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date: 04 July 2022

Abstract and Keywords

Though not best known for his work in criticism, Smith spent much of his later life on a major treatise on the ‘imitative arts’, which may have included the ‘Essay on the Imitative Arts’, posthumously published in 1795. Wordsworth, for one, had no use for Smith as a critic, but Robert Burns was deeply influenced by Smith’s writings. Thanks in part to the example of Rousseau, Smith’s critical arguments are closely imbricated with the more celebrated moral and social arguments he makes in Rousseau’s interest in the imitative arts, especially the musical arts, was deeply politicized from the start in ways that Smith would have been well aware of. To understand Smith’s complex challenge to the larger tendencies of Rousseau’s polemics, it is necessary to see why Smith quarrelled with Rousseau’s account of the imitative arts and to understand the stakes of this disagreement.

Keywords: Adam Smith, criticism, arts, imitation, music, Rousseau

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