Skip to main content


eCommons@Cornell >
Cornell University Graduate School >
Cornell Theses and Dissertations >

Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title: The Modern Muse: Inspiration In The Age Of Enlightenment
Authors: Eron, Sarah
Keywords: enthusiasm
Issue Date: 31-May-2011
Abstract: This dissertation argues that eighteenth-century literature is shaped by the modern encounter with-and transformation of-enthusiasm. By examining the rhetorical paradigms of invocation in the eighteenth century, this approach redefines the relationship of secularization to literary history and casts new light on the assumption that the Enlightenment represents a straightforward movement toward secularization. Literary critics have long agreed that the political and religious turmoil of the seventeenth century set the stage for widespread critiques of enthusiasm in the early eighteenth century. But early eighteenth-century literature did not simply reject enthusiastic expression; rather, this period saw a secularization of enthusiasm-a change that arose as a need to preserve inspiration's instrumental relationship to artistic production. The inception of this secularization is linked to the rise of aesthetic philosophy and to modernity's shifting relationship to the public sphere. The anxieties about enthusiasm in the Restoration period cause Augustan authors to reconsider the role of inspiration in modern writing and to reform enthusiasm through innovations in genre. These evocations of inspiration both exhibit an aestheticization of a theological category and import the affective fervor of an ancient theological practice into their modern redactions. This dissertation examines rhetorical paradigms of invocation in the works of Milton, Shaftesbury, Pope, and Fielding. These writers formally revise enthusiasm in a way that generates a new and distinctive representation of the author, in a process that relies on a rhetorical device that reformulates the passive structure of ancient invocation by subjecting it to the more dialogical methods of modern apostrophe and address. Incorporating invocation into their experiments in genre, these authors allow the figure of the muse to survive, but she is now construed as something secular, an apostrophe to a friend or judging spectator, or at times an allusion to the mental or aesthetic faculties of the author himself-his genius. This dissertation, therefore, argues that secularization impacts literary form long before the Romantic period and that secularization, in its relationship to aesthetic form and experience, is not merely an effect of Enlightenment rationality.
Committee Chair: Brown, Laura Schaefer
Committee Member: Bogel, Fredric Victor
Saccamano, Neil Charles
Parker, Alan R.
Discipline: English Language & Literature
Degree Name: Ph.D. of English Language & Literature
Degree Level: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Grantor: Cornell University
No Access Until: 2016-09-29
Appears in Collections:Cornell Theses and Dissertations

Files in This Item:

File Description SizeFormat
see22thesisPDF.pdf786.78 kBAdobe PDFView/Open

Refworks Export

Items in eCommons are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.


© 2014 Cornell University Library Contact Us