Lynch 2015

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Deidre Lynch, Loving Literature: A Cultural History, U Chicago Press, 2015.

"I aim to suggest why self-reflection on our ways of knowing will not suffice when we seek to assess English professors’ characteristic mode of practicing humanist study: I aim to honor, instead, the central role that affective labor—our ways of feeling, then, as well as knowing—has been assigned within English studies, and I aim to consider how through our cooperation with that assignment we have come to inhabit a profession that is paradoxically beholden to statements of personal connection." (1)

odd intimacy of the professional study of English literature

"Collectively these chapters aim to outline how since its late eighteenth-century/ early nineteenth-century reinvention, also the inaugural moment of its disciplinization, “English literature” has always been something more than an object of study, even for the architects of that disciplinization. It has also been implicated in its audiences’ libidinal dramas and in their understandings of their families and their erotic histories—hence English studies’ eccentric relation to the norms of publicness and impersonality that seem to govern other knowledge-producing occupations." (5)

"My emphasis falls instead on how the rearrangements of the discursive field that produce a new idea of literature for the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries also represent a watershed in the history of the emotions and intimate life. To an extent that previous work on the historicity of literature fails to acknowledge, the foundational texts of criticism, aesthetic theory, and literary history and biography that were generated during these decades were inflected by the imperatives of a long era of sensibility." (6)

shift from literature in general to imaginative works demanding attention/love

"Literature so defined emerges, as Trevor Ross’s 1998 history of canonicity outlined, when an earlier “rhetorical culture” in which texts had served as instruments of social power, and old texts had been valued only as a backdrop to ongoing cultural production, began to give way to a cultural arrangement centered on “appreciation”: on the close, historically sensitive but tasteful reading of “classics,” or on a devoted engagement with contemporary writers of genius who (as geniuses, a breed apart) occupied an aesthetic realm positioned at a distance from worldly conflicts." (9)