Disraeli, Arendt, and the Fascist Novel
Lecture: English Department and Affiliated | March 6 | 4 p.m. | 306 Wheeler Hall
The Townsend British Studies working group and the C19 colloquium are happy to announce a visit from Rachel Teukolsky (Vanderbilt), who will be workshopping her paper "Disraeli, Arendt, and the Fascist Novel" (abstract below!).
If you would like to participate in the workshop--which will take place at 4pm on 3/6 in Wheeler 306--please email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for a copy of the paper (to be sent round next week.)
There will also be a casual coffee event for interested grad students at 2 pm (location TBD). The loose theme is "professionalization," with tips from a former Berkeley grad student (Rachel!).
What is the relationship between literature and power, and how did some nineteenth-century novels or artforms develop authoritarian values? My lens on the question is Hannah Arendts study The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), which devotes a short, ten-page chapter to Benjamin Disraeli, the Prime Minister of Britain in 1868 and again from 1874 to 1880. I take Arendts brief insights as the starting point for investigating Disraelis aesthetics of the far right. The fact that a Prime Minister was also a novelist captures our attention, especially since his novels are thinly disguised political manifestoes. I argue that Disraelis novels Coningsby (1845) and Tancred (1847) belonged to a long Romanticism, opposing moves toward democracy, reason, and utilitarianism, and espousing values of beauty, passion, and eroticism toward authoritarian ends. The essay follows Arendt in observing a long durée of conservatism whose trajectory moves from the nineteenth century into the twentieth. (I also acknowledge and discuss the anachronism of using fascism as a concept by which to study a nineteenth-century writer). The essay concludes with a turn to the conservative German theorist Carl Schmitt, who reputedly had a picture of Disraeli hanging over his desk, and whose authoritarian political philosophy shows striking echoes of Disraeli, linking both in a long Romanticism.