In a 1780 parliamentary speech, “On Economical Reform,” Edmund Burke asserts that the British royal household “has lost all that was stately and venerable in the antique manners, without retrenching anything of the cumbrous charge of a Gothic establishment” and is populated by “grim spectres of departed tyrants—the Saxon, the Norman, and the Dane; the stern Edwards and fierce Henries—who stalk from desolation to desolation, through the dreary vacuity, and melancholy succession of chill and comfortless chambers.” The proposed reforms that Burke introduced with that speech included efforts to replace the household as personal institution with modern impersonal systems of governance. This talk will argue that Ann Radcliffe’s narratives (particularly The Mysteries of Udolpho) enact a kind of household reform/modernization that is homologous to what Burke pursues, and that also catches the oikos/household in its transmutation from a slightly-less-figural component of pre- and proto-capitalist systems (which in many respects actually were households) to the deep oikos metaphor in the circuitry of full-fledged capitalist for whichhome might be a better synonym.
Scott MacKenzie (Associate Professor, University of British Columbia) specializes in Eighteenth-Century Studies. His first book Be It Ever So Humble: Poverty, Fiction, and the Invention of the Middle-Class Home (U of Virginia Press, 2013) won the Walker Cowen Prize for a study on an eighteenth-century topic. The book argues that fiction and discourse about poverty in Britain in the later eighteenth century collaborate to invent modern private domesticity and the first occupants of home — at least conceptually — are the poor rather than the middle-classes, who rapidly appropriate home for themselves. MacKenzie has published articles in Eighteenth-Century Fiction, ELH, Eighteenth-Century Studies, and PMLA.
The Georgia Colloquium in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century British Literature is supported by the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts and by the English Department's Rodney Baine Lecture Fund. This lecture is free and open to the public.