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‘Chaos dark and deep’

Grotesque selves and self-fashioning in Pope’s Dunciad

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Clark Lawlor

This chapter examines the notion of the eighteenth-century male self, at least in its Augustan formulation and constructed by Alexander Pope in his various Dunciads, as a conflicted entity riven by the discourses of gender, physical norms based on classical precedent, the ever-rising middling orders and consumer mercantile capitalism. It takes its cue both from the theory of Bakhtin’s grotesque and classical bodies, subsequently revised by Stallybrass and White’s now seminal Politics and Poetics of Transgression, and more recent critical notions of the historical specificity of the (medical) body in Pope’s own time, when a shift was occurring from the idea of mechanical body to one more centred around the nervous system. Helen Deutsch has productively discussed Pope’s construction of his own body in terms of deformity - one that Pope self-fashioned to his advantage as far as was possible (Resemblance and Disgrace). Here it is argued that Pope displaces his anxieties (consciously or not) about his own masculinity, poetic productivity and physical legitimacy onto a series of alternative selves, either grotesquely monstrous women, or chaotically effeminate men, most notably his poetic alter ego, the poet laureate Colley Cibber.

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Laura Quinney

William Wordsworth and William Blake are both inheritors of the newly demystified Enlightenment anatomies of the self (Locke, Hume, Hartley), and each of them writes about divisions within the self, and yet each is also partial to older concepts of the soul, less Christian than Gnostic and Neoplatonic. These rival legacies do not simply contradict one another nor exist in tension in the works of these poets, but each of them in his own way draws on both, complementarily, in his exploration of selfhood and of the self's relation to itself. Both are concerned with a certain bewilderment in the self’s relation to the world and to itself. The two different legacies come together particularly for these poets (and this is original to the Romantic concept of self) in the connection they find between a psychology of self-alienation (the self's experience of itself as fragmented) and ‘existential alienation’ (the self's feeling of being homeless in the world or what the Gnostic and Neoplatonic tradition calls ‘the exile of the soul’).

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Anne Killigrew

A spiritual wit

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Laura Alexander

The Restoration court painter and poet Anne Killigrew features several written works in her Poems (posthumously published in 1686) explaining her visual artistry in relation to her Christian beliefs, and these poems helped Killigrew to re-define her poetic wit in relation to her spirituality rather than to secularism. Her poems, ‘St. John the Baptist Painted by herself in the Wilderness, with Angels appearing to him, and with a Lamb by him’ and ‘Herodias’s Daughter presenting to her Mother St. John’s Head in a Charger, also Painted by herself,’ accompany the John the Baptist paintings and show Killigrew’s interest in engaging religious ideas in her artistic process. Critics have rightly read Killigrew’s poems in relation to the proto-feminist texts that began to emerge in the period and acknowledge that Killigrew has a distinct and often angry voice in her works about women’s oppression. Anxious to separate her writings from courtly libertine texts, Killigrew looked to religious narratives for inspiration in articulating a self that was both witty and sacred, a unique artistic position in an age where wit was often collapsed with irreligious expressions and outrageous libertinism. This chapter examines that ‘self’ – a spiritual wit – in Killigrew’s verse and the larger implications for the gendered boundaries that women writing in the period negotiated.

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Storytelling

‘Quoting the poet’

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Katie Barclay

This chapter explores the role of storytelling in the courtroom by ordinary people. It explores how men and women used wider popular culture, including their own rhyming culture, in producing legal narratives, asking what their choices say about identity construction. It then looks at storytelling as a tool for lower-order men to negotiate power relationships. It argues that the opportunity for storytelling provided a key moment where lower-order people could assert identity in the courtroom, reshaping courtroom power dynamics to take account of their needs and interpretations of the world. In doing so, lower-order Irish people produced hybrid identities, which complicated any simple story of what it meant to be Irish.

