Writing Women’s Literary History

By championing the recovery of “lost” women writers and insisting on reevaluating the past, women’s studies and feminist theory have effected dramatic changes in the ways English literary history is written and taught. In Writing Women’s Literary History, Margaret Ezell critically examines these successful women’s literary histories and applies to them the same self-conscious feminism that critics have applied to more traditional methods. According to Ezell, by relying not only on past male scholarship but also on inherited notions of “tradition,” some feminist historicists replicate the evolutionary, narrative model of history that originally marginalized women who wrote before 1700. Drawing both on French feminisms and on recent historicist scholarship, Ezell points us to new possibilities for the recovery of early modern women’s literary history.

The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism: Volume 3, The Renaissance

This 1999 volume was the first to explore as part of an unbroken continuum the critical legacy both of the humanist rediscovery of ancient learning and of its neoclassical reformulation. Focused on what is arguably the most complex phase in the transmission of the Western literary-critical heritage, the book encompasses those issues that helped shape the way European writers thought about literature from the late Middle Ages to the late seventeenth century. These issues touched almost every facet of Western intellectual endeavour, as well as the historical, cultural, social, scientific, and technological contexts in which that activity evolved. From the interpretative reassessment of the major ancient poetic texts, this volume addresses the emergence of the literary critic in Europe by exploring poetics, prose fiction, contexts of criticism, neoclassicism, and national developments. Sixty-one chapters by internationally respected scholars are supported by an introduction, detailed bibliographies for further investigation and a full index.

The Economy of Literary Form

In the first half of the nineteenth century, technological developments in printing led to the industrialization of English publishing, made books and periodicals affordable to many new readers, and changed the market for literature. In The Economy of Literature Lee Erickson analyzes the effect on literary form as authors and publishers responded to the new demands of a rapidly expanding literary marketplace.

These developments, Erickson argues, offer a new understanding of the differences between Romantic and Victorian literature. As publishing became more profitable, authors became able to devote themselves more professionally to their writing. The changing market for literature also affected the relative cultural status of literary forms. As poetry became less profitable, it became hard to publish. As periodicals grew in popularity, essays became the center of reviews, and their authors the arbiters of culture. The novel, which had long sold chiefly to circulating libraries, found an outlet in magazine serialization — and novelists discovered a new popular audience.

With chapters on William Wordsworth, Thomas Carlyle, and Jane Austen, as well as on specific literary genres, The Economy of Literary Form provides a significant new synthesis of recent publishing history which helps to explain the differences and continuities between Romantic and Victorian literature. It will be of interest not only to literary critics and historians but also to bibliographic historians, cultural or economic historians, and all who have an interest in the commercialization of English publishing in the nineteenth century.

The Making of the English Literary Canon

It is widely accepted among literary scholars that canon-formation began in the eighteenth century when scholarly editions and critical treatments of older works, designed to educate readers about the national literary heritage, appeared for the first time. In The Making of the English Literary Canon Trevor Ross challenges this assumption, arguing that canon-formation was going on well before the eighteenth century but was based on a very different set of literary and cultural values. Covering a period that extends from the Middle Ages to the institutionalisation of literature in the eighteenth century, Ross’s comprehensive history traces the evolution of cultural attitudes toward literature in English society, highlighting the diverse interests and assumptions that defined and shaped the literary canon.
An indigenous canon of letters, Ross argues, had been both the hope and aim of English authors since the Middle Ages. Early authors believed that promoting the idea of a national literature would help publicise their work and favour literary production in the vernacular. Ross places these early gestures toward canon-making in the context of the highly rhetorical habits of thought that dominated medieval and Renaissance culture, habits that were gradually displaced by an emergent rationalist understanding of literary value. He shows that, beginning in the late seventeenth century, canon-makers became less concerned with how English literature was produced than with how it was read and received.
By showing that canon-formation has served different functions in the past, The Making of the English Literary Canon is relevant not only to current debates over the canon but also as an important corrective to prevailing views of early modern English literature and of how it was first evaluated, promoted, and preserved.
It is widely accepted among literary scholars that canon-formation began in the eighteenth century when scholarly editions and critical treatments of older works, designed to educate readers about the national literary heritage, appeared for the first time. In The Making of the English Literary Canon Trevor Ross challenges this assumption, arguing that canon- formation was going on well before the eighteenth century but was based on a very different set of literary and cultural values. Covering a period that extends from the Middle Ages to the institutionalisation of literature in the eighteenth century, Ross’s comprehensive history traces the evolution of cultural attitudes toward literature in English society, highlighting the diverse interests and assumptions that defined and shaped the literary canon.
An indigenous canon of letters, Ross argues, had been both the hope and aim of English authors since the Middle Ages. Early authors believed that promoting the idea of a national literature would help publicise their work and favour literary production in the vernacular. Ross places these early gestures toward canon-making in the context of the highly rhetorical habits of thought that dominated medieval and Renaissance culture, habits that were gradually displaced by an emergent rationalist understanding of literary value. He shows that, beginning in the late seventeenth century, canon-makers became less concerned with how English literature was produced than with how it was read and received.
By showing that canon-formation has served different functions in the past, The Making of the English Literary Canon is relevant not only to current debates over the canon but also as an important corrective to prevailing views of early modern English literature and of how it was first evaluated, promoted, and preserved.

Influence and Intertextuality in Literary History

This collection explores and clarifies two of the most contested ideas in literary theory – influence and intertextuality. The study of influence tends to centre on major authors and canonical works, identifying prior documents as sources or contexts for a given author. Intertextuality, on the other hand, is a concept unconcerned with authors as individuals; it treats all texts as part of a network of discourse that includes culture, history and social practices as well as other literary works. In thirteen essays drawing on the entire spectrum of English and American literary history, this volume considers the relationship between these two terms across the whole range of their usage.

Graphic Design, Print Culture, and the Eighteenth-Century Novel

The uniformity of the eighteenth-century novel in today’s paperbacks and critical editions no longer conveys the early novel’s visual exuberance. Janine Barchas explains how during the genre’s formation in the first half of the eighteenth century, the novel’s material embodiment as printed book rivalled its narrative content in diversity and creativity. From the beginning of the novel’s emergence in Britain, prose writers including Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Swift, and Henry and Sarah Fielding experimented with the novel’s appearance.