Samuel Madden, Robert Walpole and anti-Craftsman satire @ BSECS Postgraduate and Early-Career Scholar Seminar Series
There is something mysterious in the history of the Memoirs of the Twentieth Century, an early speculative fiction novel published anonymously in London in 1733. Thanks to a testimony by the publisher William Bowyer, it is known that out of one thousand copies commissioned by the author, some nine hundred were eliminated fresh out of print.
Written by Samuel Madden, an Anglican clergyman and philanthropist with Hanoverian and Whig sympathies, the novel consists of a collection of diplomatic letters written in the 1990s, sent to the Lord High Treasurer in London from British ambassadors from a number of countries, which the narrator claims to have received from the future. A fine example of the emergence of a new secularized future, pliable through human action, the novel’s logical extrapolation is informed by a variety of underlying rationales, ranging from utopian achievements to the satiric mocking of the writer’s present.
Madden had discussed with Robert Walpole the advisability of using satire against the government’s opposition, around about the same time as the idea for the Memoirs was presumably taking shape. In a letter to the de facto prime minister, he had proposed launching a satirical counterattack against the Tories united around The Craftsman.
Drawing on limited but eloquent documentary evidence available, and locating Madden’s political reflections in its original context – British political debate in the late 1720s – this paper will discuss the mystery surrounding the destruction of the Memoir’s print run.
Join the BSECS Postgraduate and Early-Career Scholar Seminar Series 2021, June 24th.
All sessions take place on the last Thursday of the month between 3-4pm GMT/BST.
The Reign of George VI and an eighteenth-century twentieth century. – Winner of the Committee award for a particularly interdisciplinary paper / which pioneers a new area of study,
assigned by the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies at its annual conference, 2021.
2021 will mark the centennial of the establishment of the city of Stanley, in Rutland, as the new British cultural capital, thanks to George VI’s initiatives in 1921.
Stanley’s renaissance took place after the monarch’s heroic decision to oppose a Russian invasion force in 1900, which brought to England’s military successes over France, Russia, and Spain, and to the final coronation of George the VI as King of France at Rheims, in 1920. The rise of Russia, and the oppressive influence exerted by Charles X of France over the continent were ended by British power. After these crucial military achievements, during 1921 the Bolingbrokeian king devoted his energy to the building of what I. F. Clarke has defined a new “Hanoverian harmony”, with its cultural barycentre in the Midlands. Stanley became home to a new Chancery, a Cathedral of St. John the massive proportions of which overshadow St. Peter in Rome, and to the Academy of Polite Learning, at the forefront in “promoting literature in all its branches”.
If we lift our eyes from the pages of The Reign of George VI. 1900-1925: A Forecast Written in the Year 1763, published in London in 1763, we may reason on the future depicted – and celebrated ex ante – in this anonymous novel, through an extrapolation which exploits both prescriptive-utopian and prophetic imaginative strands.
This paper aims at fostering a better understanding of a future conceived as a dimension pliable by human action, against the backdrop of the crisis of the European temporal mind that took place during the late-modern era. The case study of The Reign of George VI – a fascinating early futuristic fiction with a very specific interest in (future) history – is placed within the cultural history of time, tracing back the conceptualization of a secularized future to the emergence of new ideas and sensibilities towards historical time, which matured gradually during the eighteenth century.
TheReign proposes a historical chronicle of the future starting in 1900, mimicking the structure and tone of a short treaty, with an introduction devoted to a didactic summary of British history from 1660 to the end of the nineteenth century. A roman-à-thèse-reading with clear reference to British current affairs is suggested transparently, while the projection of causal mechanisms into the future offers an imaginary laboratory to demonstrate and celebrate the successes of an ideal Bolingbrokeian monarch, and portray a European and global future seen from British eyes.
To explore the novel’s chronotope and its depiction of a global space-time of the future I developed a Nodegoat project on my personal research domain. I presented some visualisations while giving my paper at:
Anniversaries, Jubilees, Commemorations, 50th Annual Conference British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 6-8 January 2021.
