A Cultural History
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.
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