Seminar: The novel and the passport regime of the French Revolution

Wednesday, 22 May 2019, 12:00 pm — Wednesday, 22 May 2019, 01:00 pm

Location: SR 202

The Centre for 21st Century Humanities' Space, Place and Mobilities Thematic Group and the Centre for Social Research and Regional Futures invite you to attend our informal lunch seminar with Associate Professor Jesper Gulddal. He will be speaking on the topic of 'The novel and the passport regime of the French Revolution: Space and mobility in Godwin's Caleb Willaims and Goethe's Wilhelm Meister.

This seminar is based a paper that forms part of a project that explores the link between historical regimes of movement control and the form of novel. Focusing on the French Revolution as a key moment in the evolution of the modern passport system,Associate Professor Gulddal argues that the passport as an instrument of control went through significant discursive, legislative and technological changes in the wake of the Revolution, initiating a profound transformation of social space that would eventually lead to the territorial closure of the nation-state.

Further, he analyses the complex ways in which this transformation is tied to the transformation of the novel that took place at the same time and involved new narrative approaches to space and mobility. In the main part of the paper he address these themes via a comparative analysis of two novels that appeared within a year of each other in the mid-1790s: William Godwin’s proto-anarchistic Caleb Williams  (1794) and JW von Goethe’s classic Bildungsroman Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship (1795-96). Superficially considered, these two novels are different to the point of having nothing in common. However, Associate Professor Gulddal shows, both depend structurally on the passport categories of identification and tracking, and both offer a vision – although with different emotive and ideological undertones – of a social space defined by movement control. In this sense, the two novels represent two different political exits from the passport debates of the French Revolution as well as two different novelistic takes on the nexus of mobility and movement control.