Enlightenment and Emancipation

Enlightenment and Emancipation

Enlightenment and Emancipation

Enlightenment and Emancipation

Synopsis

Enlightenment and Emancipation as separate issues have received much critical attention, but the complicated interaction of these two great shaping forces of modernity has never been scrutinized in depth. The Enlightenment has been represented in radically opposing ways: on the one hand, as the unshackling of the chains of superstition, custom, and usurped authority; on the other hand, in the Romantic period, but also more recently, as what Michel Foucault termed the grate confinement, in which mind-forged manacles imprison the free and irrational spirit. The debate about the Enlightenment project remains a topical one, which can still arouse fierce passions. This collection of essays by distinguished scholars from many disciplines addresses the central question: Was Enlightenment a force for emancipation? Their responses, working from within and across history, political thought and economics, music, literature and aesthetics, art history and film, reveal unsuspected connections and divergences even between well-known figures and texts, in their turn suggesting the need for further inquiry in areas that turn out to be very far from closed. importance emerge and familiar texts are shown to embody strange and unexpected implications. Susan Manning is Grierson Professor of English Literature and Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh. Now retired, Peter France is a Fellow of the British Academy, and an Honorary Fellow of Edinburgh University.

Excerpt

Susan Manning and Peter France

“ENLIGHTENMENT” AND “EMANCIPATION” AS SEPARATE ISSUES HAVE received much critical attention, but the complicated interaction of these two great shaping forces of modernity has never been scrutinized in depth. The Enlightenment of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries has been represented in radically opposing ways: traditionally as the throwing off of the chains of superstition, custom, and usurped authority; in the romantic period, but also in the second half of the twentieth century, as what Michel Foucault termed “le grand renfermement” in which “mind-forged manacles” imprison the free and irrational spirit. The debate about the “Enlightenment project” remains a topical one that can still arouse fierce passions.

Since both the terms of this relationship, Enlightenment and emancipation, are capable of many different interpretations, we have attempted in this volume to investigate the subject through a collection of essays by distinguished scholars coming from a wide range of disciplines and interesting themselves in different societies on both sides of the Atlantic. Each of our contributors has been invited to address a different aspect of the question “Was Enlightenment a force for emancipation?” Their responses, working from within, and frequently across, history, political thought and economics, music, literature and aesthetics, art history, and film reveal unsuspected connections and divergences even between well-known figures and texts, in their turn suggesting the need for further inquiry in areas that turn out to be very far from closed. Major proponents and writings of Enlightenment and emancipation are considered in unusual juxtaposition; new figures of importance emerge, and familiar texts are shown to embody strange implications.

We begin with a section devoted to various forms of social and political emancipation, and the theories and writing practices that under-

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