The Contested Enlightenment, the Contested Castle



In order to begin to understand both the Wandering Jew’s role in relation to British national identity formation in Gothic fiction, and the Gothic’s role as the consummate genre within which that identity and the anti-Semitic spectropoetics that I have identified are expressed, it is imperative to return to the birthplace of secular European nationalism1 and the Gothic genre — namely, the Enlightenment. This complex intellectual epoch marked ‘a new era in Jewish—Christian relations’ (Barzilay: 260) and functioned as the matrix of the intellectual, social, and cultural developments central to this study. To describe the Enlightenment as a hugely contentious domain in recent scholarship is, perhaps, to understate the case. As Roy Porter has astutely observed, ‘Enlightenment historiography has been distorted by hindsight, and remains unashamedly parti pris’: while progressives have long celebrated Enlightenment philosophes for articulating and promoting the Rights of Man, right-wing scholars have indicted the same thinkers for providing the ideological fuel for the Terror (xx). A tendency to demonize the Enlightenment has, Porter rightly notes, characterized most recent scholarship. ‘It has become,’ he comments, ‘almost de rigueur to paint the Enlightenment black’ (xx). Many scholars have uncritically adopted Michel Foucault’s claims that the Enlightenment’s driving logic was to control and dominate rather than to emancipate (‘What’: 37), resulting, Porter fails to observe, in such politically incompatible bedfellows as the Abbé Barruel and Max Horkheimer.


National Identity Medieval Period Recent Scholarship Jewish Question British Identity 
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Copyright information

© Carol Margaret Davison 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of WindsorCanada

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