This book examines the nature and significance of religious enthusiasm in early Enlightenment England. In the early modern period, the term ‘enthusiasm’ was a smear word used to discredit the dissenters of the radical Reformation as dangerous religious fanatics. In England, the term gained prominence from the Civil War period and throughout the eighteenth century. Anglican ministers and the proponents of the Enlightenment used it more widely against Paracelsian chemists, experimental philosophers, religious dissenters and divines, astrologers or anyone claiming superior knowledge. As a result, our understanding of enthusiasm is largely influenced by the hostile discourse of Augustan moralist and early Enlighteners. But who exactly were these enthusiasts? What did they believe in, how did they operate as a community and what impact did they have on their contemporaries? This book aims to answer these questions by concentrating on the notorious case of the French Prophets. It demonstrates how the understanding of enthusiasm evolved around 1700, designating anything from a religious fanaticism to a social epidemic and even a bodily disease. It offers the first comprehensive approach to enthusiasm, looking at this multifarious issue from a successively social, religious, cultural, political and medical perspective. Based on extensive archival research, it sheds new light on the reality of enthusiasm away from the hostility of Enlightenment discourse.
Enthusiasm has long been perceived as a fundamental danger to democratic politics. Many have regarded it as a source of threatening instabilities manifest through political irrationalism. Such a view can make enthusiasm appear as a direct threat to the reason and order on which democracy is thought to rely. But such a desire for a sober and moderate democratic politics is perilously misleading, ignoring the emotional basis on which democracy thrives. Enthusiasm in democracy works to help political actors identify and foster progressive changes. We feel enthusiasm at precisely those moments of new beginnings, when politics takes on new shapes and novel structures. Being clear about how we experience enthusiasm, and how we recognize it, is thus crucial for democracy, which depends on progression and the alteration of ruler and the ruled. This book traces the changing ways enthusiasm has been understood politically in modern Western political thought. It explores how political actors use enthusiasm to motivate allegiances, how we have come to think on the dangers of enthusiasm in democratic politics, and how else we might think about enthusiasm today. From its inception, democracy has relied on a constant affective energy of renewal. By tracing the way this crucial emotional energy is made manifest in political actions – from ancient times to the present – this book sheds light on the way enthusiasm has been understood by political scientists, philosophers, and political activists, as well as its implications for contemporary democratic politics.
As the Enlightenment smear-word par excellence, enthusiasm first
evolved, as we have seen, from a religious issue to a perceived social
threat. By the turn of the eighteenth century, it also became problematised in medical terms under the impulse of the scientific revolution,
namely as a disease somatising divine inspirations through a large
range of physical manifestations, even though this medical debate can
be traced back over several centuries on the Continent.1 The Cartesian system played a significant role in the medicalisation of
Enthusiasm, blasphemy and toleration
Because they first attracted respectable gentlemen among their ranks,
the French Prophets were rapidly perceived as mind corrupters, religious perverters and social disrupters to the point of making the tolerated ‘intolerable’. Soon after initiating a battle of pamphlets, the
Prophets faced an even more virulent opposition on the streets that
would soon take them to court. The prospect of a judicial intervention
was to prove particularly edgy. The Toleration Act in 1689 had changed
the way England dealt with religious
Possession by a god,
enthusiasm, is not the irrational, but the end of the solitary
or inward thought, the beginning of a true experience of the new
and of the noumenon – already Desire.
Levinas, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority
subjected to judgement by others. Consumption is a realm of judgements of taste and judgements upon judgements of taste ( Warde, 2008 ).
Aestheticisation facilitates and fuels enthusiasm. While food is essential to bodily reproduction, it can also be elevated to a focal interest of daily life. Like many other human activities, it can become the object of obsessive concern, its features reflected upon, judged, discussed, and experimented with ( Stebbins, 1992 ; Arsel and Bean, 2012 ). An aesthetic disposition can be applied to ordinary activities; practical activities
Benbow, “Grand National Holiday, and Congress of the
Productive Classes” (1832)
Enthusiasm, an affect once
associated with abstraction and testimony to divine inspiration, has its
origins in religious experience. 1 In the long history of this Western
phenomenon, it was generally thought that the only real measure of
Far from a trivial topic, the post-war train spotting craze swept most boys and some girls into a passion for railways, and for many, ignited a lifetime's interest. This book traces this post-war cohort, and those which followed, as they invigorated different sectors in the world of railway enthusiasm. Today Britain's now-huge preserved railway industry finds itself driven by tensions between preserving a loved past which ever fewer people can remember and earning money from tourist visitors. It was Hamilton Ellis and Philip Unwin who were the joint pioneers of the 'Railway Book Mania' which ran from 1947 to the dwindling of popular and mid-depth railway history writing in the 1970s. British railway enthusiasts suffer from an image problem. Standing forlorn on station platforms, train spotters are butts for every stand-up comic's jokes. Like some other collectors, train spotters collect ephemera: locomotive numbers are signs unconnected to any marketable commodity. Train spotting had its own rich culture. As British railways declined from their Edwardian peak, enthusiasts' structure of feeling shifted steadily from celebrating novelty to mourning loss. Always a good hater as well as a skilled engineer, more than seventy years ago Curly Lawrence identified issues which still bounce around modelling sections of the British railway fancy. The book discusses toy trains, model engineering and railway modelling. British railway enthusiasm remains a remarkably varied activity today, articulated through attachment (of whatever kind) to prototype railways' life-world.
Any meaningful evaluation of the function of enthusiasm in the world propelled by projects must take into account the paradoxes of freelancers’ capacity for self-directed and self-fulfilling action. On the one hand, uncorrupted forms of enthusiasm are expressions of collective power, what Italian post-Marxists call potenza , a collective capacity for radically democratic self-organisation. On the other, it is undeniable that in artistic → circulation , enthusiasm is utilised as a resource, the main function of which is to facilitate the
Remembering the regicides in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain and North America
‘The insane enthusiasm of the time’:
remembering the regicides in eighteenthand nineteenth-century Britain and North
Through the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion passed in 1660, the
restored monarchy sought not only ‘to bury all seeds of future
discords’ but also to suppress ‘all remembrance of the former’.1,2
As George Southcombe and Grant Tapsell have recently put it,
remembering itself became an act of rebellion.3 However, the complete erasure of the memory of the civil wars and revolution was
impossible. This was nowhere clearer than