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Making the English Canon
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 (ISBN-13: 9780511036323)

Jonathan Brody Kramnick's book examines the formation of the English canon over the first two-thirds of the eighteenth century. Kramnick details how the idea of literary tradition emerged out of a prolonged engagement with the institutions of cultural modernity, from the public sphere and national identity to capitalism and the print market. Looking at a wide variety of eighteenth-century critical writing, he analyses the tensions that inhabited the categories of national literature and public culture at the moment of their emergence.

• Gives a historical grounding to modern theoretical debates about the formation of the canon, relating it to equally current topics of nationalism, the public sphere, enlightenment and modernity • Based on detailed primary research in periodical essays, editions, treatises, reviews, disquisitions, pamphlets and poems • Contributes directly to controversial debates on the politics and history of the canon, and the future of English in a culture of downsizing


Introduction: the modernity of the past; Part I: 1. The structural transformation of literary history; 2. The mode of consecration: between aesthetics and historicism. Part II: 3. Novel to Lyric: Shakespeare in the field of culture, 1752–1754; 4. The cultural logic of late feudalism: or, Spenser and the romance of scholarship, 1754–1762; Part III. 5. Shakespeare's nation: the literary profession and the 'shades of ages'; Afterword: the present crisis.


Review of the hardback: 'While the rise of the English canon has been a topic of continuous and fraught interest over the past couple of decades Jonathan Kramnick offers the most coherent and detailed discussion of what is arguably its crucial historical moment: the middle decades of the eighteenth century. Kramnick's discussion of how Shakespeare and Spenser became the first English 'classics' will itself become classic. Making the English Canon is not simply a monograph on eighteenth-century literary aesthetics, it is a singularly powerful and authoritative contribution to perhaps the most important discussion going on in the literary humanities today.' Terry Castle

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