De representatie van het verleden De Franse Revolutie in de briefroman Desmond van Charlotte Smith



In this article I want to analyse how Charlotte Smith’s novel Desmond (1792) mediates historical
distance, i.e. how the novel engages with the past and how this engagement effects
a particular historical experience of the represented event. Smith's novel gives rise to an
ideological tension due to its confirmation of domestic tyranny, on the one hand, and its
strong political support of the ideals of the French Revolution, on the other hand. I relate
this tension to the ways in which the novel constructs historical distance. Methodologically,
I rely on the theoretical reflections on historical distance by the Canadian historian
Mark Salber Phillips. According to Phillips, historical distance is a rhetorical effect that
can be studied from the text’s formal organization, its affective tone, and its ideological
programme. This leads to a conceptual understanding of how a text represents a particular
historical event.