Culture and 'dissociation of sensibility' in the writings of John Henry Newman and Matthew Arnold, with particular attention to Carlyle and his so-called 'condition-of-England question'
The study explores the hypothesis that the High Victorian ideal of Culture, and Carlyle's response to his own Condition-of-England question, represent efforts to combat, in roughly opposite ways, what T.S. Eliot termed dissociation of sensibility.' It offers an explanation of the persistent impulse towards holistic views of society in the face of technological and social forces moving ever more decisively in the opposite direction. Chapter One defends the intelligibility and consistency of 'dissociation' in relation to influential criticisms by F.W.Bateson and Frank Kermode. The apparent anomalies these critics point to are explained by examining the source of the concept in Eliot's study of F.H.Bradley, and suggesting the relation of 'dissociation' to arguments of Jack Goody and lan Watt concerning the interaction between oral and literate culture. Chapter Two outlines some of the dimensions of 'dissociation' in the nineteenth century: its relation to romantic notions concerning the vision of the child, to various theoretical expositions of the relation between thought and feeling, and to accounts of the personal experience of 'dissociation' given by Darwin and J.S. Mill. Chapter Three examines what some of his contemporaries felt to be Carlyle's impractical response to the Condition-of-England, showing it to be essentially an extrapolation of his own experience of the romantic revolution as described in Sartor Resartus and adumbrated in the early essays. Carlyle's tussle with anomy and heroic emergence into the 'Everlasting YEA' are discussed as a revulsion from literate consciousness. Chapter Four suggests how Newman's idea of harmonious intellectual cultivation depends on the individual maintaining a proper balance between 'implicit' and 'explicit' thought. Newman's account of the relation between these modes in the Grammar of Assent is related to the educational system he expounds in his educational writings. Chapter Five shows how Arnold's emphasis on intellectual consciousness constantly threatens to destabilise his theory of Culture and turn it into a merely subjective ideal. The chapter ends by suggesting how the philosophy of F.H. Bradley tends to heal the breach between consciousness and experience, providing a basis for Eliot's own understanding of the unified sensibility. The Conclusion affirms the value of 'dissociation' as a means of illuminating the holistic impulse, which might otherwise be conceptually unassailable.