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date: 07 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

The concept of genius—artistic genius in particular—is generally thought of as a quintessentially nineteenth-century phenomenon: the cornerstone, in fact, of German romanticism. Kant’s treatment of the concept has always been recognized as the source from which the early Romantics drew. But the fact of the matter is that it is to the British Enlightenment that we must look for the first modern formulation of the concept of artistic genius. For it was already well formed and clearly recognizable before Kant got his hands on it. The essay begins by suggesting two ancient sources for the concept of genius, as it developed in eighteenth-century Britain. It then goes on to discuss the contributions to the concept of Joseph Addison, Edward Young, Alexander Gerard, William Duff, and Gerard again, who dipped his oar in twice.

Keywords: Addison, Duff, Enlightenment, Genius, Gerard, imagination, Kant, romanticism, Young

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