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Cover for The Constitution of Literature

The Constitution of Literature

Literacy, Democracy, and Early English Literary Criticism

Lee Morrissey


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Paperback (12/1/2018)


The Constitution of Literature examines Restoration and eighteenth-century literary criticism as a debate over theories of reading and argues that literary criticism emerged as a reaction against the role associated with print in the English Civil Wars of the 1640s.

Praise For The Constitution of Literature: Literacy, Democracy, and Early English Literary Criticism

"This is an important revisionist account of the birth of literary criticism in the eighteenth century. Morrissey takes on the long-unquestioned connection between democracy and criticism, arguing that we have not fully examined its historical basis. I could not agree with him more. Understanding the literary constitution of our field in its mixed investments and inherent traditionalisms can only make us better readers, and maybe better citizens, too." —Julia Lupton, University of California, Irvine

"Morrissey offers a convincing challenge to Jurgen Habermas's concept of the public sphere—a concept that suffuses hundreds of books and thousands of dissertations on early modern and 18th-century literature, criticism, periodicals, readership, authorship, and book history Rather than assuming the printed word was 'stable,' Johnson, Morrissey contends, took pains to give it stability. This is an exciting argument." —CHOICE

Stanford University Press, 9780804757867, 256pp.

Publication Date: December 1, 2007

About the Author

Lee Morrissey is Professor of English at Clemson University. He is the author of From the Temple to the Castle: An Architectural History of British Literature, 1660-1760 (1999) and the editor of Debating the Canon: A Reader, from Addison to Nafisi (2005).