Commemorating the Future is part of session 1, panel 2: Military commemoration Host: Phil Connell Chair: Matthew McCormack Speakers: Conrad Brunstrom “Bravely suspending War, and daring not to Fight”: 1713, and the Poetic Imagining of World Peace. Samuel Dodson Courage, Honour and Phlegm: An investigation into military intellectual’s opinions on the psychology of combat in the eighteenth century. Giulia Iannuzzi Commemorating the Future: The Reign of George VI and an eighteenth-century twentieth century
How to temporalize utopia, and what to bring on a trip to the utopian archipelago
A fundamental problem faced by scholars researching the history and functioning of societies is the fact that their object of study cannot be recreated in a laboratory, to replicate events and test hypotheses on causes and effects. A political regime, a development model, a society’s relationship with the biosphere are systems too vast and complex to be artificially created or replicated.
But not if we move into the realm of the imaginary, and let ourselves be conducted in hypothetical experiments described by speculative and fantastic imagination. Exploring worlds located in a temporal and/or geographical elsewhere, utopian thought has isolated, changed, introduced determining factors in the systems of collective organization and in the relationships between humans and environment, and has observed the consequences.
October the 15th 2020, as a corollary of Guido Abbattista’s prolusion at the Collegio Fonda in Trieste, I will offer some remarks on the relationship between utopia and history, understanding utopia in all its semantic ambiguity – thought device and literary genre – and understanding history as a culturally constructed framework, as the seat of causal mechanisms, informed by a temporal flow that, in modern Europe, gradually became secularized and unidirectional.
I will look at the relationship between utopian thought and history through a series of examples, that will allow me to propose and argue an interpretative thesis: utopia, far from being the creation of a-temporal and immobile models, abstract and detached from history, is a process of conceptual construction intimately linked to the processes of temporalization and acceleration of history that characterised the modern era in Europe.
Utopia therefore offers us a privileged point of view from which the way in which we culturally construct history becomes evident, it is a device that reveals the implicit assumptions in the ideas of historical time that inform the reconstruction and narration of the past.
I prepared a list of essentials to put in my suitcase for this journey:
Companions and general introductions
Gregory Claeys, Searching for Utopia: The History of an Idea (London: Thames & Hudson, 2011).
Gregory Claeys, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).
J. C. Davis, “Utopianism”, in The Cambridge History of Political Thought 1450-1700, ed. by J. H. Burns with the assistance of Mark Goldie (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 329-344.
Steve Mentz, Erin M. Gallagher, “Utopian and Dystopian Literature to 1800”, OxfordBibliographies, last modified 20 September 2012, doi: 10.1093/OBO/9780199846719-0082.
Frank E. Manuel and Fritzie P. Manuel, Utopian Thought in the Western World (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1979)
Lyman Tower Sargent, Utopianism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).
Essential readings on Eighteenth century utopias
Bronisław Baczko, L’utopia. Immaginazione sociale e rappresentazioni utopiche nell’età dell’Illuminismo, trans. Margherita Botto and Dario Gibelli (1978; Torino: Einaudi, 1979).
Gregory Claeys, Utopias of the British Enlightenment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).
Reinhart Koselleck, “The Temporalization of Utopia”, in id., The Practice of Conceptual History: Timing History, Spacing Concepts trans. Todd Samuel Presner et al. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002), 84-99.
Nicole Pohl, “Utopianism after More: The Renaissance and Enlightenment”, in The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature, 51-78.
Darko Suvin, “The Shift to Anticipation: Radical Rhapsody and Romantic Recoil”, in id., Metamorphoses of Science Fiction: On the Poetics and History of a Literary Genre (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1979), 115-144.
