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Scholarcast 24: England Versus English Literature

UCD Scholarcast - Series 4: Reconceiving the British Isles: The Literature of the Archipelago

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This presentation looks at the relationship between England and the British discipline of English Literature, whose origin, it argues, owes much to the state unification of Britain between 1790 and 1815, particularly informed by an anti-French-Revolutionary Burkean philosophy which was defined by opposition to a written constitution, and by opposition to the national. It suggests that English Literature is stuck in this Burkean-organic-deep-conservative moment in terms of its methodology and its idea of a canonicity – but that the gradual crumbling of British empire after 1919, from the late 1950s, and then during devolution, has re-created England as a place able to overwhelm the British-imperial ideal space which was created for it. The presentation looks forward finally to a more open-ended and action-oriented, and less managerial and imperial, national literature of England.


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