Telling Time: Clocks, Diaries, and English Diurnal Form, 1660-1785 / Edition 2

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A revolution in clock technology in England during the 1660s allowed people to measure time more accurately, attend to it more minutely, and possess it more privately than previously imaginable. In Telling Time, Stuart Sherman argues that innovations in prose emerged simultaneously with this technological breakthrough, enabling authors to recount the new kind of time by which England was learning to live and work.

Through brilliant readings of Samuel Pepys's diary, Joseph Addison and Richard Steele's daily Spectator, the travel writings of Samuel Johnson and James Boswell, and the novels of Daniel Defoe and Frances Burney, Sherman traces the development of a new way of counting time in prose--the diurnal structure of consecutively dated installments--within the cultural context of the daily institutions which gave it form and motion. Telling Time is not only a major accomplishment for seventeenth- and eighteenth-century literary studies, but it also makes important contributions to current discourse in cultural studies.

Stuart Sherman is associate professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Both of these highly original books deal with modern perceptions of time. Sherman (English, Washington Univ., St. Louis) focuses on changes in clock technology and the innovations in English prose structure that occurred simultaneously. Crosby (Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900, Cambridge Univ., 1986) aims to be broader in scope, treating perceptions of reality in space, mathematics, bookkeeping, painting, and music, as well as time; by "reality," he means "everything material within time and space and those two dimensions per se." Crosby studies the period that witnessed the shift from a qualitative and descriptive to a quantitative approach to analysis. Both books under review rest on wide and deep reading in many disciplines. Sherman structures his argument around four literary works: Pepys's Diary, Addison and Steele's Spectator, Samuel Johnson's Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland, and Boswell's Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides. So encyclopedic is Crosby's reading in the primary and secondary literature from the ancient world to the present that it would be perilous to pinpoint his basic sources. While Crosby writes in an easy, chatty style punctuated with fascinating questions (why do cats north of the equator chase mice, but cats south of the equator do not?) appealing to the general reader as well as the scholar, Sherman's style is more ponderous, and the book is clearly intended for the specialist in English. Both books make valuable contributions to the current discussion on cultural studies.Bennett D. Hill, Georgetown Univ., Washington, D.C.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226752778
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/1997
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 323
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Tick, Tick, Tick: Chronometric Innovation and Prose Form 1
2 "In The Fullness of Time": Pepys and His Predecessors 29
3 "With My Minute Wach in My Hand": The Diary as Time Keeper 77
4 "To Print My Self Out": Correspondence and Containment in the Spectator and Its Predecessors 109
5 Travel Writing and the Dialectic of Diurnal Form 159
6 Diurnal Dialectic in the Western Islands 185
7 Defoe and Burney: The Unmaking of the Diurnal in the Making of the Novel 223
Epilogue 269
Notes 279
Index 313
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