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Recently, Kwame Anthony Appiah claimed, “We may think we have finished with honor, but honor isn’t finished with us.” With Appiah in mind, this essay explores honor as a central ethic of modernity by situating it within William Godwin’s late eighteenth-century masterpiece Caleb Williams, a novel whose protagonist is both attracted to and repelled by chivalric honor and its role in public life. The novel, it is argued, stages a cultural battle in the 1790s between two contrasting versions of honor: an ethos rooted in sentimentalism to which even the most rational subject must acquiesce (as described by Edmund Burke) and a staid virtue of collective dignity—one that presupposes by nearly a century the concept of public solidarity.


On 27 May 1798, the Prime Minister of England shot at another member of parliament from a distance of twelve paces. William Pitt the Younger—the Tory leader who had presided over the government for nearly fifteen years—had been called out on the floor of the House of Commons by the Irish MP George Tier-ney.1 When Tierney objected to Pitt’s proposal to increase naval spending, Pitt claimed that Tierney was willfully obstructing the defense of the country. A short and heated exchange between the two men proved ineffective at quelling their disagreement, and they met days later for a duel on Putney Heath with their seconds, the men charged with overseeing the procedure and fairness of a duel. Upon missing each other with their opening shots, Pitt fired his pistol into the air to signal an amenable end to the conflict. Honor had been restored, and the two men were satisfied. One source reports, however, that Pitt had no experience handling small arms such as dueling pistols.2 While the raw emotion of the event endured, death or harm was a distant possibility. Other sources describe a small audience that had gathered to witness the duel between these two prominent political figures.3 Not only do these details prove how important honor was to public life in the tumultuous 1790s—honor’s martial conventions were so naturalized that they demanded the attention of perhaps the most illustrious political official in the Western world—but they [End Page 675] also show how sensational the ethic of honor could be.4 Affective and theatrical, this duel of honor was a civic performance with invited spectators, and for Pitt and Tierney, the duel was not about private retribution but about the maintenance of public feeling.

Not everyone supported dueling as a necessary public ritual. In the centuries following the English Renaissance, these heated displays of honor were often decried as a social practice—especially by humanists and, ironically, political figureheads. While such condemnation is most recognizable in the form of Falstaff’s famous soliloquy at the end of 1 Henry IV, honor had been excoriated widely for its irresponsible fatalism, its offense to collective life, and even its unclear definition.5 As the primary social representation of honor, the duel left life and death in the hands of supernatural powers; it was an insult to peaceful society, and even its most ardent participants could not quite articulate for what honor stood. Was honor a mere word without signification, as Falstaff puts it? Or was honor, on the contrary, an overdetermined set of principles that simply rationalized the unruly passions? Even worse, was it meant to maintain the public façade of such principles in polite company while abandoning them in private? Simply put, was honor merely about affect?

Against a legacy of deprecation stands Edmund Burke, the primary figure in the 1790s to infuse honor with widespread cultural and political credibility.6 Instead of denouncing the artificiality and emotionalism of honor performances such as the duel, Burke embraces the sentimental practices of chivalric honor because they are necessary for cultural stability. Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) is, of course, famous for politicizing the ethics of honor. Responding to Continental upheaval, Burke argues for citizens to cultivate a “delicate sense of honour” as a cultural defense against the radicals of the French Revolution, who would decry stale customs and the hegemony of historical precedent.7 Set against the heartless individualism of the revolutionaries is a civic form of honor; it is precisely the affective qualities of honor—its “manly sentiment” and “sensibility of principle”—that had harmonized the collective in the past (Reflections, p. 113).

Scholars such as J. G. A. Pocock, Jerome Christensen, and David Duff have done essential work on how a sentimental, Burkean ideology of chivalry influenced the politics and culture of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.8 While criticism on the radical reaction to Burke’s politics has been prolific, there has not been nearly as much literary history on [End Page 676] the progressive reactions to the ethic of honor itself—a history, moreover, that is especially exigent following a significant rise in the study of honor and dignity over the last five years from a range of philosophers, critics, and political historians such as Elizabeth Anderson, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Martha C. Nussbaum, George Kateb, Jeremy Waldron, and Wai Chee Dimock.9 If honor is the concern of these contemporary scholars—who are all possibly responding to the systematic dismantling of the welfare state and its philosophical aspiration to imbue all citizens with a baseline of honor and dignity—there remain a host of major figures from the eighteenth century who confirm the significance of honor in their own, nonconservative thought. Immanuel Kant identifies Würde, or dignity, as the foundational virtue in Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten (1785), and Thomas Paine relies on the value of honor when he describes the “natural dignity of man” in The Rights of Man (1791).10 Napoleon Bonaparte also participates in this sense of honor with the inauguration of the Légion d’honneur in 1802 as a military corps based on merit and not birthright.11 Even William Wordsworth strikes an egalitarian note when he says in the advertisement to Lyrical Ballads (1798) that poetry has an “honorable characteristic” because it speaks to all men regardless of their status.12

In an effort to take seriously the influence of honor on both conservatives and radicals in the 1790s—and to understand better the complex representations of honor in literary history— this essay turns to one of the decade’s most famous rejoinders to Burke: William Godwin’s gothic masterpiece Things as They Are; or, the Adventures of Caleb Williams (1794), a novel whose protagonist is both attracted to and repelled by chivalric honor and the sentimental way it is used in public life.13 Framed by the sociopolitical debates about chivalry following the French Revolution, Godwin’s novel stages and attempts to resolve an ideological battle in the 1790s that was fought over two contrasting versions of honor: one version as a sentimental and archaic creed to which even the most rational subject must acquiesce and the other as an emerging virtue of collective dignity in which one did not need sentiment in order to fortify the social order. If Godwin tends to diminish the inevitable role of affect and emotion in politics, he nonetheless presupposes, by almost one hundred and fifty years, the language of public solidarity that would come to characterize Western social democracy. In this type of politics, the emphasis on the discourse and institutions of the “general good” takes precedence over the more nebulous concept of “fellow feeling,” a [End Page 677] notion that—since the Scottish Enlightenment—had been used to ground liberal politics (Caleb Williams, p. 99).14 Hence, while Godwin’s revaluation of honor stands as a vital part of the history of emotion in the public sphere—and even seems to respond to the recent critical zeal for the role that affect plays in modern politics—his revaluation also represents a major anomaly in the history of radical fiction. Is it even possible that one of the most celebrated Jacobin novels could make chivalry safe for the modern age? For Godwin, it was not only possible but also necessary.


