Literature, Education, and Romanticism: Reading as Social Practice, 1780-1832

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In this wide-ranging and richly detailed book Alan Richardson addresses many issues in literary and educational history never before examined together. The result is an unprecedented study of how transformations in schooling and literacy in Britain between 1780 and 1832 helped shape the provision of literature as we know it. In chapters focused on such topics as definitions of childhood, educational methods and institutions, children's literature, female education, and publishing ventures aimed at working-class adults, Richardson demonstrates how literary genres, from fairy tales to epic poems, were enlisted in an ambitious program for transforming social relations through reading and education. Themes include literary developments such as the domestic novel, a sanitized and age-stratified literature for children, the invention of 'popular' literature, and the constitution of 'Literature' itself in the modern sense. Romantic texts - by Wordsworth, Shelley, Blake, and Yearsley among others - are reinterpreted in the light of the complex historical and social issues which inform them, and which they in turn critically address.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"At the conclusion of this study Richardson states that he hopes he has established 'new directions for further critical study, a larger sense of the era's richness and diversity in examples, provocations, and possibilities for reimagining educational change.' He succeeds. Each person who studies Richardson will find matter to investigate." Nineteenth-Century Literature

"Comprehensive, rigorous, sophisticated, and good-humored, Literature, Education, and Romanticism is a major contribution to cultural and historicist studies of the Romantic period, and will prove indispensable to Romanticists of every critical persuasion." The Wordsworth Circle

"The enabling and retarding entanglement of Romantic thought and public education is not a new story. But in Literature, Education, and Romanticism: Reading as Social Practice 1780-1832 Alan Richardson tells it with exceptional clarity and economy, refining for the book quantities of new scholarship on gender and domesticity, children's literature and colonial practice." SEL 1500-1900

"...a lucid, learned, and original narrative of these collusions. The range of reference to contemporary texts is prodigious, and theory is worn lightly; Bahktin, Foucault, Jameson, and others are not summarized by rote but are ready-to-hand for illumination. The book succeeds in its aim to establish 'a larger sense of the era's richness and diversity in examples, provocations, and possibilities for reimagining educational change.'" South Atlantic Review

" ambitious synthesis of recent work on education and Romanticism...[Richardson] puts 'Literature' itself on trial...provides a challenging critique of power relations in educational contexts." Times Literary Supplement

"Richardson's book is interesting and worthwhile." John W. Osborne, Albion

"Although Richardson represents the literature of the period as endorsing a largely disciplinary and sometimes coercive vision of education, he also allows for the possibility of opposition. He does so in part by broadening the definition of Romanticism to include previously marginalized genres and writers....Richardson has provided a convincing and at times fascinating account of the relationship between education and literature in a period of "cultural revolution" (p. xiii). His book is clearly written, covers an impressive amount material and makes productive use of literary and theoretical texts. It should interest scholars of Romanticism as well as educational historians...along with anyone wishing to study the relationship between literature and history in a given period." Kate Levin, History of Reading News

"Richardson's analyses of literary works are essence not ornament to his tracing of the acquisition of habits and attitudes that reshaped social expectations...superb book." ST in Romanticism

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521462761
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2004
  • Series: Cambridge Studies in Romanticism Series, #8
  • Pages: 348
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan Richardson

Alan Richardson was born in Northumberland, England, in 1951, and has been writing on the topic of magic for many years.  He does not belong to any occult group or society, does not take pupils, and does not give lectures on any kind of initiation.  He insists on holding down a full-time job in the real world like any other mortal.  That, after all, is part and parcel of the real magical path.  He is married with four children and lives very happily in a small village in the southwest of England.

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Table of Contents

1 Childhood, education, and power 1
1 Education and literary culture in the Romantic era 2
2 Some versions of childhood 8
3 Ideology and the production of childhood 25
4 Childhood and power in The Prelude 33
2 School time 44
1 Experimental education 48
2 Wordsworth, Blake, and catechistic method 64
3 Towards national education 77
4 A simple engine : the Lake poets and the Madras system 91
5 Coda : nature, education, and the child's freedom 103
3 Children's literature and the work of culture 109
Fairy tales and the politics of literacy 112
2 Discipline and publish : the child as text 127
3 A poetics of innocence 142
4 Blake, children's literature, and colonialism 153
4 Women, education, and the novel 167
1 The education of daughters and mothers 170
2 Well-regulated minds : development in the domestic novel 185
3 From Emile to Frankenstein: the education of monsters 203
5 The pursuit of knowledge under difficulties 213
1 Useful knowledge and popular tales 217
2 Self-education and self-representation 232
3 Uneducated poets 247
6 Epilogue : Romanticism and the idea of literature 260
Notes 273
Index 319
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