Abstract

Abstract:

This article attempts an interpretive reorientation toward Charles Brockden Browns gothic novel Ormond by examining the eighteenth-century political ideas it engages. Locating what I call, following Amanda Anderson, a "cosmopolitan ideal" at the core of democratic life, Ormond, I argue, registers the influence of both Montesquieu's Spirit of the Laws and The Federalist on Brown's thought concerning the relationship between political institutions and the "spirit"—the manners, customs, and practices—of a given people. Emphasizing these elements of the novel's concern with the nature of political analysis and reflection in a democratic world constantly threatened by violence, danger, and deceit requires us, I contend, to reassess the role of Sophia Courtland in the novel. Far from the voice of a narrow conservatism that critics have long attacked, Sophia, when properly situated in her eighteenth-century context, emerges as the novel's most astute analyst of the relationship between political ideas and the "spirit" that provides their motive force—a faculty that Ormond, following Montesquieu and Publius, suggests is necessary to the stability and survival of liberal democracy.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-147X
Print ISSN
0012-8163
Pages
pp. 135-161
Launched on MUSE
2019-02-08
Open Access
No
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