Fashions in Literature

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My research focuses upon the literature and culture of eighteenth-century and Romantic Britain, and especially upon the visual-cultural and consumer-material practices of the age that helped reshape literature into new and long-enduring forms.

More Books by Charles Dudley Warner

I also have broad interests in the history and theory of fashion, in problems of historical method in literary studies, and in the forms of historiographical writing. In recent work I have addressed subjects ranging from the history of the fashion plate to Romantic antiquarianism, and from the fashionable, eighteenth-century portraiture of Sir Joshua Reynolds to the present-day conceptual dress art of Christian Boltanski.

  1. Fashions in Literature.
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My first book, Historical Style , connects the rise of historical self-consciousness during the long eighteenth century in Britain—which culminated in the bestselling historical novels of Walter Scott and his contemporaries in the early nineteenth century—to the emergence of a fashion system. As Britons of the age themselves came to recognize, their novel sense of history depended in surprising ways on rhythms of commercial life that increasingly held their attention.

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I particularly focus on the insights of conceptually-oriented contemporary designers and artists and on the distinctive archival provocations of eighteenth-century period objects to summon the special capacities of presentness residing in all dress. At Chicago, I regularly teach graduate and undergraduate courses in the literature, arts and culture of eighteenth-century Britain; in British Romantic fiction and poetry; in the history and theory of fashion from the Renaissance to Alexander McQueen; and in visual and sound media studies.

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  • I am a regular participant in the Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Cultures graduate workshop on campus; an affiliate of the Nicholson Center for British Studies ; and a frequent contributor to Object Cultures Project events. There is such a thing as Literary Fashion, and prose and verse have been regulated by the same caprice that cuts our coats and cocks our hats.

    Other oeconomies trod on the heels of each other.

    source At the restoration of letters in Europe, commentators and compilers were at the head of the literati; translators followed, who enriched themselves with their spoils on the commentators. When in the progress of modern literature, writers aimed to rival the great authors of antiquity, the different styles, in their servile imitations, clashed together; and parties were formed who fought desperately for the style they chose to adopt.

    The public were long harassed by a fantastic race, who called themselves Ciceronian, of whom are recorded many ridiculous practices, to strain out the words of Cicero into their hollow verbosities.

    They were routed by the facetious Erasmus. Another age was deluged by a million of sonnets; and volumes were for a long time read, without their readers being aware that their patience was exhausted.

    Sample of Courses Taught

    There was an age of epics, which probably can never return again; for after two or three, the rest can be but repetitions with a few variations. In Italy, from to , a vast multitude of books were written on Love; the fashion of writing on that subject for certainly it was not always a passion with the indefatigable writer was an epidemical distemper.

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    • They wrote like pedants, and pagans; those who could not write their love in verse, diffused themselves in prose. When the Poliphilus of Colonna appeared, which is given in the form of a dream, this dream made a great many dreamers, as it happens in company says the sarcastic Zeno when one yawner makes many yawn. The great personage who gave a fashion to this class of literature was the courtly and romantic Elizabeth herself; her obsequious wits and courtiers would not fail to feed and flatter her taste.