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Abstract

Considering Charlotte Smith's novel Desmond (1792) within the framework of Immanuel Kant's concept of cosmopolitanism proves to be distinctly productive. For most readers, the novel clearly dramatizes radical sentiment in the Jacobin tradition. The character of Bethel, however, represents an unlikely cosmopoli­tan foil for Desmond's more conventional brand of radicalism. Specifically, Bethel's slow conversion to French Revolutionary principles serves to expand and even challenge the insular, con­­gealed ideology of Desmond's Francophile circle of young reformers. Instead of locating an embodied cosmopolitanism in the novel's concluding marriages, Bethel's exclusion from the novel's happy ending signals Smith's endorsement of a more mature cosmopolitanism that extends a narrowly nationalistic sense of community into a properly inclusive system of what Kant called "cosmopolitan right." By subtly drawing attention away from her novel's central couples -- the radical pairing of Desmond and Geraldine and the mixed union of Montfleuri and Fanny -- and towards old Bethel, Smith emerges less naively partisan and more politically nuanced than most critics have allowed in this early novel.

Contributor's Note

Fuson Wang is a PhD candidate in the English Department at the University of California, Los Angeles. In his dissertation, "Roman­ti­cism, Radicalism, and Inoculation," he explores the literary, political, and philosophical implications of Edward Jenner's small­pox vaccine. He has published on Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, medical human­ities, and biopolitics.

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