The Constitution of Literature: Literacy, Democracy, and Early English Literary Criticism

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Stanford University Press, 2008 - Literary Criticism - 242 pages
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The Constitution of Literature challenges the prevailing understanding of the relationship between literature and democracy during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when both literature and democracy were acquiring their modern forms. Against the heroic story of criticism shaping the modern public sphere as recounted by Habermas and his followers, it explores how different resistances to democratized reading preoccupied the thinking of the major English literary critics of the time. By paying attention to how critics participated in a debate over theories of reading—its processes for acquiring meaning from the page, its psychological and social effects on individuals, and its diffusion across the population—this book offers a new understanding of the political history of early literary criticism.
  

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Contents

Habermas and the Resistance to Reading
1
Radical Literacy and Radical Democracy in the 1640s
25
The Spectator the Market and Criticism
87
Hume the Politics of Passion and Reading
133
and the Exuberance of Signification
155
The Enlightenment and
181
Notes
201
Bibliography
217
Index
235
Copyright

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About the author (2008)

Lee Morrissey is Professor of English at Clemson University. He is the author of From the Temple to the Castle: An Architectural History of British Literature, 1660-1760 (1999) and the editor of Debating the Canon: A Reader, from Addison to Nafisi (2005).

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