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Title: Edmund Burke : religion and eighteenth-century modernity
Author: O'Connell, Kelleen
Awarding Body: King's College London (University of London)
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis fills the need for a comprehensive study of Edmund Burke’s representation of global religions throughout the general oeuvre of his writings and speeches. My objective is to advance the study of Burke by offering a critical account of his religious thought, as a critical imprint in his literature. In addition to situating Burke’s writing in the context of Enlightenment thought and eighteenth-century public life, I make a further contribution to the study of Burke’s literature by demonstrating how twentieth and twenty-first century theories of modernity can help to articulate Burke’s conception of religion. Studies that have categorically seated Burke in the context of ‘modernity’ (for example, from Terry Eagleton, Paddy Bullard, and Stephen K. White) treat him as a ‘politician’, as ‘Edmund Burke the rhetorician’, or ‘as an aesthetician’.1 My thesis compliments these studies by filling the need to treat Burke as a multicultural quasi-religious thinker in the context of modernity. Studies that have treated Burke in a religious context (for example, from Conor Cruise O’Brien, Thomas H.D. Mahoney, Eamonn O’Flaherty, Elizabeth Lambert, J.C.D. Clark, Brian Young, Frederick Dryer, and others) have done so with the objective of understanding more about his personal religious convictions.2 Differing from such studies, I do not intend to unearth Burke’s true religious identity; rather, I intend to fill the need for a full-length study of Burke’s analysis of religion, as it appears in a literary context. There exists no monographic study of Burke’s conceptualization of global religions as translated through recent theories of modernity. This is the task set forth in this thesis. Most of the studies that acknowledge Burke in a religious context treat him in strictly Christ-centred terms, mostly to support reactionary-conservative interpretations (e.g., Francis Canavan, Bruce Frohnen, and Christopher Hitchens).3 I wish to examine political thinking about religion, beyond Christ-centred terms - his global conception of non-Christian, non-god-centred thinking. In doing so, this thesis is intended to present an interpretation of Burke that acknowledges the importance he placed on indigenous religious culture. To my mind, interpretations of Burke that emphasise his reactionary-conservatism also implicate him as being anti-modern. As I intend to explore Burke’s writings and speeches in the context of modernity, I believe it is only responsible to acknowledge these interpretations of him as a reactionary-conservative. I use the work of J.G.A. Pocock, S.J. Barnett, Bruno Latour and others to establish a context of eighteenth-century modernity, or what was modern to Enlightenment minds.4 In addition, my critical analysis of Burke demonstrates how the same characteristics and themes associated with this eighteenth-century context of modernity are reflected in representations of modernity that are more recent. I use twentieth and twenty-first century theories of modernity to enrich our understanding of Burke’s representation of religion. I deconstruct Burke’s representation of religion to suggest that it anticipates the various complexities communicated in studies of modernity (for example, from Zygmunt Bauman, Marshall Berman, and Paul Heelas, Phillip Blond, John Milbank, Jacques Derrida, and Michel Foucault).5 Ultimately, my thesis validates Burke as an originator of modern (and contemporary) religious conceptualization, which transcends things such as nation, sect, and even good and evil.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available