Reading 1759

Shaun Regan (Ed.)

Literary Culture in Mid-Eighteenth-Century Britain and France

246 pages
ISBN 9781611484786

Now in paperback

Reading 1759 investigates the literary culture of a remarkable year in British and French history, writing, and ideas. Familiar to many as the British "year of victories" during the Seven Years' War, 1759 was also an important year in the histories of fiction, philosophy, ethics, and aesthetics. Reading 1759 is the first book to examine together the range of works written and published during this crucial year. Offering broad coverage of the year's work in writing, these essays examine key works by Johnson, Voltaire, Sterne, Adam Smith, Edward Young, Sarah Fielding, and Christopher Smart, along with such group projects as the Encyclopédie and the literary review journals of the mid-eighteenth century. Organized around a cluster of key topics, the volume reflects the concerns most important to writers themselves in 1759. This was a year of the new and the modern, as writers addressed current issues of empire and ethical conduct, forged new forms of creative expression, and grappled with the nature of originality itself. Texts written and published in 1759 confronted the history of Western colonialism, the problem of prostitution in a civilized society, and the limitations of linguistic expression. Philosophical issues were also important in 1759, not least the thorny question of causation; while, in France, state censorship challenged the Encyclopédie, the central Enlightenment project. Taking into its purview such texts and intellectual developments, Reading 1759 puts the literary culture of this singular, and singularly important, year on the scholarly map. In the process, the volume also provides a self-reflective contribution to the growing body of "annualized" studies that focus on the literary output of specific years.

Contributors: Simon Davies, Rebecca Ford, Moyra Haslett, Mary Peace, Rosalind Powell, Adam Rounce, Kate Rumbold, James Ward, James Watt, and Nigel Wood


"This volume offers fine essays devoted to the pivotal year 1759, a time when Britain emerged as a world power to be reckoned with and when the British literary scene exploded with a collateral force. Regan (Queen's Univ.; Belfast) divides the collection into six sections, treating the literature of empire and war, sentimentality, authorship, the Enlightenment, the notion of authorial originality, and the "culture of reading"...Reading 1759 offers a superb, cogent introduction to mid-18th-century literary culture, covering much important ground and opening up new prospects for future investigation."

"Reading 1759 calls attention to an interesting and pivotal moment in British and French history and reading culture by bringing together eleven essays on different aspects of the literature of that year."

--Leah Orr, Dickinson College; critiques de livres ECF 26, no. 3 © 2014 McMaster University

About the editor:

Shaun Regan is a Lecturer in Eighteenth-Century and Romantic literature at Queen's University Belfast. With Professor Brean Hammond (University of Nottingham), he is the author of Making the Novel: Fiction and Society in Britain, 1600-1789 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006). He has published articles on Sterne, satire, print culture, and the novel, and on narrative and testimony in Olaudah Equiano's The Interesting Narrative. With Professor Frans De Bruyn (University of Ottawa), he is currently editing a volume of essays on the culture of the Seven Years' War.


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