In his book The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen (2010), Appiah reminds us that “we may think we have finished with honor, but honor isn’t finished with us.”15 With honor dominating the attention of its characters, Caleb Williams seems to take Appiah’s remark literally. Throughout the text, proclamations about nobility and reputation are abundant, made almost compulsively by the upper and lower classes alike. Many of these proclamations follow performative logic, wherein the ancient language of chivalry has acute—often physiological—effects on modern interlocutors.16 For example, “the slightest breath of dishonor” is said to “have stung [Barnabas Tyrrel] to the very soul,” and in a moment of emotional ardor, the protagonist Caleb himself exclaims, “I honour! I conjure you” to Laura, his beloved protector (Caleb Williams, pp. 96 and 299). Full of performative utterances—promises, oaths, and curses that, in J. L. Austin’s famous formulation, speak to the ability of language to do things to the world—the novel is keen to dramatize the effects of these speech acts, especially as they relate to the feelings and sentiments that honor generates.17 In other words, the novel intimately ties the affect of chivalry to what Austin dubs the perlocutionary effect of performative language and the result it has on the often fickle sentiments of the listener.18

Chivalric honor and its particular affect are most famously associated with the novel’s memorable villain, Ferdinando Falkland, a despicable gentleman whom many historicist critics have connected to Burke.19 The perception of injured honor and the affronts to noble authority intensely trouble Falkland, and his peculiar “habits of sensibility” link him to the sentimentality and antiquarianism that punctuate the Reflections (Caleb Williams, p. 246). “Imbib[ing] … chivalry and romance … [from] the times of Charlemagne and Arthur,” Falkland, like Burke, is in his own [End Page 678] current day “most painfully alive to every thing that related to his honour” (pp. 10 and 122.) Lines such as those in Caleb Williams are a direct homage to Burke’s treatise—as well as to Burke himself who was “painfully alive” to the codes of chivalry, as evident in his most famous scene in the Reflections, wherein a vision of Marie Antoinette rising atop Versailles produces an inspirational affect on all who behold her (pp. 112–3). Personally illustrating the power that the aristocratic honor code of the ancien régime had on the shared feelings of its public, Burke continuously refers back to his own sensibilities in this passage. Despite his renowned profession that “the age of chivalry is gone,” the well-known tableau is brimming with exultations of sentiment (p. 113). These serve as examples of performative speech that, in their presentist effect on listeners, would reinforce the emotional fortitude of honor and its continued political relevance during the turbulent years of the early 1790s.

Radicals noted how Burke’s treatise, infamous for its description, was all watercolor and melodrama, straying as it did from the generic sobriety of political pamphleteering. Paine responded with especial rancor to Burke’s style, likening the Reflections to a “tragic painting,” a gaudy showpiece that did not depict the revolution accurately.20 Aware of the way that readers may have received the Reflections, Paine believed that the pathos that Burke’s fabrications inspired might obscure readers’ ability to reason. Burke’s “facts are manufactured for the sake of show,” says Paine, “and accommodated to produce, through the weakness of sympathy, a weeping effect. But Mr. Burke should recollect that he is writing History, and not Plays.”21 Winning hearts and not minds, Burke’s “soliloquy in praise of chivalry” had the potential to reproduce similarly maudlin readers, those who were too emotional to care about the authenticity of his history or the legitimacy of his ethics.22 In her response to Burke’s description, Mary Wollstonecraft noted that many of Burke’s chivalric montages were made to elicit “sensual prejudices” and that they “[threw] a graceful veil over vices that degrade humanity.”23 Anticipating Jacques Derrida—who asserts that performative language “pass[es] off as ordinary [a particular] ethical … determination”—Wollstonecraft wants to illustrate how the supposed naturalness of sentimental speech might cloak underlying systems of power.24 In other words, Burke’s “sensual prejudices” are also affects produced by his sensational language, a specific idiom that would obscure and normalize the ideologies long entrenched in the political order he supported. [End Page 679]

Hence, embedded in Paine’s and Wollstonecraft’s pleas for truth and ideological demystification are indictments of the language of chivalry and its ability to manipulate the feelings of the British public. Both radical writers are clear; political reality should not be falsified by imaginative genres—whether they are painting or drama—nor should political discourse be calculated to produce sensorial effects on readers. Radicals’ fight for the future would mean ceding no ground to such performative folly.

However, whereas Paine and Wollstonecraft want to bury the honor ethic as a defunct value system, Godwin makes a compelling case in Caleb Williams for the continued impact of chivalric honor on modern public life and demonstrates how its emotionalism still influences everyday interactions. Within the collective spaces of Caleb Williams, performativity and theatricality are not the phantoms of the real, as they are in Paine and Wollstonecraft, but instead are tropes of current and recognizable political culture.25 In one of the novel’s first communal displays of honor, the villain Falkland and his brutish rival, Barnabas Tyrell, sit at a town meeting in front of the resident poet, Mr. Clare. With Falkland’s consent, Mr. Clare indulges the crowd’s petition to read Falkland’s poem, “Ode to the Genius of Chivalry.” When Clare recites it,

The beauties of Mr. Falkland’s poem were accordingly exhibited with every advantage. The successive passions of the author were communicated to the hearer. What was impetuous and what was solemn were delivered with a responsive feeling, and a flowing and unlaboured tone … [The hearers] were for the most part plain, unlettered, and of little refinement. Poetry in general they read, when read at all, from the mere force of imitation and with few sensations of pleasure; but this poem had a peculiar vein of glowing inspiration. This very poem would probably have been seen by many of them with little effect; but the accents of Mr. Clare carried it home to the heart. He ended: and, as the countenances of his auditors had before sympathised with the passions of the composition, so now they emulated each other in declaring their approbation.

