Abstract

This essay reads William Godwin's novel St. Leon (1799) in relation to contemporaneous medicalizing discourses concerned with the elimination of old age. I argue that in St. Leon, a speculative case study of a disastrously unbounded life, Godwin recants his earlier paean to immortality in Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793-98) by undermining the solitary subject for whom senescence is a symptom of political tyranny. St. Leon therefore signals an acute transitional moment between late eighteenth-century thought and incipient Romanticism, and marks the first example of the nineteenth-century longevity narrative, wherein the finitude of individual lifespan exists in strained reciprocity with the perpetual succession of species.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6547
Print ISSN
0013-8304
Pages
pp. 905-933
Launched on MUSE
2012-12-04
Open Access
No
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