This article traces the history of libraries in the early American society. Books were an important part of British American life from its very beginnings. Faced with choices about what to bring across the Atlantic, some early colonists privileged their books. The writings of Captain John Smith and other Jamestown settlers record the existence of books in England's earliest permanent American colony. Farther north, New England settlers such as Plymouth elder William Brewster also brought their book collections with them to the New World. As colonial settlements gained firm ground, libraries in seventeenth-century British America emerged most strongly in the form of personal collections and Anglican mission collections. There were some experiments involving governmental oversight of libraries, and the first of the American collegiate libraries took root. This article explains personal libraries and collective libraries as well as library companies that emerged in New England.
Terry F. Robinson
With the development of connoisseurship in eighteenth-century England came new scrutiny of the female body. This article examines the contemporary intersection between aesthetic appreciation and the act of viewing the female form. Drawing upon recent scholarship, it charts a history of “body connoisseurship” from the Society of Dilettanti, to London’s Theatres Royal, to the Royal Academy of Arts, and reveals how the focus on the female physique—as an object of beauty, sex, ownership, and exchange—was shaped not only by men but also by women who exerted increasing control over their own representational narratives. More fundamentally, it places women at the center of connoisseurial debates in the period, contending that depictions of women’s bodies within connoisseurial contexts function at once as emblems of knowledge, both aesthetic and concupiscent, and as emblems that ironize and destabilize such knowledge by cultivating a fiction of the profound unknowability of women—and thus of beauty itself.
During the last decade of the seventeenth century John Locke established himself as a new kind of natural historian of the human mind—describing its powers, classifying its ideas, and tracing the evolution of its faculties. The century that followed saw a flowering of psychological thinking, marked by a rapid distribution of theories from the realm of philosophy across the realm of literature. This chapter finds the traces of that intellectual movement in the work of three literary authors: Laurence Sterne, Samuel Richardson, and Edmund Burke. It finds that Sterne and Burke were less original than Richardson in their speculations, belonging squarely to the Lockeian associationist tradition, but that their sense of cognition as an embodied, distributed process (as opposed to Richardson’s more abstracted idea of the mind’s functions) offers scope to align them with certain aspects of modern cognitive neurology.
This article ends up analyzing how history is canonized as literature in the American culture. What is the significance of early American historical writing, and for whom or what should this body of writing be important? Traditionally, early historiography has been the domain of historians rather than a resource for literary critics. The preeminent historian J. Franklin Jameson, in a series of lectures in the 1880s, staked the historians' claim in examining “the development of our science from its half-conscious infancy down to the present time.” Early American historiography has conventionally inspired what little interest it has as a troubled information bank for historians. Few studies have ventured assessments of the construction of a uniquely colonial historiographical practice, and rare are the attempts to link these works with more belletristic productions, save on thematic or referential levels. A detailed analysis of provincial histories and microhistories conclude this article.
Drawing on literary, visual, and philosophical sources from the period, this article asks what is landscape, how was it represented and understood in the eighteenth century, and how might we understand its different forms and agenda now? It focuses on why terms such as landscape, nature, and beauty remain problematic; explores ideas of location, scale, and point of view; and discusses the influence of classical georgic and pastoral models on eighteenth-century ways of seeing. The article argues that landscapes were experienced quite differently because of class, gender, and education, and stresses the wide range of landscapes created by eighteenth-century writers of quite different kinds. Finally, it suggests the importance of emotion as a driving force in the construction of landscape and the need to understand landscape not as something “out there,” but rather as centrally concerned with the expression of self.
H. J. Jackson
The value attributed to the notes that famous authors have made in books depends on more than mere association: we are disposed to believe that their annotations reveal something about their mental lives and about the sources of the creative process. But if marginalia contribute to the creative process, perhaps the practice should be encouraged in all aspiring writers. Examples are taken from books owned by British, American, and Canadian writers from the seventeenth century to the twentieth, ranging from Milton through Coleridge and Keats to T. S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf, with special prominence given to Northrop Frye, Walt Whitman, John Adams, Hester Piozzi, and William Beckford.
This article begins by discussing seventeenth- and eighteenth-century notions of media, mediation, and communication. How did early modern notions of the “medium” and of “mediation” overlap with and differ from common understandings of these terms today? The second section provides an overview of media and mediation in the eighteenth century, heeding recent calls for a new history of mediation that includes not only what we now identify as communications media (e.g., print, voice, and script) but also new genres, protocols, opportunities, and infrastructures for communication. The penultimate section addresses eighteenth-century histories of mediation. Enlightenment authors increasingly conceptualized their era as an age in history defined by a particular set of communication practices and tools. The concluding section addresses the challenges and opportunities of the “media turn” in literary and cultural studies and the future of the history of media and mediation.
