Workshop “Literature and History” – “Revolts and Backwardness” – complete introduction
Kulturwissenschaftliches Kolleg Konstanz (Bischofsvilla)
Kulturwissenschaftliches Kolleg Konstanz / Cluster of Excellence / Workshop “Literature and History”
Project presentation “Early Modern Revolts as Communicative Events”
Our research group on “Early Modern Revolts as Communicative Events” was constituted in mid-September 2013. It is situated in the framework of the Cluster of Excellence “Cultural foundations of integration” at Konstanz University. On October 1st Marcus Twellmann (German studies) organized a workshop at the Bischofsvilla (Konstanz), where historians and literary scholars met and discussed their research along different thematic lines. One panel was dedicated to our research – the baptism of fire for our group.
From different regional (or rather cross-regional) perspectives we presented our observations of an important change in discourses on revolts that occurred with the advent of Enlightenment.
If revolts had earlier been disparaged by authorities and writing elites as dangerous and subversive, and their leaders as perilous innovators seeking to overthrow and fundamentally change the status quo, under the impact of Enlightenment thinking the state more and more assumed the role of a major innovator and credited itself with educating a population considered as more or less underdeveloped. In this light, revolts (often directed against state agents) increasingly became a token of backwardness. This would considerably shape perceptions of revolts in the 18th century and largely contribute to the high surprise-effect of the French Revolution. This interpretation of early modern revolts has an impact on historiography to this day.
In our talks we tried to explore elements of the genesis of this new discursive formation, Malte for projections of Russian revolts in early Western Enlightenment discourses, and Miriam for preventive policies in 17th century Sweden. Furthermore, we investigate to what extent agents of protest and revolt against an established regime tried to appropriate this new narrative of historical progression for themselves or even for their seditious activity, David studies the Dutch Republic in the early 18th century, and Monika the Jacobite revolts in Britain. Such a new self-framing might have implicitly prepared the grounds for the big Revolutions of the 18th century.