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Nationalism and IronyBurke, Scott, Carlyle$
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Yoon Sun Lee

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780195162356

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195162356.001.0001

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Edmund Burke's Pretexts for Politic Bodies

Edmund Burke's Pretexts for Politic Bodies

Chapter:
(p.39) 2 Edmund Burke's Pretexts for Politic Bodies
Source:
Nationalism and Irony
Author(s):

Yoon Sun Lee (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195162356.003.0002

A clue to Burke's conception of the public sphere can be found in the theatricality of his rhetorical tropes. Unlike radicals such as Priestley, who defined the public sphere as the exercise of rational agency, Burke saw the public sphere of the ancient regime France and Britain as constituted by elaborate fictions that were a matter of public knowledge and consensus. Fictions such as chivalry beneficially blurred the distinctions between agency and passivity, domination and subordination and gave rise to a distinctively ironic, self-conscious strain of civic emotion. In his Reflections on the Revolution in France, as well as in other writings and speeches, Burke praised Britain's tradition of skillfully manipulating conventional deference. The practices of actors and theatrical audiences exemplify for Burke the type of emotional response that rests on voluntary complicity and the disavowal of knowledge.

Keywords:   Reflections on the Revolution in France, tropes, irony, public sphere, chivalry, theatricality

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