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Scholarcast 24: England Versus English Literature

Michael Gardiner


This presentation looks at the relationship between England and the British discipline of English Literature, whose origin, it argues, owes much to the state unification of Britain between 1790 and 1815, particularly informed by an anti-French-Revolutionary Burkean philosophy which was defined by opposition to  a written constitution, and by opposition to thenational. It suggests that English Literature is stuck in this Burkean-organic-deep-conservative moment in terms of its methodology and its idea of a canonicity – but that the gradual crumbling of British empire after 1919, from the late 1950s, and then during devolution, has re-created England as a placeable to overwhelm the British-imperial ideal space which was created for it. The presentation looks forward finally to a more open-ended and action-oriented, and less managerial and imperial, national literature of England.

Michael Gardiner

Michael Gardiner is Associate Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick. His publications include The Cultural Roots of British Devolution (EUP, 2004), Modern Scottish Culture (EUP, 2005),From Trocchi to Trainspotting (EUP, 2006), and At the Edge of Empire (Birlinn, 2008). He is co-editor of The Edinburgh Companion to Muriel Spark (EUP, 2010), the forthcomingScottish Literature and Postcolonial Literature (EUP), and a forthcoming collection on the literary form of post-British England. His monograph in progress argues that the discipline of English Literature is cracking under the weight of English national experience.


Series edited by: John Brannigan.
Commissioning Editor: P.J. Mathews 
Scholarcast original theme music by: Padhraic Egan, Michael Hussey and Sharon Hussey.
Recording, audio editing, photography and development by: John Matthews, Brian Kelly, Vincent Hoban &
Niall Watts at UCD IT Services, Media Services.

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