Imperial Affliction

Eighteenth-Century British Poets and Their Twentieth-Century Lives

by Thomas Simmons (Author)
©2010 Monographs XVI, 182 Pages
Series: Postcolonial Studies, Volume 11


«In many ways», Robert J.C. Young writes, «colonization from the very first carried with it the seeds of its own destruction.» Imperial Affliction examines some ways in which Young’s observation could be applied to problems of subjectivity and influence within the colonizing nations themselves, particularly eighteenth-century Britain. How might these «seeds of destruction» manifest themselves as problems of identity? How might the very selves with greatest access to self-affirmation – the idea of the empire, the idea of British citizenry, the idea of the British self – actually find themselves vulnerable, confused, or damaged?
Using multiple forms of postcolonial critique, this book turns back to salient eighteenth-century British lives and work for a different kind of enlightenment. Among its central subjects are the elusive subjectivity of William Collins; the exilic religious experience of William Cowper and its multiple readings in the twentieth century by a self-fashioned exilic, Donald Davie; the «missed encounter» between Christopher Smart and Samuel Johnson, and the ways in which that problem was re-inscribed in the work of W. Jackson Bate and Lionel Trilling; the problem of imperial fixity in James Cook’s journals with a view to Gray’s «Elegy» and Goldsmith’s «Deserted Village»; and the problem of purity as a paradoxically privileged and exilic force in the work of John Newton and Christopher Smart. In these explorations, this book illustrates both an expanded view of eighteenth-century colonial liabilities and a new emphasis on postcolonial critique as a means of exploring the fissures always present in imperial ambition.


XVI, 182
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2011 (March)
Identität (Motiv) Lyrik Imperialismus (Motiv) Sozialer Wandel (Motiv) Geschichte 1700-1800 Englisch
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2010. XVI, 182 pp.

Biographical notes

Thomas Simmons (Author)

The Author: Thomas Simmons is Associate Professor of English at the University of Iowa, where he has taught since 1992. After completing his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, he taught in the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received the Everett Moore Baker Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. He has also taught at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley. His five previous books include The Unseen Shore: Memories of a Christian Science Childhood; A Season in the Air: One Man’s Adventures in Flying; Erotic Reckonings: Mastery and Apprenticeship in the Work of Poets and Lovers; Ghost Man: Reflections on Evolution, Love, and Loss; and The Burning Child: Essays on Mental Health and Illness.


Title: Imperial Affliction