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Great Expectations: Futurity in the Long Eighteenth Century

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Edited By Mascha Hansen and Jürgen Klein

What did eighteenth-century men and women think about when they contemplated the future? What was hidden in the «dark bosom of futurity», as Richardson’s Pamela calls it? Do all types of literature that supply a critique of the present conjure up an idealized past or a vision of a better future? Predictions and prophecies – not only astrological but also political ones, utopian models, theological concepts like predestination, progress in the sciences, and, last but not least, life-after-death, both in the form of secular fame and the immortal soul, are among the topics addressed by the essays collected in this volume.

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MIRACLE VERSUS MAYHEM: DISTURBANCES OF THE FUTURE IN A LONG EIGHTEENTH CENTURY THAT THOUGHT IT MIGHT BE SHORT, Kevin L. Cope

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MIRACLE VERSUS MAYHEM: DISTURBANCES OF THE FUTURE IN A LONG EIGHTEENTH CENTURY THAT THOUGHT IT MIGHT BE SHORT Kevin L. Cope, Louisiana State University It is an unfortunate feature of our times as well as a lamentable fate for the legs if not the legacy of Scotland that, whenever something both unpredictable and bad happens, one or more kilt-clad, bagpipe-billowing, would-be Scotsmen from Hollywood or Hong Kong inevitably appear out of nowhere to offer a slow- tempo rendering of Amazing Grace. Whenever the apocalyptical horsemen fin- ish trampling through town dispensing their assorted plagues, it is seldom long before ad hoc highlanders with stony visages come trotting along behind said horsemen’s tails, pinching a windpipe between grimaced lips and puffing up an air of deep melancholy in exchange for shortbread and honoraria. Few who have witnessed the routinization of grief in our sincerity-obsessed society have paused to reflect on the concluding verse of the world’s most famous multi- purpose lamentation and hymn: When we've been here ten thousand years Bright shining as the sun. We've no less days to sing God's praise Than when we've first begun.1 Despite having lived a life characterized by wild vacillations of fortune as well as by a penchant for befriending lunatics, Reverend John Newton, the author of this lyric and presumably the “wretch” whom God saves in the first verse, ima- gines a perfectly stable if mathematically puzzling celestial habitat in which the infinite future count of happy heavenly days never varies. With the...

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