(p. 26)

Although it is Mr. Clare who reads it, the “Ode to the Genius of Chivalry” is a perfect performative utterance for Falkland, as the poem directly affects its audience. Like Burke’s paean to Marie Antoinette, the effects of the honorable imagination are “carried [End Page 680] … home to the heart” of those in the presence of its glory. And as a performance at a town meeting—an egalitarian gathering whose circular configuration likens it to a classic agora or municipal commons—the poem of honor reveals the duplicitous way that chivalry operates upon an English constituency with seemingly robust republican traditions. Initially, the performance has a universal effect on all those listening, touching “a peculiar vein of glowing inspiration” in even the “unlettered” interlocutors. The ordinary townspeople realize the influence of the honor ethic instantly. In some sense, then, they already have what Burke calls “just prejudice,” or the inclination to abide by longstanding institutions and customs (Reflections, p. 130). But this performance of honor and chivalry also cows the audience into obedience; instead of rising in unadulterated applause, they mimic “each other in declaring their approbation.” Ostensibly representing the will of popular governance, the townspeople find the affect of chivalry to be a pacifying force. Perhaps even more notable than the tranquilizing quality of Falkland’s ode is the omission of its actual language, proving that the specific ethical nature of the poem’s content is “of little moment” to its inspiring affect (Caleb Williams, p. 315). Caricaturing Burke’s own “soliloquy in praise of chivalry” through a poetic monologue, Godwin thus reveals how the ideological structures of chivalry—its chauvinism, martial nature, and hierarchism—can be obscured by the sentimental reactions one has to it.

Much like the audience to Falkland’s poem, the novel’s protagonist, Caleb Williams, is also captured by the pathos of the honor ethic. Upon hearing his master’s story of dueling and honorable retribution, Caleb says that his “veneration was excited … [and he] found a thousand fresh reasons to admire and love Mr. Falkland” (p. 106). But unlike the townspeople, Caleb has been warned about the folly of honor throughout the first part of the novel through a narrative that Falkland’s caretaker, Mr. Collins, relates to Caleb. Examples of the perils of chivalry abound in Collins’s tale; the loutish squire Barnabas Tyrrel stands for the cruel exploitations of feudalism; the poet Mr. Clare warns Falkland about the fatuousness of outmoded codes of chivalry; and even Collins exhorts Falkland to be passive in the face of public slander and challenges to duel (pp. 16–26 and 98–9). Yet even after he is exposed to all of the detriments of a society ruled by a sentimental version of honor, Caleb remains devoted to honor’s principles. This devotion is especially disturbing because Caleb is the perfect candidate to reveal the ideological perils of chivalry. [End Page 681] With an almost pathological suspicion about the legitimacy of the aristocracy, Caleb is a stand-in for English Dissenters or the period’s more radical revolutionaries. Remember that he is even thrown into a Bastille-like prison later in the text. However, while Godwin sets Caleb up to be a progressive crack in the bedrock of the social conservatism that the novel dramatizes, his protagonist eventually stands steadfast in his support of ancient honor—its sentimental nature provokes in Caleb admiration, veneration, and excitation.

Unlike Falkland, who uses honor mostly as an instrument of public coercion, Caleb uses honor as a measure of his own private, chivalrous rectitude. In these ways, Caleb and Falkland caricature the public and private aspects of Burke’s modern honor ethic. While Falkland—with all of his town speeches and public performances—stands for the social ubiquity of chivalry that actually conceals a shadowy hierarchy, Caleb stands for the private sensations inspired by chivalry that keep us from clearly seeing those structures. And in Godwin’s famous novel of pursuit, such a caricature indicates an even more diabolical quality. If Burke claims that chivalry holds society together in shared belief, as a voluntary ideology under which we all submit, then Falkland’s and Caleb’s chivalry will not allow them to escape one another and binds them together in a morbid intersubjectivity. Hence, for the progressive reader in 1794, the most terrifying moment in Caleb Williams might not be Caleb’s incarceration or his internalization of political paranoia but the protagonist’s final tribute to Falkland. Even though Caleb disavows the “poison of chivalry” that corrupts Falkland’s character, Caleb uses the rhetoric of knights and nobility, thus turning the modern pronouns “you” and “your” into the elevated and archaic “thy” and “thou” (p. 326). The novel’s alternative manuscript ending also features Caleb’s unwitting descent into the affective mode that characterizes the conservative version of honor: “‘I [am] so ardent, so impassioned, so full of my subject,’” says Caleb in a closing trial sequence, unwittingly punning on “subject,” which could signify both the argument for Caleb’s innocence and the person of Falkland himself (p. 332). These final scenes mark the moment in which Godwin’s portrayal of the Burkean honor code truly goes gothic; Caleb turns from Falkland’s antagonist into his double.

At first glance, Godwin’s representation of life under chivalry resembles a very modern theory of political subject formation, one that has been familiar to contemporary literary critics for many years. Because he internalizes the imperatives of chivalry [End Page 682] as part of his very identity, Caleb can be thought of as a subject of interpellation, a process by which, according to Louis Althusser, the citizen is fashioned through the ideological apparatus of the state—or, in the case of the novel, through the embodiment of an omnipresent figure such as Falkland, who seems to have his informants and spies following Caleb at every turn.26 While this reading is the most prominent way in which Caleb Williams can be theorized, a contrasting interpretation is also likely. Instead of being a victim of the state—or of a widespread system of cultural mores such as chivalric honor—Caleb could, in fact, stand for the political subject who has been captivated by an extreme version of liberal privacy, wherein one is free to bask in sentimental delusions despite their detriment to the polis.27 Read in this way, the novel not only represents a regression into an oppressive, reactionary world dominated by simpering aristocrats and their brutal henchmen; it also presents a dystopian future predicated on a monstrous image of republicanism—a politics whose once cherished institutions of justice and freedom have now been perverted and vacated of all of their substance. Filled with representations of empty civic procedures, meaningless laws, and a press free to fabricate whatever story will provoke sensation, the novel suggests that the only moral guidance left comes in the form of the sentimental—but ultimately capricious—conventions of archaic honor. It is no wonder, then, that Ferdinando Falkland shares a name with Lucius Cary Falkland (1610–43), a moderate British noble who, despite his love for traditional chivalry and his king, was also celebrated for upholding the legal structures and constitutional integrity of England. Not only is the role of affect in England’s formal republican tradition historically accurate— capturing the Whig tradition in the long eighteenth century of a politics underwritten by sentiment and sympathy—but this role also presupposes current scholarship on the ideological work done by feelings in the public sphere, what Lauren Berlant has called “the distribution of sensibilities that discipline the imaginary about … how proper people act.”28 For Burke, the practice of sentimental honor was necessary for such cultural discipline following the “universal anarchy” unleashed by revolution, and—contradicting the supposedly egalitarian nature of republicanism’s “fellow feeling”—this practice was to be imposed hierarchically (Reflections, p. 80).