This article looks at literary theory. It locates that problematic integral in modernity's dramatically altered experience and conception of time. While the centrality of time to modern theory is hardly in doubt, an acutely temporal dimension also shapes elegiac form and its broader aesthetic significance, in particular at the turn from Classicism to Romanticism. It then views the elegiac as the defining characteristic of aesthetic production in modernity. Mdernity's method-based ‘world-picture’ as it emerges from the canonical writings of Bacon, Descartes, and Leibniz for the most part understands time as merely ‘lapsing’ and incessantly receding into a ‘past’ now conceived as history. In Germany, the rise of modern aesthetics and literary theory correlates with a sustained revaluation of antiquity. The true object of ‘mourning’ is also addressed.
Celebrity was not invented in the eighteenth century, but it was transformed by the new publics, and the new media that emerged to cultivate and maintain these publics, from the mid-seventeenth until the later eighteenth centuries. Celebrity is therefore best understood as a certain kind of fame rather than a phase in the history of fame. Contemporaneity, publicity, and personality are key aspects of the kind of fame one may identify as celebrity. This chapter argues that attention to genre in the process of celebrity formation makes it possible to distinguish between regimes of fame as constituted by the media available and the ways in which public personalities were variously constructed. Two genres were particularly influential in shaping the development of the new celebrity of the long eighteenth century: news writing and life writing. The contributions of news and biography to eighteenth-century conceptions of celebrity are explored in detail.
Christine A. Modey
This article discusses the importance of newspapers and magazines in American literature. When they originated in the American colonies, newspapers were not intended or used for criticism of the government or for propaganda in the way John Dickinson and his audience had come to accept. Rather, newspapers evolved over the first half of the eighteenth century from conveyers of impartial news reports to vehicles of revolutionary propaganda, eventually becoming the dominant agent in American print culture and in the American public sphere in the decades prior to the Revolution. Their development illustrates the interrelation of face-to-face and printed exchanges of information, the consolidation and adaptation of English periodical forms and the increasing politicization of American public discourse. A discourse on the freedom of the press and the importance of magazines comes at the end of the article.
Examining oratory as a dynamic, changing medium for communication during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in America and, to a lesser extent, Great Britain, this essay scrutinizes several of its most important sites of performance: religion, politics, social reform, performance, and education. In each of those arenas, oratory helped to fuel some of most exciting social and political changes of the era by reconceptualizing ideas about the relationship between leaders and the public, the notion of rhetorical persuasion, and the importance of public opinion. An exceptionally interdisciplinary set of scholarship on the subject has done much to invigorate the study of oratory in recent years, and yet this field lacks an intellectual center from which scholars might move beyond individual studies to conceptualize the larger significance of oratory across all sites of performance.
This article analyzes the picaresque travel narratives, a genre peculiar to travel writing. This genre developed when travelers, temporarily removed from their familiar surroundings for work or pleasure, were prone to account for day-to-day happenings with the steady view of informing and entertaining the reader. They thus made the most of their southward or westward explorations in a style often akin to picaresque literature. The narrator was, however, no picaro recollecting sinful ups and downs in a stratified society, but a gentleman or a lady attentive to the manners of fellow colonists or Native Americans, from “savage” squaws or medicine men to uncouth country bumpkins and arrogant planters. A detailed analysis of the works of John Lawson, William Byrd II follows. As a diarist Byrd shares the planters' condescending views of the common run of humanity. The concluding part of the article analyzes Edward Kimber's works.
Kevin J. Hayes
This article traces the place of natural history in early American literature. Numerous works of early American literature contain significant elements of natural history: promotion literature, captivity narratives, and travel writings. In fact, natural history occupies a central place in American literature. The American land helped to define the style and content of American literature as soon as the first English colonists arrived and continued to do so through the colonial period. In addition to Notes on the State of Virginia, there is another late work of early American literature in which natural history plays an integral part, William Bartram's Travels (1791). Notes on the State of Virginia by Thomas Jefferson is a seminal text in this genre. William Bartrams' work Travels is an important text in this genre. Both Jefferson's Notes and Bartram's Travels show that natural history is central to early American literature, a literature that celebrates the land in which it was written.
The essence of this article is print and manuscript culture in the Americas and their influence on American literature. A furor was created over the publication of James Franklin's newspaper, the New-England Courant. A group of staunch religious believers averred that the tendency of this paper was to mock religion, and bring it into contempt. They wanted to not only silence James Franklin and his press but take away his livelihood, which was the goal of the committee, the Massachusetts Council. The history of scribal and printed publication in colonial America reveals the contest of voices and the varying versions of “truth” that resulted from a collision of competing interests. This article further explains the ideas of script, print, and the performance of culture. An analysis of scribal publication winds up the article.
This article examines the effects of the unprecedented number of prosecutions for political opinion in the 1790s and afterward on romantic period literature. The chief instrument for these prosecutions was the law on libel. This legal framework placed a premium on various forms of metaphor, irony, and allegory, which the Crown had to construe as concrete libels in any prosecution. Many trials became major public events, a visible part of the period’s print culture, widely reported in newspapers and eagerly consumed by the public in a variety of media. The courtroom provided a theater of radical opinion in which defendants could publicize their views and mock the authority of the state. The pressure exerted on writers by the law on libel also conditioned a more general anxiety and may even have influenced developing ideas of the autonomy of the aesthetic.