Lunacy in the Cosmopolis (1759): Expansion and Imperial Recoil

Carol Watts

in The Cultural Work of Empire

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2007 | ISBN: 9780748625642
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671717 | DOI:
Lunacy in the Cosmopolis (1759): Expansion and Imperial Recoil

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This chapter investigates the global trajectories of empire at work in three novels from the war's annus mirabilis, 1759: Voltaire's Candide, Samuel Johnson's Rasselas and Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy. Voltaire's sense of the lunacy of the Seven Years' War was informed by intimate knowledge. Candide evaluates the symbiosis of war and economy. Candide's search for the best of all possible worlds is an attempt to find resources for happiness in the midst of universal brigandage. Rasselas is about a travelling spectatorship and a sense of metaphysical crisis. It is important in 1759 because of the role of women in the weighing of private life. The failure to name the world in your own image is a sign of modernity, to which Rasselas and Tristram Shandy are responding. Montage develops variations in pace, and a spatialisation of the narrative.

Keywords: empire; Voltaire; Candide; Samuel Johnson; Rasselas; Laurence Sterne; Seven Years' War; lunacy; universal brigandage

Chapter.  17421 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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