Did Godwin realize the dangers of sensibility as a key component of the republican tradition to which he had devoted his life? In this way, is Caleb Williams not only a retort to Burke’s Reflections [End Page 683] but also a companion piece? In other words, is the text not so much a Jacobin novel—the consummate contrarian analysis of Burke’s conservatism and his chivalric imagination—but rather a perspicacious insider’s critique of English Whiggism? One thing is certain; while the novel suggests that individuals, even when provided numerous enlightening opportunities, can nevertheless be captivated by the sentimental vision of the past, the text foresees the potential for sensational virtues such as chivalric honor to anesthetize the demos from problems in contemporary life. In this manner, Caleb Williams both showed “things as they are” during the anti-Jacobinical turn in the early 1790s and portended things as they will be—the sentimentalist, moral traditionalism that swept through British culture during the Napoleonic wars (Caleb Williams, p. 1).29


Godwin did not give up honor entirely. Within Caleb Williams, there is another version of the honor ethic, one that confronts the affect-laden ethos of chivalry corrupting all of the novel’s modern institutions and public perceptions. True honor, as Godwin defines this new ethos, would be “in [one’s] own keeping,” immune to the pitfalls of chivalric pretension and sentimentality (p. 98). Shunning the emotional impulse to defend one’s public character in a duel, Godwin announces that honor can be a positive virtue, one that is predicated on the private awareness of an individual’s responsibility to what other eighteenth-century writers called the “general good.” Godwin’s alternative honor code comes from Mr. Collins—a minor character who can be overlooked due to the many textual layers and narrative voices in the novel. But Collins proves crucial in his ability to mediate between a variety of different characters and their desires. To be an advocate for true honor in such a social role thus implies an initial and important change to the original version of chivalric honor found throughout the novel; while honor and dignity may be experienced by each person individually, these concepts can only be put into practice communally. In this way, Godwin does not so much prioritize private, individualist morality over public virtue—an assumption that one could easily make about a founder of political anarchism—as much as he attempts to restructure Burke’s understanding of honor and dignity as a virtue important to the maintenance of civil society. [End Page 684]

At first glance, true honor appears as a transcendent form of private integrity—a virtue instilled by metaphysical reason, seasoned with detached stoicism, and sustained by the immutable laws of justice. A formulation not entirely new to Caleb Williams, such an ethos is put forward in the first edition of Political Justice (1793), in which honor is preserved as a key virtue, despite Godwin’s repeated censuring of courtly practices and the nobility’s focus on audacious titles and etiquette.30 Eliminating its public and sensational elements, “true honour,” Godwin writes in Political Justice, “is to be found only in integrity and justice.”31 Evoking the republican tradition of self-governance, Godwin suggests that one’s honor might be an immutable part of the individual; consequently, one would have no need for retribution if one’s character was slandered, nor would one long for the mutual recognition upon which theories of sympathy were predicated. Instead, true honor might be closer to Kant’s Würde, which is usually translated as dignity or self-worth, the essential esteem that everyone has by virtue of their humanity. This viewpoint is classically liberal in that it roots public morality in private, personal sovereignty. It would therefore support one vision of Godwin as a major figure in the development of Anglo-American bourgeois liberalism which seems to emphasize the defense of personal liberties and freedom from intrusion.

But true honor is more complicated than this analysis suggests. A closer reading reveals that Collins’s definition does not connote a totally private, internalized virtue. Rather, true honor means prioritizing the public good over one’s own sentiments or sense of reputation. In an early scene, Collins advises Falkland against dueling and in the process exemplifies true honor:

Duelling is the vilest of all egotism, treating the public, which has a claim to all my powers and exertions, as if it were nothing, and myself, or rather an unintelligible chimera I annex to myself, as if it were entitled to my exclusive attention. I am unable to cope with you: what then? Can that circumstance dishonour me? No; I can only be dishonoured by perpetrating an unjust action. My honour is in my own keeping, beyond the reach of all mankind. Strike! I am passive. No injury that you can inflict shall provoke me to expose you or myself to unnecessary evil. I refuse that; but I am not therefore pusillanimous: when I refuse any danger or suffering by which the general good may be promoted, then brand me for a coward!”

(pp. 98–9) [End Page 685]

Not only is dueling or any performance to restore one’s private honor “the vilest of all egoism,” but it also results in the addition of a chimerical double that can merely give “exclusive attention” to the self. Such a double is a striking premonition of Falkland and Caleb’s own morbid intersubjectivity. Furthermore, the extreme focus on identifying with the other becomes a pathological form of individualism—what Vivasvan Soni has recognized as one of the major pitfalls of an eighteenth-century ethics based on sentiment.32 Collins’s remedy, however, is not to make one’s honor “beyond the reach of all mankind,” or to dedicate it to the higher laws of just actions, that is, to remove it from the realm of mutual feelings only to make honor more private and more legalistic. Instead, it is to promote the “general good” over and above personal offense—to recognize the claims of public stability over private injury. Although Collins does not eliminate the possibility of private honor or dignity, he suggests that such a virtue comes from a responsibility to eliminate communal danger or suffering, not from a public defense of one’s own character.

Collins’s description of a more egalitarian code of honor gestures toward modern doctrines of human rights, which are based on the universal principle of personal dignity and the obligation to eliminate suffering. It is often mentioned that almost all modern human rights treatises have been modeled after the original French document, “The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen” (1789)—with which Godwin would have been very familiar—wherein “admiss[ibility] to all public dignities” is necessary for an egalitarian vision of society.33 What is less obvious, however, is how Collins’s description of honor in the novel indicates a different foundation for those rights in modernity, especially with regard to the advance of republican politics into the nineteenth century and the subsequent normalization of such politics as liberalism.

