June 2008 parting lecture title and description:
“It is impossible to preserve that which is not”: the Preservation of Sentiment in the Osborn Collection’s Jacobite Relics (May 28, 2008)
This talk will explore how the Osborn Collection’s Jacobite documents—letters, trial records, royal proclamations, and poetry manuscripts —undermine the distinctions between the political and the sentimental through which historians and literary critics have described Jacobitism, a movement supporting the restoration of Britain’s exiled Stuart monarchy to the throne. By comparing the Osborn documents with James Hogg’s Jacobite Relics (1819-21), a collection of songs derived from manuscripts and oral traditions, we can see how Jacobitism’s rhetoric of sentiment, or refined feeling, was incorporated into Scottish and British identities.
Juliet Shields will be starting a position as assistant professor in the English department at the University of Washington in the fall. Her book on sentiment, race, and eighteenth-century British identity is forthcoming on Cambridge University Press, and she is beginning a project on the eighteenth-century emergence of a trans-peripheral literary sphere encompassing Irish, Welsh, Scottish, and North American writers. Her essays on the literary negotiation of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Anglo-Scottish relations have appeared in English Literary History, Studies in the Novel, and The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation.
My current book project, British Sensibilities: Sentiment and Anglo-Scottish Relations, 1707-1830, explores the literary creation of British identity following the 1707 Parliamentary Union of Scotland and England. I depart from recent accounts of the eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century emergence of nationalism by exploring the importance of sensibility, or sympathetic feeling, in British nation formation. While these accounts have imposed contemporary political paradigms of the nation-state onto a protean Great Britain, I argue that Scottish writers of the long eighteenth century configured the nation as a sentimental, rather than a purely political, community. They imaginatively transformed a Great Britain divided by ethnic, economic, regional, and religious conflicts into a nation united by shared sympathies. In doing so, these writers did not simply envision an apolitical alternative to the state; rather, they explored the political implications and uses of feeling.