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The Anxieties of Idleness: Idleness in Eighteenth-Century British Literature and Culture

Overview

The Anxieties of Idleness: Idleness in Eighteenth-Century British Literature and Culture investigates the preoccupation with idleness that haunts the British eighteenth century. Sarah Jordan argues that as Great Britain began to define itself as a nation during this period, one important quality it claimed for itself was industriousness. But this claim was undermined and complicated by, among other factors, the importance of leisure to the upholding of class status, thus making idleness a subject of intense ...

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Overview

The Anxieties of Idleness: Idleness in Eighteenth-Century British Literature and Culture investigates the preoccupation with idleness that haunts the British eighteenth century. Sarah Jordan argues that as Great Britain began to define itself as a nation during this period, one important quality it claimed for itself was industriousness. But this claim was undermined and complicated by, among other factors, the importance of leisure to the upholding of class status, thus making idleness a subject of intense anxiety. One result of this anxiety was an increased surveillance of the supposed idleness of marginalized and less powerful members of society: the working classes, the nonwhite races, and women. In a widely researched and elegantly argued book, Jordan analyzes how idleness is figured in eighteenth-century literature and culture, including both traditional forms of literature and a wide variety of other cultural discourses. At the center of this account, Jordan investigates the lives and works of Johnson, Cowper, Thomson, and many other, lesser known writers. She incorporates their obsession with idleness into a new and lucid theorization of the professionalization of writing and the place of idleness and industry in the larger cultural formation that was eighteenth-century British identity.

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Editorial Reviews

H. Benoist
"Jordan marshals an impressive array of well-chosen examples from conduct books, tracts, social and religious materials, literature, and secondary sources [...yet] the text reads surprisingly well and is not overburdened by its full scholarly apparatus."
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Sarah Jordan is an associate professor of English at Albion College, where she teaches classes in eighteenth-century British literature and Romanticism. Her articles have appeared in The Age of Johnson and Eighteenth-Century Life.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 9
1 Introduction 13
2 Six Days Shalt They Labor: Idleness and the Laboring Classes 37
3 "Whilst We Beside You But as Cyphers Stand": Idleness and the Ladies 84
4 An Empire of Degenerated Peoples: Race, Imperialism, and Idleness 123
5 "Driving On the System of Life": Samuel Johnson and Idleness 153
6 Under the Great Taskmaster's Eye: William Cowper and Idleness 178
7 Conclusion 217
Notes 222
Works Cited 276
Index 289
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