This essay analyzes the challenge issued by James Hogg's The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824) to the liberal regime of early nineteenth-century British fiction. Hogg's novel narrates the formation and dissolution of the fanatic whose subject position, historically inside the field of civil society yet ideologically outside it, assumes a relentless antagonism to its norms. The division of narratives maps the conceptual antagonism between civil society, a collective composed of individuals and a formal system of regulated differences, and fanaticism, the moral and psychic disintegration of individualism, upon which the liberal political imagination is founded. Fanaticism appears as the dialectical product of objective historical processes of modernization, a more radical ideology of modernity, rather than some primitive, residual, or atavistic moral force. The essay sketches a genealogy for this representation through Enlightenment theories of sympathy. Confessions of a Justified Sinner narrates the declension of sympathy into a sublime technique that colonizes the other's difference and undoes the self itself.
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Ian Duncan; Fanaticism and Civil Society: Hogg's Justified Sinner. Novel 1 August 2009; 42 (2): 343–348. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-2009-025
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