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eighteenth-century studies


Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405168908.2010.x


There is more than one eighteenth century, just as there is more than one form of C ritical and C ultural theory . The English literature, history, and culture of the period 1660–1798, variously known as “Augustan,” “neoclassical,” “E nlightenment ,” and simply “eighteenth-century” – a period consciously and consistently interested in its relations with the Greek and Roman classical past as well as with its own recent civil and political history – has not received the kind of striking and transforming attention from contemporary theoretical readings as have Renaissance, Romantic, and modern literature. One reason for this relative lack of interest in eighteenth-century literature by critical theorists lies in what is taken to be the recalcitrance of the material itself. Eighteenth-century thought has commonly been perceived as absolutist, positivist, rational, and logocentric – philosophical and literary properties that D econstruction, Discourse theory, Lacanianism, feminism, N ew Historicism , and other forms of cultural theory have sought to challenge since the 1960s. John Bender (1992) , for example, sees the conservative nature and the linguistic and political unawareness of traditional eighteenth-century studies as rooted in its similarities to the postulates of eighteenth-century thought itself, a historical and epistemological situation that has enforced the confidence ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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