Edmund Burke and Ireland: Aesthetics, Politics and the Colonial Sublime

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The pioneering study of Edmund Burke's engagement with Irish politics and culture argues that Burke's influential early writings on aesthetics and intimately connected to his lifelong political concerns. The concept of the sublime, which lay at the heart of his aesthetics, addressed itself primarily to the experience of terror, and it is this spectre that haunts Burke's political imagination throughout his career. Luke Gibbons argues that this anxious aesthetics found expression in his preoccupation with political terror, whether in colonial Ireland and India, or revolutionary America and France. Burke's preoccupation with violence, sympathy, and pain allowed him to explore the dark side of the Enlightenment, but from a position no less committed to the plight of the oppressed, and to political emancipation. This major reassessment of a key political and cultural figure will appeal to Irish studies and postcolonial specialists, political theorists and students of Romanticism.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An exemplary interdisciplinary work in which aesthetics, ideas, and history are mutually activating..." New Hibernia Review

"This new book on Burke, by Luke Gibbons of Notre Dame University, goes a long way towards resolving the apparent contradictions in Burke's life and towards reconciling the ambiguities in his legacy...[A] bracing read and a signal achievement with much that is new to say..." Irish Times

"Gibbons provides a cogent and nuanced account of Burke's particular contribution to theories of sensibility, as well as a compelling examination of the role of sensibility within Enlightenment thought in general and the politics of the eighteenth century, with particular attention to the colonial and assimilatory pressures within the British Isles. Edmund Burke and Ireland is essential reading for anyone grappling with the complexity of Burkean affect and, more broadly, with the stresses and strains between Englightenment thought and eighteenth-century colonial practices." - Canadian Journal of Irish Studies, Julia Wright, Wilfrid Laurier University

"This book is altogether engaging, enlightening, and fundamentally correct with respect to a contemporary post-modern application of Burke."
Michael F. Deckard, Catholic University of Leuven

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521100946
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 2/5/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Luke Gibbons is Professor of English, and Film, Theatre and Television at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. He has written extensively on Irish literature, the visual arts and popular culture. He is the author of Transformations in Irish Culture (1996) and The Quiet Man (2002), and co-author of Cinema and Ireland (1988).

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Table of Contents

List of illustrations
Introduction: Edmund Burke, Ireland, and the colonial sublime 1
1 'The king of terrors': Edmund Burke and the aesthetics of executions 21
2 'Philoctetes' and colonial Ireland: the wounded body as national narrative 39
3 The sympathetic sublime: Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, and the politics of pain 83
4 Did Edmund Burke cause the Great Famine? Commerce, culture, and colonialism 121
5 'Tranquillity tinged with terror': the sublime and agrarian insurgency 147
6 Burke and colonialism: the Enlightenment and cultural diversity 166
7 'Subtilized into savages': Burke, progress, and primitivism 183
8 'The return of the native': the United Irishmen, culture, and colonialism 208
Conclusion: towards post-colonial Enlightenment 230
Notes 239
Index 288
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