TitleConversing with books: reading the eighteenth-century British periodical essay in Jeffersonian America
NameSquibbs, Richard J. (author), Dowling, William (chair), Galperin, William (internal member), Jehlen, Myra (internal member), Potkay, Adam (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
SubjectEnglish, Literatures in,
English essays--18th century--History and criticism
DescriptionThe periodical essay is the sole British literary genre to have emerged and declined within the chronological eighteenth century. It appeared in London during the reign of Queen Anne, and by the end of the century had virtually disappeared amidst a new culture of magazine publication. This study charts the various guises the genre assumed across the eighteenth century as essayists in Edinburgh, Philadelphia and Manhattan adapted the worldviews expressed in the earlier London essays to the particular circumstances of their cities. What the English essayists and their readers had regarded as timely, topical conversations in print about manners and culture became something more to their Scottish and American avatars. The periodical essay for them became a medium for witnessing historical change, a genre centrally concerned with what might have been.
Each of the first three chapters focuses on a particular figure within the periodical essay tradition, showing how each one articulates a moral relationship to civil society that the essays' authors encourage their readers to adopt. The Censor in chapter one represents a certain manner of reading, one that means to prompt social self-reflection in the name of a broader, more comprehensive civic awareness. Chapter two takes the whimsical essayistic persona as its subject, reading whimsicality as a principled resistance to the rationalizations of time management in a developing market society, and as a direct challenge to the herd mentality periodical writers see as the real face of liberal individualism in its consumer-market guise. My third chapter shows how the Templar, a young law student who finds himself drawn increasingly to literature, comes to figure in Scottish and American essay series a perception that belletristic writing must assume a law-like moral function in recording for posterity these writers' exemplary resistance to civic decline. My final chapter then reads Washington Irving's History of New York as self-consciously drawing upon these elements of the periodical tradition to create a sort of literary conscience for a new American polity seemingly intent on reducing all of civic life to an imaginatively impoverished market for consumer goods.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references (p. 266-286).
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.