Fictions of Reality in the Age of Hume and Johnson

Overview

During the second half of the eighteenth century, the most powerful literary work in Britain was nonfictional: philosophy, history, biography, and political controversy. Leo Damrosch argues that this tendency is no accident; at the beginning of the modern age, writers were consciously aware of the role of cultural fictions, and they sought to ground those fictions in a real world beyond the text. Their political conservatism (often neglected by modern scholars) was an extensively thought out response to a world ...

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Madison 1989 Soft cover 1st paper Brand new Book ISBN: 0-299-12384-7. Indexed. English literary world in the secondhalf of the 18th Cent. L. de Carmontelle cover art. brand new, ... trade paper, pict. turquoise/white covers. Giftworthy 262 pgs. Read more Show Less

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Overview

During the second half of the eighteenth century, the most powerful literary work in Britain was nonfictional: philosophy, history, biography, and political controversy. Leo Damrosch argues that this tendency is no accident; at the beginning of the modern age, writers were consciously aware of the role of cultural fictions, and they sought to ground those fictions in a real world beyond the text. Their political conservatism (often neglected by modern scholars) was an extensively thought out response to a world in which meaning was inseparable from consensus, and in which consensus was increasingly under attack.
    Damrosch finds strong affinities between writers who are usually described as antagonists. The first chapter places Hume and Johnson in dialogue, showing that their responses to the challenge of their age have deep similarities, and that their thinking points forward in significant ways to twentieth-century pragmatism. Subsequent chapters explore the interrelationship of the fictive and the “real” in a wide range of works by Boswell, Gibbon, White, Burke, and Godwin.   
    In its combination of literary, philosophical, and cultural criticism, this book will appeal to scholars in many fields as well as to nonacademic readers interested in intellectual history.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Surveys the response of late 18th century writers to the rending of the consensual veil, thus laying bare the fact that people pretty much make up reality as they go along. Damrosch (English, Harvard) discusses Boswell, Gibbon, Gilbert White, Burke, and Godwin as well as the headliners, showing how they prefigured modern pragmatism. Cloth edition (unseen), $39.50. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780299123840
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
  • Publication date: 8/13/1992
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Leo Damrosch
Leo Damrosch
The Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Literature at Harvard University, Leo Damrosch has illuminated the lives and writings of figures from Samuel Johnson to Alexander Pope in his scholarly works. But it was his longtime fascination with an infamous Swiss philosopher that resulted in the National Book Award-nominated masterpiece, Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Restless Genius.

Biography

Leo Damrosch is the Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Literature at Harvard University. He has written widely on 18th-century writers.

Author biography courtesy of Houghton Mifflin.

Good To Know

Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Damrosch:

"I love sports, and my high point as an athlete was at the University of Virginia, when I was 40, and our English Department intramural softball team beat the basketball team for the championship. I was the pitcher, and got their seven-foot-tall star to pop up four times. Nowadays, I'm confined to watching sports on TV, an interest that my family finds inexplicable. I still play pool, and juggle."

"I've developed a big lecture course at Harvard called "Wit and Humor" that combines films with literature and tries to combine serious inquiry into why we laugh with a good deal of actual laughing."

"I live with a cockatiel who regards himself as the head of the family but condescends to groom my beard."

"Ever since college I've had a passion for geology; I pay attention to rocks wherever I go, and I especially admire the big glacial erratics that litter New England and furnished the material for thousands of miles of stone walls."

"I've loved photography ever since my teens; I recently went digital, and some of my pictures of places Rousseau lived are in the biography."

"I love to travel. My family and I have had memorable stays in a little village in Provence, and also on the islands of St. John and Guadeloupe. Basking in a tropical ocean is my idea of perfection."

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    1. Also Known As:
      Leopold Damrosch, Jr.
    2. Hometown:
      Newton, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 14, 1941
    2. Place of Birth:
      Manila, Philippines
    1. Education:
      B.A., Yale University, 1963; M.A. Cambridge University, 1966; Ph.D., Princeton University, 1968

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