Cloth $40.00 ISBN: 9780226183701 Published January 2015
E-book $7.00 to $32.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226183848 Published December 2014

Loving Literature

A Cultural History

Deidre Shauna Lynch

Deidre Shauna Lynch

352 pages | 13 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2015
Cloth $40.00 ISBN: 9780226183701 Published January 2015
E-book $7.00 to $32.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226183848 Published December 2014
Of the many charges laid against contemporary literary scholars, one of the most common—and perhaps the most wounding—is that they simply don't love books. And while the most obvious response is that, no, actually the profession of literary studies does acknowledge and address personal attachments to literature, that answer risks obscuring a more fundamental question: Why should they?
That question led Deidre Shauna Lynch into the historical and cultural investigation of Loving Literature. How did it come to be that professional literary scholars are expected not just to study, but to love literature, and to inculcate that love in generations of students? What Lynch discovers is that books, and the attachments we form to them, have long played a role in the formation of private life—that the love of literature, in other words, is neither incidental to, nor inextricable from, the history of literature. Yet at the same time, there is nothing self-evident or ahistorical about our love of literature: our views of books as objects of affection have clear roots in late eighteenth-century and nineteenth-century publishing, reading habits, and domestic history.
While never denying the very real feelings that warm our relationship to books, Loving Literature nonetheless serves as a riposte to those who use the phrase “the love of literature” as if its meaning were transparent, its essence happy and healthy. Lynch writes, “It is as if those on the side of love of literature had forgotten what literary texts themselves say about love’s edginess and complexities.” With this masterly volume, Lynch restores those edges, and allows us to revel in those complexities.
Times Higher Education
"A groundbreaking examination of literary affections. Coming at a moment when the field of literary studies is in crisis, in danger of losing its legitimacy, this account of our emotional commitment to books is especially important. . . . At every point, the author’s own scholarly acumen and love of literature are clearly on display. She demonstrates, even as she reasons, that professional literary scholars can dispassionately and critically analyse the texts they love and intimately experience.”
Leah Price, Harvard University
Loving Literature combines dry wit with polemical rigor. More fundamentally, the book enacts what it describes: Lynch’s critical distance from the love of literature does not prevent her from conveying her own infectious engagement with the texts that she analyzes. One comes away feeling not that she has debunked the literary-critical enterprise, but that she has reinvigorated it.”
Adela Pinch, University of Michigan
“A major work by a major scholar. This is truly an eagerly awaited book. Needless to say, Lynch writes not as some kind of skeptical outsider, but as a ‘lover of literature’ who seeks to understand why we professionally take all this so personally. The book will be much read and talked about across all fields of literary scholarship and beyond: a book about the love of literature is sure to attract the attention of a broad band of literature lovers both inside and outside the academy.”
Ian Duncan, University of California, Berkeley
Loving Literature is a revelatory achievement, a major work that showcases cultural history at its very finest, combining high scholarship with democratic inclusiveness, infectious enthusiasm, and clarity of style. Lynch argues that the emergence of ‘literature’ in its modern sense in the Romantic period involved a structural transformation of the relation between work and reader, in which literature became the domain of a new affective intimacy at the core of private life. Written with verve and eloquence, Loving Literature is at every point alive, imaginatively attuned to its theme. Here is a critic whose own love of literature, far from softening her critical acumen, endows it with sympathetic force.”
Rita Felski, University of Virginia
“Where does the love of literature come from? And why is it so often unfairly maligned or absurdly idealized? In this fascinating account, Lynch delves into the history of literary appreciation and affection. Professional rigor, it turns out, is not so very far removed from amateur love; analysis and attachment are closely intertwined. At a moment when literary studies is reflecting anew on its defining purpose, this is a very timely and important book.”

List of Illustrations
Introduction: At Home in English

Part 1: Choosing an Author as You Choose a Friend
Chapter 1: Making It Personal

Part 2: Possessive Love
Chapter 2: Literary History and the Man Who Loved Too Much
Chapter 3: Wedded to Books: Nineteenth-Century Bookmen at Home

Part 3: English Literature for Everyday Use
Chapter 4: Going Steady: Canons’ Clockwork

Part 4: Dead Poets Societies
Chapter 5: Canon Love in Gothic Libraries
Chapter 6: Poetry at Death’s Door


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