could then overturn with some smutty bits from Tristram Shandy on the second day of class. Unfortunately (or fortunately, I still can’t decide which), they didn’t seem to have any stereotypes to overturn, or at least none that they felt comfortable revealing to a self-proclaimed expert in the field. Class discussion revealed that they had grasped that the date 1776 fell within the span—but little more.

Then I went home and read what they had written, and came up with plan B: a timeline that I cut-and-pasted from their responses. I posted it on the wiki I have set up for the course and invited the students to go in and (a) edit, change, or amplify their own entries on the list and (b) identify where on the timeline “the later C18” falls. It’s proving to be a useful exercise I think, and more effective in some ways than a big contextual lecture would be.

I’m still trying to process what the original timeline says about collective brain of our students, so I offer it up to the denizens of the Long Eighteenth for their reflections: Course Timeline. Please be kind—I have a link to this blog on the wiki, and as one student plaintively pointed out in writing the exercise ““I’m taking this class because…I don’t know much about it!”

These entries, lifted directly from that first-day exercise, are arranged in roughly (I stress the term “roughly”) chronological order, from earliest to latest—though with a great deal of overlap and (in some cases) indeterminacy. Entries in quotation marks are direct quotations from student responses.

Discussion of Berg’s Luxury and Pleasure

This is my first time posting to a blog of any sort. But as this site and its participants come highly recommended by my advisor/director, Laura Rosenthal, I figure it must be the best place to start.  

I’d like to discuss a few of the main tenets and implications of Berg’s argument in Luxury and Pleasure in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Oxford UP, 2005). The book centers around the question of what happens when the history of consumption is considered in tandem with the history of production. In Berg’s hands, this revised history shows how manufacturers, merchants, philosophers, and consumers adapted production processes, shopping experiences, and goods themselves to promote values of the “middling class.” As a result luxuries formerly negatively associated with ostentation, excess, and foreign imports, gave way to consumer goods conveying modernity, novelty, fashion, ingenuity, and national identity.   Berg distinguishes her history from McKendrick’s “consumer revolution” by confining her consumers to only those that qualify as middling (frustratingly, it is not until chapter six that she defines this group) and by extending her analysis to include regional patterns of consumption (and production). I’d like to first pose the question of how integral defining this group of consumers is to the argument outlined above. Although she does not say this, is Berg invoking discourses that posit the middling class as the moral center of eighteenth-century society? I’m thinking along the lines of Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments and of Addison and Steele’s efforts to effect reform in taste and consumption (à la Erin Mackie). I’m also particularly confused by the word “modernity,” a quality which Berg does not define but does suggest these consumers value (195, 247). How should we understand modernity in an eighteenth-century context? How does modernity relate to taste and politeness? and by extension to the positioning of the middle class as the new leading consumers and new arbiters of taste? 

Finally, I want to consider one specific phenomenon of shopping that Berg raises through the voice of William Hutton. In 1785 Hutton claimed, “Not a corner of [London] is unlighted…the sight is most beautiful” (262). Wolfgang Schivelbush (Disenchanted Night 137-154) suggests that the lighted street, with its dark borders functions as an interior space and as a theater, a place where a variety of goods and people are staged. Can we discuss more the space and activity of shopping as they relate to the construction of an interior self? What kind of education does shopping provide? How does this education relate to the construction of personal as well as national identities? What role does performance play in constructing these identities?

I have not even touched on the ways I think Berg’s argument makes a poignant critical intervention into studies on the development of British identity. But this should be enough (too much?) to get us started

– Lisa B. Higgins