Friday, March 1 at 1:00pm to 2:30pm
Ide Memorial Commons Room, THH 420
Please join the C19 Anglophone Collective for an upcoming talk by Rachel Teukolsky, Associate Professor in the English Department at Vanderbilt University, and author of The Literate Eye: Victorian Art Writing and Modernist Aesthetics. Her talk, “Disraeli, Arendt, and the Fascist Novel,” will be held in the Ide Room from 1–2:30pm on Friday, March 1, with drinks and snacks to follow.
Abstract: What is the relationship between literature and power, and how did some nineteenth-century novels or artforms develop authoritarian values? My lens on the question is Hannah Arendt’s study The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), which devotes a short, ten-page chapter to Benjamin Disraeli, the Prime Minister of Britain in 1868 and again from 1874 to 1880. I take Arendt’s brief insights as the starting point for investigating Disraeli’s aesthetics of the far right. The fact that a Prime Minister was also a novelist captures our attention, especially since his novels are thinly disguised political manifestoes. I argue that Disraeli’s novels Coningsby (1845) and Tancred (1847) belonged to a long Romanticism, opposing moves toward democracy, reason, and utilitarianism, and espousing values of beauty, passion, and eroticism toward authoritarian ends. The talk follows Arendt in observing a long durée of conservatism whose trajectory moves from the nineteenth century into the twentieth. (I also acknowledge and discuss the anachronism of using “fascism” as a concept by which to study a nineteenth-century writer.) The lecture will conclude with a turn to the conservative German theorist Carl Schmitt, who reputedly had a picture of Disraeli hanging over his desk, and whose authoritarian political philosophy shows striking echoes of Disraeli, linking both in a long Romanticism.