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(p.1) Introduction
Air’s Appearance
Jayne Elizabeth Lewis
University of Chicago Press

When a literary work is said to have a certain “atmosphere” about it, it is possible to link this experience to the founding of the Royal Society in 1660, where air became visible as an object of knowledge. This chapter, then, provides an introduction to the idea of literary atmosphere—which, in relation to books, speaks of mood and voice; but to an eighteenth-century reader such as William Empson, might be a mode of being that is someway fundamentally conveyed as a by-product of meaning. John Wilkins’ atmospheric writing takes a somewhat literal approach, but also captures the inevitably mediated nature of what surrounds us. Pinning the term down, however, would be elusive. In this chapter, the author aims to answer the question of what literary atmosphere might entail through the process of a broad historical approach.

Keywords:   atmosphere, literary atmosphere, Royal Society, William Empson, John Wilkins, atmospheric writing

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