How the Legal Shapes the Real: The Trans-Atlantic Possibilities of Collective Action in Nineteenth Century Britain and the U.S.

By Kelvin Calhoun Black.

Published by The International Journal of Civic, Political, and Community Studies

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

My paper investigates the nature of this legal-military marginalization of questions concerning popular sovereignty in both Britain and the U.S., and the effect that such a marginalization had on perceptions of the possibilities of collective action. As a corollary, my paper argues that in both countries one of the profound effects on the public sphere of the marginalization of questions concerning popular sovereignty can be observed in the apparent failure of literary realism to represent such questions. In addition, I argue that attempts to provide a "political" history of literature often have focused on the novel as a site where various forms of socio-political discipline are both put on display and into practice. Studies which deviate from this approach usually do so by trying to provide some new understanding of the material socio-political-economic conditions in which literary production occurs, in hopes of deepening our understanding of the ways in which literature engages with those material conditions. What these studies often neglect to do is discuss how the nature of linguistic concepts and changes in them shape qualitative narratives of the subject and its possibilities. This then attempts to offer up for consideration the following questions: How might we go about having such a discussion? Can we do so in a way that explores how the production and consumption of literature participates in a larger production and consumption of qualitative narratives about society, politics, the economy, and the state? Central to this paper’s arguments is the observation that modern Anglo-American linguistic and literary understandings of socio-political change were produced by debates in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries over the relative value of continuity and discontinuity as prescriptions for socio-political praxis, debates which I argue held profound consequences for subsequent practical and linguistic traditions of state- and self-governance.

Keywords: Popular Sovereignty, Collective Action, Qualitative Narrative, Governance, Anglo-American, Political Theory, Literary Realism

The International Journal of Civic, Political, and Community Studies, Volume 10, Issue 4, 2012, pp.1-6. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 115.606KB).

Dr. Kelvin Calhoun Black

Assistant Professor of Trans-Atlantic Studies, Department of English Literature, Hunter College, CUNY, New York City, NY, USA

Kelvin C. Black received his Ph.D. in English literature from the University of California, Berkeley in 2009, where he specialized in British and American political discourse and the history of ideas in the long nineteenth century. He worked under the direction of Ian Duncan (English Lit.), Bryan Wagner (English Lit.), and Mark Bevir (Political Theory). He is currently an assistant professor of Trans-Atlantic Studies at Hunter College, CUNY, and was formerly a Duke University Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities under the supervision of Ian Baucom (English Lit.). He is currently working on a book entitled, Thinking at the Limit: How the Words Reform and Revolution Shape the Way Britons and Americans Think about Change.