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.


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pp. 675-696
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