Carlyle and the Economics of Terror: A Study of Revisionary Gothicism in the French Revolution

Synopsis

Using Aristotle's oikonomia to establish a paradigm of wholeness and authentic engagement, Desaulniers argues that Carlyle returns language to material wholeness by insisting on situating sign within representation so that the materiality of the sign is not surrendered to the idea imposed on it. By focusing on reading as an act of Constitution within The French Revolution, she places the political crisis within a linguistic one: the Constitution becomes both a thematic and self-reflexive constituent of the linguistic process. Desaulniers concentrates on Carlyle's use of Gothic conventions, drawing upon Goethe's Faust and the Gothic romances of Maturin and Lewis. Establishing The French Revolution as a precursor to Browning's Sordello, she illustrates that the "economics" of representation remains a pivotal nineteenth-century linguistic strategy.