One way that Godwin breaks with the Enlightenment political philosophy that continued to exert influence on late eighteenth-century thought was by showing that the task of true honor is to bind together the “general good.” As a concept that was especially important to Jean Jacques Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality (1754), the promotion of a general or “public good” offered a necessary check to the social dislocation that would inevitably arise from a sovereignty based on private property.34 Even though Godwin professed to find “great satisfaction [with] the writings of Rousseau,” Caleb Williams finds fault with two major premises in the Discourse on Inequality. The first concerns the supremacy [End Page 686] of “natural compassion” and sympathy in any social order and the place of social contracts, instead of virtues such as honor, in civil society—an emphasis that, according to Rousseau, would precipitate “universal competition and rivalry, or rather enmity, among men, [and occasion] numberless failures.”35 In Caleb Williams, the sentimental relations that Rousseau claimed would “moderate the violence of love of self” are more often than not covers for ideologically motivated moves for power.36 By refusing to cede the entire social structure to the exchange of emotion, true honor limits the possibility for such “natural compassion” to overflow into a pathological obsession with the other, even as this form of honor addresses the excessive focus on the self with which Rousseau was concerned. Thus, the second way that true honor breaks with foundational republican ideas is through its emphasis on the intrinsic duty an individual has toward the greater good. To avoid the pitfalls of a society governed by self-interest, Rousseau argued for the necessity of a social contract “by which both [the chiefs and the people] bind themselves to observe the laws therein.”37 But Godwin’s skepticism toward contracts—and the merely formal obligations they placed upon citizens and the state—made him uncomfortable.38 What was needed was something more authentic, something that would better allow for the internalization of municipal obligations and not just a document or law that the citizen could externalize and thus circumvent. As a virtue located deep within the subject—instead of commitment made between the government and the governed that was theoretically outside of the polis—true honor for Godwin could do just that. It struck a salutary balance between the individualist and communalist impulses in his own political outlook.

Not only is Godwin’s discourse of true honor a major development in the ethics undergirding his early political theory—and a response to the Enlightenment philosophy with which he had become dissatisfied—but also it challenges contemporary intellectual histories of liberal thought, namely J. G. A. Pocock’s virtue and commerce model of bourgeois liberalism that proposes the appearance of a new type of propriety increasingly centered around market culture, with exhortations to follow enlightened self-interest.39 Godwin suggests that the politics emerging out of a postrevolutionary republican tradition would not so much emphasize what Pocock calls “a right to things … [as] a way to … practice [communal] virtue” as much as it would require an ethical norm that did not valorize self-interest at the expense of the commons.40 [End Page 687]

To illustrate this point, Mr. Collins’s story in Caleb Williams can be read as an allegory about the perils of a late eighteenth-century liberalism that Pocock says was rooted in property and manners. At the same time, the story demonstrates a movement toward a liberalism based on a conception of public dignity and mutual, nonsentimental recognition.41 Beginning in the novel as a steward and caretaker of Falkland’s property, Collins upholds the proprietary foundation of personal sovereignty that has been associated with the long-term development of liberalism, especially through John Locke’s idea that civil society was to be rooted in the protection of private property.42 As far as his propriety—or his manners—Collins acquiesces to Falkland’s sentimental honor ethic even though it is used as a means for public repression (pp. 7 and 310). However, when Collins returns many years later from his management of Falkland’s West Indian plantation, he is the shadow of his former self (pp. 308–9). In the novel, Caleb attributes Collins’s physical decline to a disagreeable climate, but Collins’s harrowing condition could be the result of years of disillusionment with the structures, virtue and commerce, that underwrite conceptions of the good life in liberal modernity. In the latter case, what undermines both structures is the anti-liberal institution of slavery. Faced with its inhumanity, Collins returns to England cynical about the rationalizations traditionally maintained for the existence of slavery. These rationalizations are apologies that often centered on the combination of commerce and propriety: first, that slavery was a necessary evil for the maintenance of a healthy commercial culture and, second, that slavery was, in fact, the sentimental duty of the colonizers to save the colonized from their uncivil ways. Of course, Collins’s disillusionment toward classically liberal institutions parallels Caleb’s, as both characters become cynical toward structures such as the market economy, legal system, and open press. But unlike Caleb, Collins can dissociate himself from Falkland and the sentimental honor code that Falkland represents. Left harrowed by the atrocity he has witnessed in the West Indies—and perhaps even penniless after his abdication from his master—Collins returns to England and is still “uncommonly judicious” in invoking his idea of true honor against Falkland, the figure embodying the sentimentalist version of the honor ethic (p. 97).

In one of the novel’s many instances of gothic doubling, Godwin’s true honor begins to sound like Burke’s modern chivalry. For both writers, the honor ethic allows people to refocus on the stability of the “general good” after the violent turn taken by the [End Page 688] revolution—one that happened both abroad in France after the rise of the terror and at home in England under Pitt, who had instituted his own “Reign of Alarm” due to the supposed threat of Jacobin insurgency.43 But if Collins at first seems to replicate Burke’s ideas about the importance of chivalric honor to balance the runaway republicanism of the French Revolution, Collins’s discourse on true honor neither indulges in the same sentimentalism of Burkean chivalry nor implements its hierarchical structure. Such hierarchy is explicit; Burke frequently uses the medieval trope of the monarch as a “fountain of honour,” whose surfeit of dignity would trickle down onto the heads of loyal subjects (p. 290). Instead of duplicating Burke, Godwin transfigures him. Whereas Burkean chivalry operates from the inside out—from the provocation of the private sentiments that would necessitate the public performance of chivalric honor—Godwin’s true honor operates dialectically from the outside in—from a responsibility placed upon the subject by the “general good,” which would in turn bequeath true honor to that individual.


Godwin’s idea that honor was at the heart of civic life challenges traditional histories of republican and liberal thought after the revolution, which focus on the rise of utilitarianism and the procedural reformism that would come to characterize Victorian politics. However crucial the ethic of honor proved to be for mid-nineteenth-century liberal novelists such as Anthony Trollope and early twentieth-century writers such as Joseph Conrad (who, in his Nostromo [1904], would pit the liberal capitalist system against more romantic models of virtue), Godwin’s version of honor would also pave the way for something like the spirit of social democracy.44 Such a spirit emphasizes communal care and solidarity as a check against the contingencies and volatility of modern life in the mid-twentieth century. As a private awareness of one’s public responsibility, true honor could be the communal ideal that legitimates collective action within a modern sociopolitical order, one that had been steeped in bourgeois notions of individualism and autonomy since at least the rise of the nation-state in the late eighteenth century. In this way, not only does Godwin’s famous revision of Burkean honor prefigure the current scholarly fascination with the role of affect in politics, but also it responds to the neoliberal system under which we live—one that urges everyone to turn themselves into a competitive individualist and to abide [End Page 689] by emotions only if they are appropriate to the maintenance of the present order.45