Societies and Centers
Histopia (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, 2016-. https://utopia.hypotheses.org/histopia)
Ralahine Centre for Utopian Studies (UK, University of Limerick, 2003-, https://ulsites.ul.ie/ralahinecentre/)
The Center for Thomas More Studies (USA, University of Dallas, https://www.thomasmorestudies.org//index.html
Utopia 500, https://www.utopia500.net/ (a project bringing together scholars and collectives working on utopia, lead by CETAPS, Centre for English, Translation and Anglo-Portuguese Studies (University of Porto and University Nova de Lisboa)
Samuel Madden’s Eighteenth-century Twentieth century at Beyond Borders: Empires, Bodies, Science Fictions
I am delighted to present a paper at Beyond Borders: Empires, Bodies, Science Fictions, the London Science Fiction Research Community 2020 conference, an online event in partnership with the London Chinese Science Fiction Group and Science Fiction Beyond the West.
I’ll be talking about A new and unexampled way of writing the history of future empires: Samuel Madden’s Eighteenth-century Twentieth century, presenting the first results of an ongoing research on the future as a secularized imaginary space in eighteenth-century European culture through the case study of the Memoirs of the Twentieth Century. Published anonymously in 1733, the Memoirs is a work of speculative fiction in the form of an epistolary novel by the Irish writer Samuel Madden, an Anglican clergyman and philanthropist with pro-Hanoverian and Whig sympathies.
Madden’s novel is a fine example of the emergence of a new secularized future, pliable through human action. This research, using the Memoirs as a case study, places new emphasis on the role played by a new form of imperial and global interconnectedness in shaping and accelerating complex processes of time secularization.
My paper is scheduled as part of Panel 4B: Pliable Futures (chair: Tom Dillon), Saturday 12th September, 10:00-11:30 (GMT+1) – Panel Block 4:
Giulia Iannuzzi- A new and unexampled way of writing the history of future empires: Samuel Madden’s Eighteenth-century Twentieth century
Sakshi Tyagi – Beyond Otjize and Medusae: Identity and Borders in Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti
Mary Regine Dadole – Familiar Aliens: An Analysis of the Postcolonial Condition and the Politics of Science Fiction in Isaac Asimov’s “The Martian Way”.
The conference programme includes:
a plenary session on SF & Translation with Sawad Hussain, Emily Jin, Guangzhao Lyu, Dr. Sinéad Murphy, Dr. Tasnim Qutait,
keynotes by Dr. Nadine El-Enany, Florence Okoye
a Creator Roundtable with Chen Qiufan, Larissa Sansour, Linda Stupart, chair: Angela Chan,
a rich schedule of panels exploring borders in science fiction, and particularly “borders as politicised tools used to uphold empires, divide communities and police the bodies of those most marginalised”.
If you wish to attend the event, please visit the ticket tailor event page for the conference at this link.
At this link a set of conference documents, including the programme beautifully designed by Sinjin Li.
The London Chinese Science Fiction Group and Science Fiction Beyond the West are partner of this event and the programme includes a number of contributions on contemporary Chinese science fiction. I’ve been interested in the reception of Chinese science fiction in Italy for quite some time now. From my archive, here’s in full open access an essay I published in 2015, an interview with the translator Lorenzo Andolfatto (Chinese-Italian), and one with Massimo Soumaré (Japanese-Italian).
Time is the conceptual axis inevitably underpinning traditional forms of Western historical narration, yet its cultural construction is not often explicitly discussed in contemporary historiography research. Recently postcolonial studies gave momentum to the calling into question of categories such as modernity, progress, crisis, revolution.
R. Koselleck’s work still constitutes a landmark, which is presently enjoying new critical fortune (e.g. excellent essays by L. Hunt 2008 and C. Lorenz 2017 discuss his recent theoretical legacy) as part of current post-colonial questioning of traditional Euro- and/or Western-centric periodizations. In this regard, it seems to me that scholarly attentiveness and theoretical refinement have been on the increase, especially since the nineteen-nineties.
In this occasion I had the pleasure to develop some reflections on time as a dimension in which historical discourse is organized to produce meaning, interrogating what theorists such as Paul Ricoeur and Hayden White contributed to our understanding of causal mechanisms construction in historical research and communication.
Acknowledging how historical processes might look from the perspective of different temporal scales, and fictional scenarios provided by alternate history might also be useful tools to help us see and thematize the “temporal lenses” through which we look at the past.