Friday, 8 April 2011

The Jacobins are coming

For the purposes of search engine optimisation, I'd like to say that the first plenary lecture of the 'Wales and Revolution' conference was about sex and delivered by Justin Bieber.

In reality, it was by the very distinguished Romanticist Caroline Franklin and it was much better than sex with Justin Bieber (if you don't know who he is, you're in the right place). She spoke of 'Wales as Nowhere: the tabula rasa of the "Jacobin" imagination'. Basically, she looked at novels and romances by the leading radical creative writers of the day: an early William Godwin novel called Imogen: A Pastoral Romance from the Ancient British (1784), Tamworth progressive industrialist Robert Bage's Mount Henneth (1782), Catherine Parry's Eden Vale (1784), Anna Maria Bennett's Anna; or, Memoirs of a Welch Heiress (I love these rolling titles: there should be more of them: Shameless; Or, A Tale of Mancunian Urchins, or The X-Factor: being a Wondrous and Scarcely Credible Account Of Nincompoopery, Macaronis and Dandies perhaps) and several others which use the pre-industrial, romantically-Other Celtic Wales as the site for critiquing the reactionary capitalism destroying England, and for fantasising an industrial communist or guild-style utopia.

Often closely connected to the Dissenter Industrialists like the Midlands' Lunar Society, they weren't opposed to industry, but saw in it the potential for an equal and harmonious society: Ken McLeod would be impressed, I think. They'd applauded the American Revolution (lots of people in Britain did) and at least the initial phases of the French one, but mainstream opinion was turning against them, and so romance was a safe place in which to propound their political alternatives.

Right - off to the bar to moan about management and talk about books.

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