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Literary History and the Man Who Loved Too Much

Literary History and the Man Who Loved Too Much

(p.65) Chapter Two Literary History and the Man Who Loved Too Much
Loving Literature
Deidre Shauna Lynch
University of Chicago Press

This chapter centers on the bookishness of Thomas Warton, pioneering author of the first narrative History of English Poetry. It moves from Warton’s intellectual engagement with medieval romance--a kind of writing that, paradoxically, was famed for sidelining the claims of the intellect in favor of those of the heart--to Warton’s book-collecting, and then to the secret poetry societies that were mainstays of Oxford club culture during his lifetime. Warton’s career reveals how the professionalization of literary study went hand in hand with its personalization. He linked literary knowledge in new ways to the academy and to specialist expertise and public service. At the same time, his engagement with the long forgotten, recondite materials of what Alexander Pope had called the “gothic library” looked to contemporaries like a form of possessive love, as though Warton had simultaneously contrived to remake literary study as an arena for private gratification.

Keywords:   Thomas Warton, possessive love, romance, bookishness, historicism, medieval, secret societies, Oxford, library

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