18th Century/Enlightenment

The Economy of Character
Deidre Shauna Lynch

At the start of the eighteenth century, talk of literary “characters” referred as much to letters and typefaces as it did to persons in books. Yet by the nineteenth century, characters had become the equals of their readers, friends with whom readers might spend time and empathize.

Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World
Leo Damrosch

(2013). In this deeply researched biography, Leo Damrosch draws on discoveries made over the past thirty years to tell the story of Swift’s life anew. Probing holes in the existing evidence, he takes seriously some daring speculations about Swift’s parentage, love life, and various personal relationships and shows how Swift’s public version of his life—the one accepted until recently—was deliberately misleading. Swift concealed aspects of himself and his relationships, and other people in his life helped to keep his secrets.

The Creative Imagination: Enlightenment to Romanticism
James Engell

(1999). James Engell traces the evolution of the creative imagination, from its emergence in British empirical thought through its flowering in Romantic art and literature. The notion of a creative imagination, Engell shows, was the most powerful and important development of the eighteenth century. It grew simultaneously in literature, criticism, philosophy, psychology, religion, and science, attracting such diverse minds as Hobbes, Addison, Gerard, Goethe, Kant, and Coleridge.

The Anthology and the Rise of the Novel: From Richardson to George Eliot
Leah Price

(2003). The Anthology and the Rise of the Novel brings together two traditionally antagonistic fields, book history and narrative theory, to challenge established theories of “the rise of the novel.” Covering British novelists from Richardson to George Eliot, this study asks why the epistolary novel disappeared, how the book review emerged, and how editors’ reproduction of old texts has shaped authors’ production of new ones.