It might be easy enough to depict Godwin, a pioneer of western anarchism, as a forefather to the libertarian tradition that shirks a coercive apparatus such as the state, with Caleb Williams providing clear examples of the oppression that a ubiquitous and despotic sovereign can produce.46 But it is just as plausible to say that in Caleb Williams (and to some extent, in Political Justice), Godwin demonstrates the uncanny ability to recognize and synthesize the contradictory political strains emerging from the French Revolution, strains that would eventually characterize the tension between public and private civic organization over the next two hundred years. On the one hand, the Revolution promised the immediate and universal bestowal of rights and individual sovereignty coextensive with a Whig model of expanded private property relations that sentimentality augmented. On the other hand, the egalitarianism of such a proposal could never be truly realized until the proposal addressed the systemic iniquity that was built into the very bourgeois model from which it was derived.47 Like his fellow radical Paine—who in his pamphlet Agrarian Justice (1797) proposed one of the first systems of social insurance to “give perfection to [the] Revolution of France”—Godwin recognizes that some form of communitarianism had to be woven into the very fabric of any liberationist politics, whether that form be the old Whiggism of Burke or Godwin’s own anarchist socialism.48 Hence, when twentieth-century Anglo-American progressives and socialists valorized solidarity over sympathy as a way to push forward social change, this action was not only a decision influenced by the idiom of popular working-class resistance—or even a cultural expression that reflected the socialist but antisentimental tendencies of the Bloomsbury group, which had incubated social-democratic thought—but also the invocation of an egalitarian honor code that had been part of progressive politics from the very beginning.49

Was Godwin’s attempt to detach sentiment from the norms of civic life impossible? For him, would affect prove to be more than just a fickle part of eighteenth-century Whig tradition? Or, instead, would he recognize emotions as an inexorable piece of modern political organization? While Godwin became more amenable to affect and irrational sentiments as his career progressed, his new ethic of honor was one for the times; it counteracted the many impassioned political manifestations of the decade—from dueling to conservative nationalism—with its own medicine. But if this ethic was appropriate for a particular sociopolitical moment [End Page 690] in the 1790s, then Godwin’s critique of honor in Caleb Williams may also serve as a reply to our own critical moment, wherein affect is seen as determining all manner of political praxis. As the ideological blindness suffered by Caleb demonstrates, a surplus of affect may in fact obfuscate the systemic biases and injustices within the social order.50 In other words, Caleb Williams argues that sentiment may not reveal the hierarchies of power—as Sara Ahmed suggests—but may conceal them.51 This implication does not mean that valorizing communal feeling will always result in mass delusion. The sentiment that chivalry inspires does not delude Caleb as much as it pushes aside history and context; it does not blind Caleb to the truth as much as it keeps him from fully pursuing it. Rather, the sentiments associated with chivalry do not have to be thought of as a strict ideology—what Raymond Williams called a “structure of feeling”—that ties the thoughts, codes, and contexts of social life to an immediate present, a “practical consciousness of a present kind.”52 True honor rejects this form of affective common sense to which Raymond Williams alludes. By turning away from the natural emotional impulse to duel, Collins refuses to live by the immanent demand made upon him by conventional sentiments, and he considers instead the larger and more historical affairs of the “general good” as a moral guide.

Collins’s speech to Caleb is one of the few directly ethical moments in the text. It allows what Godwin calls the “fictitious adventure” of the gothic novel to be simultaneously read as a “valuable lesson”—a reading that Godwin intended when he launched his novel into the fray of the revolution controversy (Caleb Williams, pp. 335 and 1). Collins’s oratory, Caleb’s prison meditations, and even Falkland’s resistance to a more ruthless type of feudalism are not “refined and abstract speculations” but cultural reflections whose embodiment Godwin hoped would work on the “interest and passion” of readers (p. 1). The novel form, however, not only camouflages civic didacticism through fictional representations, but also, as in Godwin’s novel, it can lay the groundwork for the principles of true honor that he was promoting. In Caleb Williams, this occurs because its narrative is scattered among many different voices and subjectivities—an intertextual performance of the public sphere. In other words, the communality of the “general good” is illustrated by the text’s multiplicity of opinions and beliefs, all of which are encapsulated by a single, private consciousness. Shifting and perspectival, Caleb Williams has the effect of pluralism in its very structure. More effective than a pamphlet or a treatise, this textual strategy [End Page 691] allows Godwin to exemplify the conditions of true honor, in which private individuals become responsible for the public good, even as he offers a retort to a popular conservative criticism of republican discourse—that such discourse was selfish, individualist, and inflexible in its proposals.

Caleb Williams is, of course, driven by first-person narrative, which only seems to add to the solipsism, alienation, and morbidity of sentiment that Godwin wants to exorcise from political life. Yet for all the claustrophobia and hopelessness these qualities convey, one of the conventions of gothic literature works to Godwin’s didactic advantage: the uncanny doubling throughout the novel, which, by its very nature, conveys the possibility of alternative values. The text’s constant doubling not only suggests the paranoia of an existential and perhaps terrifying encounter with the other, but also suggests the dialectical nature of ideas themselves—the notion that concepts always include within themselves contrasting elements that could lead to their transformation. Given this duality, how far apart, as Godwin’s fiction asks, are Mr. Collins and Mr. Falkland? How much would it take to replace one man’s sentimentalist honor code with another’s unwavering solidarity? How impassable is the gulf between the reactionary age of things as they are and a reformed age of things as they might be? In the midst of its chivalric dystopia, Caleb Williams posits—if only at certain moments—that honor might not only inflict harm but also prove to be valuable to the modern, progressive subject.

Jamison Kantor

Jamison Kantor is a lecturer in English at Georgetown University and the University of Maryland. He is revising a manuscript on the revival of honor and the problem of liberalism in the Romantic era.


The ideas in this essay have benefited from the helpful suggestions of Marshall Brown, Neil Fraistat, James Hoddap, Diane Hoeveler, Stefanie Kuduk Weiner, and my reader at SEL. I would especially like to thank Orrin N. C. Wang for his commentary and belief, like Godwin’s, in the radical power of literature.

1. “London: May 28, Duel,” Caledonian Mercury 11, 967 (31 May, 1798): 1–4, 2.

2. W. H. Davenport Adams, English Party Leaders and English Parties: From Walpole to Peel. Including a Review of the Political History of the Last One Hundred and Fifty Years (London: Tinsley Bros, 1878), p. 39.

