Making the English Canon: Print-Capitalism and the Cultural by Jonathan Brody Kramnick

By Jonathan Brody Kramnick

Jonathan Brody Kramnick's e-book examines the formation of the English canon over the 1st two-thirds of the eighteenth century. Kramnick information how the belief of literary culture emerged out of a protracted engagement with the associations of cultural modernity, from the general public sphere and nationwide identification to capitalism and the print industry. taking a look at a wide selection of eighteenth-century serious writing, he analyzes the tensions that inhabited the types of nationwide literature and public tradition in the mean time in their emergence.

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The late aristocratic milieu of the Restoration court is either the last redoubt of high culture before the triumph of the market or a farce dressed up in the expired raiment of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Each reading of the passage would imply a different object of nostalgia; the ®rst, a nostalgia for books of poetry that cannot be read by ill-educated moderns (like Poems by a person of honour); the second, a nostalgia not so much for the Restoration and Poems by a person of honour as the book's genuinely aristocratic and honorable father who cannot even be named because he is so obscured by the tide of print.

The whole is organized into a familiar tautology, namely, how the members of a class ought to acquire the breeding that they always already have. Yet the tautology is only tautological to the degree to which this audience is, in fact, the recipient of the letter. Once printed, the point is to publicize the culture of aristocratic re®nement for an audience of readers that, of course, extends beyond the nobility: Your birth is attended with peculiar advantages of title and estate, or worth and goodness in your ancestors and parents: the honour and dignity of your family; the great examples of virtue in your progenitors for a long descent; and the living and more prevailing example of your most illustrious grand-father and father will ®re a soul like yours to a generous emulation; and, I hope, your lordship with follow them with equal steps, if you do not go beyond them.

It is canvassed in every assembly, and exposed upon every table'' (507). Addison's widely remarked extolling of the new reading public is of course not without hesitation. As I shall discuss at greater length in the following chapter, the idea of dispersed reading was a matter of tactical ambivalence for the Spectator, the full consequence of which would not be apparent until later in the century. Nevertheless, the disencumbering of culture for what the Spectator represented as a nation poised for its perusal was the periodical's favorite mode of self-authorization.

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