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The World of Mr Casaubon
Britain's Wars of Mythography, 1700–1870


Part of Ideas in Context

  • Author: Colin Kidd, University of St Andrews, Scotland
  • Date Published: January 2018
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107608597

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About the Authors
  • The World of Mr Casaubon takes as its point of departure a fictional character - Mr Casaubon in George Eliot's classic novel, Middlemarch. The author of an unfinished 'Key to All Mythologies', Casaubon has become an icon of obscurantism, irrelevance and futility. Crossing conventional disciplinary boundaries, Colin Kidd excavates Casaubon's hinterland, and illuminates the fierce ideological war which raged over the use of pagan myths to defend Christianity from the existential threat posed by radical Enlightenment criticism. Notwithstanding Eliot's portrayal of Casaubon, Anglican mythographers were far from unworldly, and actively rebutted the radical freethinking associated with the Enlightenment and French Revolution. Orientalism was a major theatre in this ideological conflict, and mythography also played an indirect but influential role in framing the new science of anthropology. The World of Mr Casaubon is rich in interdisciplinary twists and ironies, and paints a vivid picture of the intellectual world of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain.

    • Illuminates the intellectual background to George Eliot's classic novel Middlemarch and one of its iconic central characters
    • Recovers a lost genre of religious apologetic based on a Christian appropriation of paganism, enhancing readers' understanding of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century defences of Christianity
    • Casts fresh light from an unexpected angle on political debate during the French Revolution and provides deeper insight into the phenomenon of Orientalism
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Behind this excellent study of the history of mythography in Britain lies an ingenious starting point: the 'hobby horse' of George Eliot's dried-up pedant and seeker of the 'Key to All Mythologies' in Middlemarch the Revd Edward Casaubon … Colin Kidd's achievement is to have made an impressively wide-ranging and readable contribution to the immensely complex history of the subject that caught the Revd Edward Casaubon in its net.' Rosemary Ashton, The Times Literary Supplement

    'Kidd's sprightly style can breathe life into apparently dead disputes. He makes a particularly touching case for Jacob Bryant, whose hefty A New System of Ancient Mythology (1774–76) was the closest thing to a prototype of Casaubon's project.' Rosemary Hill, The Guardian

    'The World of Mr Casaubon is an important insight into an early modern and nineteenth-century intellectual tradition - and a valuable explanation of why Eliot wished to give this tradition such a bruising.' Richard Fallon, The British Society for Literature and Science

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2018
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107608597
    • length: 250 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 153 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.37kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Prologue: Casaubon's dubious bequest
    2. The key to all mythologies
    3. The legacies of the ancients in Enlightenment mythography
    4. The obsessions of Jacob Bryant: Arkite idolatry and the quest for Troy
    5. The dispute of the Orient: Anglo-French rivalries in an Age of Revolution
    6. Fish-gods, floods and serpent-worship: from apologetics to anthropology
    7. Epilogue: the keys to all mythology in 1872.

  • Author

    Colin Kidd, University of St Andrews, Scotland
    Colin Kidd is Wardlaw Professor at the University of St Andrews and a Fifty-Pound Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He is a regular contributor to the London Review of Books and to the Guardian, and has lectured in all parts of the British Isles, in France and in the United States.

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