By David Collings Professor of English Monstrous Society
problematizes competing representations of reciprocity in England in the decades around 1800. It argues that in the eighteenth-century moral economy, power is divided between official authority and the counter-power of plebians. This tacit, mutual understanding comes under attack when influential political thinkers, such as Edmund Burke, Jeremy Bentham, and T. R. Malthus, attempt to discipline the social body, to make state power immune from popular response. But once negated, counter-power persists, even if in the demands of a debased, inhuman body. Such a response is writ large in Gothic tales, especially Matthew Lewis's The Monk
and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
, and in the innovative, embodied political practices of the mass movements for Reform and the Charter. By interpreting the formation of modern English culture through the early modern practice of reciprocity, David Collings constructs a 'nonmodern' mode of analysis, one that sees modernity not as a break from the past but as the result of attempts to transform traditions that, however distorted, nevertheless remain broadly in force.
-From the jacket.