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The stage

‘The court presented a very imposing spectacle’

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Katie Barclay

The architecture of the courtroom placed boundaries on, and provided opportunities for, the production of ‘the law’. This chapter explores the physical environment of the courtroom, looking first at the Four Courts in Dublin, then at the provincial courts. It explores how architecture situated particular legal actors in place, impacting on their capacity to participate or to hold authority, as well as the symbolic meaning of the court building as a site of power in Irish society. It then explores examples of how men and women attempted to disrupt these constraints through disorderly and creative uses of courtroom space, and the important role of the gallery in setting the ‘emotional tone’ of the production of justice. It highlights the courtroom as a site where law, identity and nation were inscribed and contested.

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Speech, sympathy and eloquence

‘It is a voice full of manly melody'

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Katie Barclay

The purpose of oratory had long been understood as moving the passions, a capacity that held special relevance for the culture of sensibility, which placed sympathy at the heart of communication. This chapter explores how lawyers used speech-making to make sympathetic engagements within the courtroom and to persuade listeners to their truth. Speech-making is a bodily practice and this chapter explores how lawyers’ bodies, voices and oratory skill became implicated in the making of manly character and so truth. As truth was produced through sympathetic exchange, emotion was placed at the heart of the legal system. Through the press, the model for manliness presented by lawyers was given public airing, making a claim to Irishness rooted in a polite education, the ability to speak well and to judge with sensibility.

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Opening speeches

An introduction

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Katie Barclay

‘Opening speeches’ introduces the historiographical background and methodological contribution of Men on trial. Masculinity is a growing field of study, but histories of masculinity in Ireland are still rare. This book uses newspaper reports of court cases to explore how men constructed their identities in legal space and this chapter introduces this source. It questions the utility of ‘hegemonic masculinities’ as a model for understanding gender identity in colonial and hierarchical contexts. Instead, it proposes the utility of a performative model of masculinity, which places emphasis on identity as embodied experience, incorporating emotion, corporeality, speech and character, and which is located in place. It argues for gender as a productive dynamic in the formation of legal and social power relationships within early nineteenth-century Ireland.

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On character and truth

‘You see McDonnell the value of a good character’

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Katie Barclay

Throughout this book, men’s performances were implicated in shaping their character for the court. This chapter explores how character was used as a form of evidence within the courtroom in the assessment of truth. It continues a discussion of character through looking at how it was socially produced in relation to family, place, religion and class, highlighting how social status continued to give weight to the truth claims of speakers. It then looks at alternative models for assessing truth, including oath-taking, performances of lying and honesty, and the new forensic science. It argues that whilst other forms of identifying truth were emerging, men’s performances of character remained at the heart of the production of justice.

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Men on trial

Performing embodiment, emotion and identity in Ireland, 1800-45

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Katie Barclay

Men on trial explores how the Irish perform ‘the self’ within the early nineteenth-century courtroom and its implications for law, society and nation. The history of masculinity is now a burgeoning field, as the way men created and understood their identities is explored in different contexts, from marriage to the military, and with increasing nuance. This monograph contributes to this discussion through an exploration of how men from different social groups created, discussed and enacted manliness in the context of the Irish justice system. Drawing on new methodologies from the history of emotion, as well as theories of performativity and performative space, it emphasises that manliness was not simply a cultural ideal, but something practised, felt and embodied. Moving through courtroom architecture to clothing, displays of emotion, speech-making, storytelling, humour and character, Men on trial explores how, through its performance, gender could be a creative dynamic in productions of power, destabilising traditional lines of authority. Targeted at scholars in Irish history, law and gender studies, this book argues that justice was not simply determined through weighing evidence, but through weighing men, their bodies, behaviours and emotions. In a context where the processes of justice were publicised in the press for the nation and the world, manliness and its role in the creation of justice became implicated in the making of national identity. Irish character was honed in the Irish court and through the press.

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Law and lawyers

‘The prerogative of the wig’

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Katie Barclay

This chapter explores how, through legal practice, the law comes to embody particular social relationships, notably those between coloniser and colonised, the social classes, and men and women. This process of embodiment of social hierarchies by ‘the law’ enables both its culture and the capacity of individuals to receive justice from it. To make this argument, it explores how lawyers and judges come to personify the law for the public in the press. Yet, legal space is not made by lawyers alone. Thus, ‘the law’ brings its own logic and is shaped by the social elite, the burgeoning public and juries. The latter were not just contexts that the law operated within, but became the law as they were drawn into its practice and representation.