British Culture and Society 1700 to the Present – Essays in Honour of Professor Emma Harris
Edited By Lucyna Krawczyk-Żywko
Literary Criticism in English Miscellany Periodicals (1730s–1750s)
Cooperation of literature and journalism in England became systematic and especially fruitful in the second third of the eighteenth century due to a divergence of the press and the emergence of new typological formations, such as miscellany periodicals and review journals, whose publications contributed to the development of the genres of review and critical commentary which gradually ousted the form of the critical essay in didactic magazines.
The historical importance of literary criticism in moral periodicals is significant. In the early part of the eighteenth century it was an indispensable part of the Enlightenment project, so it did not turn into a particular discourse, and the critic was essentially a cultural strategist, a locus of the languages of culture, and not a literary expert (Eagleton 18, 22). Anyhow, early eighteenth-century periodicals contributed greatly to a systematizing of literary critical acts and making criticism an integral part of English cultural life. Literary essays, addressed to a wide audience, were subjected to collective reflection, especially in literary clubs and coffee-houses, and so they determined and modified to some degree the cultural standards of the middle class. Criticism was responsive to the perceptions of, as Samuel Johnson put it, the “common reader” “uncorrupted with literary prejudices” (vol. 3, 441) and dogmatic poetics.
The genre of essay, being of free form and miscellaneous content, enabled critics to elaborate aesthetic problems, explore the nature of artistic process, ground ethical standards of criticism and pay attention to the non-canonical literary...
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