The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism: The Eighteenth Century (Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, Volume 4)

The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism: The Eighteenth Century (Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, Volume 4)

Claude Rawson, Hugh Bar Nisbet

Language: English

Pages: 970

ISBN: 2:00210822

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This is the most comprehensive account to date of the history of literary criticism in Britain and Europe between 1660 and 1800. Unlike previous histories, it is not just a chronological survey, but a multi-disciplinary study of how the understanding of literature in the modern era was shaped by developments in intellectual, cultural and social history. It provides an authoritative historical overview in all areas of literary studies. Extensive bibliographies supply detailed guidance for further research

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to all qualified interpreters: 'Mind is a Law to itself.' In this new 'public sphere' carved out of the absolutist state, gentlemen of taste could govern themselves. Just as the societies for the reformation of manners which sprang up in England after 1688 appear to their modern historian Dudley Bahlman as 'signs of English freedom', 'of the withdrawal of the government from certain 22 Goldsmith, Works, I, p. 308; L. A. de La Beaumelle, Mes Pensees, quoted in Goldsmith. 18 Introduction:

grateful, as Blackwell had suggested, not to live in a time that could become the subject of an epic - an age as barbarous as Homer's. But equally often these historians testify to a sense of loss, especially in arts such as poetry. Throughout Europe can be heard such comments about the difference between past and present as: 'What we have gotten by this revolution, you will say, is a great deal of good sense. What we have lost, is a world of fine fabling' (Richard Hurd, 1762); 'We lose taste,

burdened by nineteenth-century distortions of Locke, think of him first as the philosopher who denounces 'all the artificial and figurative application of Words Eloquence hath invented' as being intended 'for nothing else but to insinuate wrong Ideas, move the Passions, and thereby mislead the Judgment; and so indeed are perfect cheat' (Essay III.x.34). But in fact Locke's philosophy of language establishes principles and defines problems that come to play an important role in later

a similar emphasis on 'invention' as the 'vital spirit' of genius (pp. 124-5), o n a n extreme sensibility both of pain and pleasure' (p. 152), and on 'enthusiasm', which he recommends by taking the word back to its etymological root in the image of being breathed into by a god. What especially distinguishes Duff from Gerard and makes him relevant to the present discussion is his more sustained focus on poetry. 'Poetry, of all the liberal Arts, affords the most extensive scope for the display of

supposed 27 28 'Quelque role que je fasse jouer au hasard, quelque part qu'il ait a la reputation des grands hommes, le hasard cependant ne fait rien qu'en faveur de ceux qu'anime le desir vif de la gloire.' See Herbert Dieckmann, 'Diderot's conception of genius', Journal of the History of Ideas, z (1941), 151-82 (164-6). 148 Genres to be common among mankind', yet not 'differing in kind from other men, but only in degree'; Prose Works, I, p. 138). In France near the end of the century, as

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