Loving LiteratureA Cultural History

Loving LiteratureA Cultural History

Deidre Shauna Lynch

Print publication date: 2015

ISBN: 9780226183701

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


In Britain between the mid-eighteenth and the mid-nineteenth centuries, the term literature, once a term for erudition and study in general, gradually took on its familiar, modern meaning and came to designate a narrow canon of exclusively imaginative works. As many histories of the disciplines, publishing, canon-formation, and taste have established, literature emerged in this period as a distinctive sort of object of professional study, pedagogy, and marketing. This book, however, explores how that reinvention of literature also represented an event in the history of the emotions and personal life, indelibly marked by the imperatives of a long era of sensibility. Literature, in that new sense of the word, was also a name given to an object of the nation’s intimate affections. Literature solicited and demanded readers’ love, not simply their admiration. To do justice to the affective dimensions of the history of literariness, this book traces the institutions, reading practices, and etiquettes of appreciation that were developed to bring poetry and fiction home, into actual interiors and the interior spaces of the mind. It considers treatises on taste, early literary histories, the new science of bibliography, testaments of bibliophilia, almanacs, commonplace books, albums, physicians’ neurological accounts of reading, and middlebrow travelogues mapping authors’ homes and haunts. Throughout, this book emphasizes the complexity of the literary cults it examines, recovering love’s links with negative, edgy, and even gothic emotions. It shows why, since the dawn of the literary era, English studies has had a love-hate relationship to love.

Table of Contents

Front Matter

Part 1 Choosing an Author as You Choose a Friend

Part 2 Possessive Love

Part 3 English Literature for Everyday Use

Part 4 Dead Poets Societies

End Matter