Enlightenment in Ruins: The Geographies of Oliver Goldsmith

Enlightenment in Ruins: The Geographies of Oliver Goldsmith

by Michael Griffin


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Oliver Goldsmith (1728–1774) moved between the genres and geographies of enlightenment writing with considerable dexterity. As a consequence he has been characterized as a passive purveyor of enlightenment thought, a hack, a harried translator of the French enlightenment for an English audience, an ideological lackey, and a subtle ironist. In poetry, he is either a compliant pastoralist or an engaged social critic. Yet Goldsmith’s career is as complex and as contradictory as the enlightenment currents across which he wrote, and there is in Goldsmith’s oeuvre a set of themes—including his opposition to the new imperialism and to glibly declared principles of liberty—which this book addresses as a manifestation of his Irishness.

Michael Griffin places Goldsmith in two contexts: one is the intellectual and political culture in which he worked as a professional author living in London; the other is that of his nationality and his as yet unstudied Jacobite politics. Enlightenment in Ruins thereby reveals a body of work that is compellingly marked by tensions and transits between Irishness and Englishness, between poetic and professional imperatives, and between cultural and scientific spheres.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781611486896
Publisher: Bucknell University Press
Publication date: 04/01/2015
Series: Transits: Literature, Thought & Culture, 1650-1850 Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 226
Product dimensions: 6.05(w) x 8.87(h) x 0.66(d)

About the Author

Michael Griffin lectures in eighteenth-century and Irish studies at the University of Limerick, where he is Director of the Eighteenth Century Research Group. He has published widely on eighteenth-century studies, utopian satire, and Irish writing in English.

Table of Contents


Chronology of Goldsmith’s career
List of Abbreviations


Part 1: Comparative views of races and nations
1. The cultural climate: natural histories of national character
2. The lie of the land: liberty and travel

Part 2: Political landscapes and bodies politic
3. Delicate allegories: Ireland and the East
4. Geographies of Ruin: Ireland, America and Auburn’s absentees

Ill Fares the Land: Conclusion



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