3. Philip Henry Stanhope, Life of the Right Honourable William Pitt: With Extracts from His MS. Papers (London: J. Murray, 1879), pp. 278–9.

4. See the review by John Gifford, “A History of the Political Life of the Right Hon. William Pitt, Including Some Accounts of the Times in Which He Lived,” in The British Critic and Quarterly Theological Review 37 (January, February, March, April, May, and June 1811): 1–14 and 110–27. For illustrations of the [End Page 692] event, see Isaac Cruikshank, “The duel-or Charley longing for a pop,” The British Museum, accessed January 2013,; and James Gillray, “The Explanation,” The British Museum, accessed January 2013,

5. Shakespeare, 1 Henry IV, in The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blake-more Evans, 2d edn. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997), pp. 889–927, lines 125–41. For the condemnation of dueling, see Robert Baldick, The Duel: A History of Duelling (New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1965); and James Landale, The Last Duel: A True Story of Death and Honour (Edinburgh: Canongate, 2005).

6. Edmund Burke was certainly not the era’s only advocate for a type of honor that had masculinist, martial overtones. While Baldick reports a popular “mania” for dueling throughout the eighteenth century, a host of anonymously written treatises and pamphlets were also written to rationalize the practice of dueling in the later decades (p. 70). See, for instance, A Short Treatise upon the Propriety and Necessity of Duelling (Bath, 1779); ECCO ESTC (2d edn.) T069323; and Richard Hey, A Dissertation on Duelling (Cambridge: J. Archdeacon, 1784); ECCO ESTC (2d edn.) T084424. Burke was, however, the public figure that provided chivalric honor with the most political credibility and philosophical heft during the postrevolutionary period—an ethos that would prove extremely influential to Romantic thinking.

7. Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, and on the Proceedings in Certain Societies in London Relative to That Event (London: J. Dodsley, 1790), p. 202. Subsequent references to Reflections on the Revolution in France, hereafter, Reflections, are from this edition and will appear parenthetically in the text by page number.

8. J. G. A. Pocock, “Virtue, Rights, and Manners: A Model for Historians of Political Thought,” Political Theory 9, 3 (August 1981): 353–68; Jerome Christensen, Lord Byron’s Strength: Romantic Writing and Commercial Society (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1993), pp. 11–7; and David Duff, Romance and Revolution: Shelley and the Politics of a Genre (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1994), pp. 8–53.

9. Elizabeth Anderson, “Emotions in Kant’s Later Moral Philosophy: Honour and the Phenomenology of Moral Value,” in Kant’s Ethics of Virtue, ed. Monika Betzler (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2008), pp. 123–145; Kwame Anthony Appiah, The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen (New York: W. W. Norton, 2010); Martha C. Nussbaum, Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach (Cambridge MA: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2011); George Kateb, Human Dignity (Cambridge MA: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2011); Jeremy Waldron, Dignity, Rank, and Rights (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 2012); and Wai Chee Dimock, “High and Low,” in Dignity, Rank, and, Rights, pp. 119–29.

10. Immanuel Kant, Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten (Riga Latvia: Johann Friedrich Hartknoch, 1785), pp. 70–9; and Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man: Being an Answer to Mr. Edmund Burke’s Attack on the French Revolution (London: J. S. Jordan, 1791), p. 55, hereafter cited as Rights. [End Page 693]

11. Pierre-Louis Roederer, “Speech Proposing the Creation of a Legion of Honour,” Napoleon: Symbol for an Age: A Brief History with Documents, ed. Rafe Blaufarb (New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008), pp. 101–2.

12. William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads with a Few Other Poems (London: J. and A. Arch, 1798), p. i.

13. William Godwin, Things as They Are; or, the Adventures of Caleb Williams, ed. David McCracken (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1977). Subsequent references to Things as They Are; or, the Adventures of Caleb Williams, hereafter Caleb Williams, are from this edition and will appear in the text by page number.

14. For the problems of a politics grounded by sentimentalism, see, among others, Vivasvan Soni, Mourning Happiness: Narrative and the Politics of Modernity (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 2010); and Joel Faflak, “Jane Austen and the Persuasion of Happiness,” in Romanticism and the Emotions, ed. Faflak and Richard Sha (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2014), pp. 98–123. The most well-known development of the concept of “fellow feeling” comes from Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments (ed. Ryan Patrick Hanley [New York: Penguin Books, 2009]). For the amoral nature of liberalism as a political system, see Slavoj Žižek, Living in the End Times (London: Verso, 2010), p. 154.

15. Appiah, p. xix.

16. See Angela Esterhammer, “Godwin’s Philosophy and Fiction: The Resistance to Performatives,” in The Romantic Performative: Language and Action in British and German Romanticism (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 2000), pp. 289–329; and Andrew Franta, “Godwin’s Handshake,” PMLA 122, 3 (May 2007): 696–710.

17. J. L. Austin, How to Do Things with Words (Cambridge MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1978).

18. Austin, pp. 101–9.

19. See, for instance, David McCracken, “Godwin’s Caleb Williams: A Fictional Rebuttal of Burke,” Studies in Burke and His Time 11, 37 (Winter 1969–70): 1442–52; and Marilyn Butler, “Godwin, Burke, and Caleb Williams,” EIC 32, 3 (July 1982): 237–57.

20. Paine, p. 21.

21. Ibid.

22. Paine, p. 43.

23. Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Men, in a Letter to the Right Honourable Edmund Burke; Occasioned by His Reflections on the Revolution in France (London: J. Johnson, 1790), pp. 26 and 111.

24. Jacques Derrida, “Signature Event Context,” in Limited Inc (Evanston IL: Northwestern Univ. Press, 1988), pp. 1–21, 7.

25. See Thomas Pfau, Romantic Moods: Paranoia, Trauma, and Melancholy, 1790–1840 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2005), pp. 133–45; and Robert Kaufman, “The Sublime as Super-Genre of the Modern, or ‘Hamlet’ in Revolution: Caleb Williams and His Problems,” SIR 36, 4 (Winter 1997): 541–74.

26. Louis Althusser, Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays, trans. Ben Brewster (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2001), pp. 127–86.

