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Five Long WintersThe Trials of British Romanticism$
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John Bugg

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780804785105

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804785105.001.0001

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“By force, or openly, what could be done?”

“By force, or openly, what could be done?”

Godwin, Smith, Wollstonecraft, and the Gagging Acts Novel

(p.109) Chapter Four “By force, or openly, what could be done?”
Five Long Winters

John Bugg

Stanford University Press

Politically engaged novels from the 1790s have often been described as either “Jacobin” or “anti-Jacobin.” This chapter proposes a different way to think about this literary landscape by examining novels that are concerned less with soundings of political debates than with portrayals of discursive constraint. Godwin’s Caleb Williams shapes a narrative as focused on the dynamics of secrecy and the rhetoric of obfuscation as it is on reform discourse; Charlotte Smith’s Marchmont extends Godwin’s work not only to portray a social landscape haunted by surveillance and persecution, but to bring this atmosphere into the structure of her novel; and the formal registration of repression is at the heart of Wollstonecraft’s The Wrongs of Woman; or Maria, a virtuosic exploration of apophastic rhetoric that arrives to us in an array of stutters, elisions, and paranoid whispers.

Keywords:   Godwin, Smith, Wollstonecraft, novel, anti-Jacobin, Jacobin, Marchmont, Wrongs of Woman, Maria, Caleb Williams

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