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Great Expectations: Futurity in the Long Eighteenth Century


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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OUR OWN SERVICE IN THE EMPIRE POPE’S DUNCIAD PREDICTS Gerald J. Butler, San Diego State University Lo! thy dread Empire, CHAOS! is restor’d; Light dies before thy uncreating word: Thy hand, great Anarch! lets the curtain fall; And Universal Darkness buries All.1 Has the great Goddess Dulness, whose progress Pope describes in his mock- epic, now, as predicted, conquered the world? “The modern redemption of the Dunciad,” Hugo M. Reichard maintained, “has been in part a demonstration that the poem deals with extant dunceness more than with forgotten dunces,” and he himself went on to show how “Pope associates the spread of bad books with the dynamics of a commercialized society.”2 David Fairer concluded that Pope’s prophesies “are coming closer to us, and it is becoming easier to discern a rela- tionship between a pacifying mass culture (increasingly international in its spread), the growth of mass movements (political, racial or religious), and the concentration of power in the hands of a few charismatic figures (rock stars, re- ligious figureheads or national leaders).”3 Of course, Scriblerus himself called into question the reliability of the Dunciad’s prediction: However, that such is not seriously the judgment of our Poet, but that he conceiveth better hopes from the diligence of our Schools, from the regularity of our Universities, the discernment of our Great men, the encouragement of our Pa- trons, and the genius of our Writers of all kinds, (notwithstanding some few ex- ceptions in each) may plainly be seen from his...

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