27. See Gary Handwerk, “History, Trauma, and the Limits of the Liberal Imagination: William Godwin’s Historical Fiction,” in Romanticism, History, [End Page 694] and the Possibilities of Genre: Re-forming Literature, 1789–1837, ed. Tilottama Rajan and Julia M. Wright (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998), pp. 64–85.

28. Lauren Berlant, Cruel Optimism (Durham NC: Duke Univ. Press, 2011), p. 53.

29. For the Jacobin novel, see M. O. Grenby, The Anti-Jacobin Novel: British Conservatism and the French Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2001); and Kevin Gilmartin, Writing against Revolution: Literary Conservatism in Britain, 1790–1832 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006). For the bipartisanship of feeling, see Adela Pinch, Strange Fits of Passion: Epistemologies of Emotion, Hume to Austen (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1996); and Jerome McGann, The Poetics of Sensibility: A Revolution in Literary Style (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996).

30. Godwin, Enquiry concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on Morals and Happiness, 2 vols. (London: G. G. and J. Robinson, 1798); ECCO ESTC (2d edn.) N006482; hereafter cited as Political Justice.

31. Godwin, Political Justice, 2:151.

32. As Soni writes, “Sympathy, then which promised to serve as a bridge between self and other, betrays its promise and leaves the self embroiled with its own emotions, which it imagines to have come from the other. This is precisely the affective narcissism of an irresponsible happiness that is constitutive of the modern concept, and it arises at the moment when it becomes possible to interpret sympathy as identification instead of pity” (p. 309).

33. “The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen,” qtd. in The French Revolution and Napoleon: A Sourcebook, ed. Philip Dwyer and Peter McPhee (New York: Routledge, 2002), p. 27.

34. Jean Jacques Rousseau, A Discourse on a Subject Proposed by the Academy of Dijon: What Is the Origin of Inequality among Men and Is It Authorised by Natural Law?, trans. G. D. H. Cole (1782), accessed July 2012,, hereafter Discourse on Inequality.

35. Rousseau. See also Peter H. Marshall, William Godwin (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1984), p. 77.

36. Rousseau.

37. Ibid.

38. See Godwin, “Of Promises,” in book 3, “Principles of Government,” in Political Justice, 1:196–214; and Marshall, p. 196.

39. Pocock, Virtue, Commerce, and History (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985), pp. 37–71

40. Pocock, Virtue, Commerce, and History, p. 50.

41. See Charles Taylor, “The Politics of Recognition,” in Multiculturalism: Examining the Politics of Recognition, ed. Amy Gutmann (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1994), pp. 25–74; and Pocock, Virtue, Commerce, and History, pp. 37–50.

42. See Paul Youngquist, “The Mothership Connection,” CultCrit 77 (Winter 2011): 1–23; and John Locke, Two Treatises of Government: In the Former, the False Principle, and Foundation of Sir Robert Filmer and His Followers, Are Detected and Overthrown. The Latter Is an Essay concerning the True Original, Extent, and End of Civil Government (London: Whitmore and Fenn, 1821), p. 258. [End Page 695]

43. Kenneth R. Johnston, Unusual Suspects: Pitt’s Reign of Alarm and the Lost Generation of the 1790s (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2013), p. xv.

44. For a Victorian novel attached to the development of liberalism and the trope of honor, see Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now (London: Chapman and Hall, 1875). See also Amanda Anderson, “Trollope’s Modernity,” ELH 74, 3 (Fall 2007): 509–34. For a pure tale of honor in Joseph Conrad’s oeuvre, see his most famous short story “The Point of Honor: A Military Tale” (New York: McClure, 1908). For Conrad’s take on the clash of liberal capitalism and the heroic ethos, see Conrad, Nostromo, a Tale of the Seaboard (New York: Doubleday, 1904).

45. See Jodi Dean, Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies: Communicative Capitalism and Left Politics (Durham NC: Duke Univ. Press, 2009); and Amanda Dykema, “Representation and the Real: Realism as Inappropriate Form,” in Inappropriate(d) Literatures of the United States: Hegemonic Propriety and Postracial Racialization (Ph.D. diss., Univ. of Maryland, 2014), pp. 34–96.

46. See Robert Miles, “‘The Eye of Power’: Ideal Presence and Gothic Romance,” Gothic Studies 1, 1 (August 1999): 10–30.

47. Immanuel Wallerstein argues that the French Revolution gave rise to three major strains of political thought in modernity—liberalism, conservatism, and Marxism—all of which are in tension with one another. See Wallerstein, “The French Revolution as a World-Historical Event,” in The French Revolution and the Birth of Modernity, ed. Ferenc Fehér (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1990), pp. 117–30.

48. Paine, Agrarian Justice, in Paine: Collected Writings, ed. Eric Foner (New York: Library of America, 1995), pp. 396–413, 410. For Paine’s original system of social insurance, see Elizabeth Anderson, “Tom Paine and the Ironies of Social Democracy” (2011–12 John Dewey Lecture in Law and Philosophy, University of Chicago. Filmed February 29, 2012), video, 1:28:05, accessed April 2013,

49. Eugene Debs, one of America’s most famous socialist organizers, echoes Godwin with astonishing rhetorical similarity: “Yes, I am my brother’s keeper. I am under a moral obligation to him that is inspired, not by any maudlin sentimentality, but by the higher duty I owe to myself” (Debs: His Life, Writings, and Speeches [Chicago: Charles H. Kerr and Company, 1908], p. 475). See also Jennifer Wicke, “Mrs. Dalloway Goes to Market: Woolf, Keynes, and Modern Markets,” NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction 28, 1 (Spring 1994): 5–23; and Craufurd D. Goodwin, “Economics Meets Esthetics in the Bloomsbury Group,” in Sublime Economy: On the Intersection of Art and Economics, ed. Jack Amariglio, Joseph Childers, and Stephen Cullenberg (London: Routledge, 2007), pp. 137–51.

50. See Walter Benn Michaels, “The Beauty of a Social Problem,” The Brooklyn Rail: Critical Perspectives on Arts, Politics, and Culture (October 2011), accessed 1 April 2012,; Michaels, “Meaning and Affect: Phil Chang’s Cache, Active,” (13 March 2012), accessed 1 April 2012,; and Michaels, “Formal Feelings or the Death of a Beautiful Woman” (lecture, Univ. of Maryland, College Park MD, 4 April 2012).

51. Sara Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotion (Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press, 2004), p. 12.

52. Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1977), p. 132. [End Page 696]

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