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Beyond Metaphor

Corporeal Sociability and the Language of Commerce in Eighteenth-Century Britain and France

Joseph D. Bryan

Abstract

Body-politic metaphors served historically as figurative vehicles to transmit assorted socio-political messages. Through an examination of the metaphors la mollesse (softness) and Adam Smith's impartial spectator, this article will show that the language of eighteenth-century French and British writers was not simply heuristic or metaphorical. Contemporaries reacted to the growth of commerce and luxury, and the concomitant creation of new public spaces and forms of social interaction, by arguing that the corporeal mediated the social. I want to introduce the concept of corporeal sociability: cognitive physiology and the network of the senses, contemporaries argued, contained the information necessary to assess novel forms of commerce and revealed that sociability was congenitally embodied.