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The Work of Writing


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Siskin's book proposes an entirely original synthesis. It draws very creatively upon recent discussions in a number of disciplines, chiefly literary studies broadly conceived. The scholarship is excellent, using both primary materials and recent research to brilliant advantage. -- John Bender, Stanford University The Work of Writing is a deeply mature piece of scholarship involving dozens upon dozens of authors from all over the long eighteenth century. Not only is its sense of the 'textual' very broad, ranging from literature, to philosophy (which, Siskin argues, once occupied the disciplinary space that Literature does today), to economics and sociology, but in requiring that we wake up and think about enlightenment processes of cultural formation, it is itself exemplary of that process. Thinking very hard and on every page, it passes its own test in an exhilarating manner. -- Stuart Curran, University of Pennsylvania The Work of Writing establishes Cliff Siskin as one of our most subtle and theoretically sophisticated scholars of Romantic cultural studies and the New Historicism. This book, breath-taking in its range, documents the growing professionalisation of writing in England in the eighteenth-century, as well as the ways in which both nationalist and entrepreneurial impulses worked to exclude women writers from the new category of 'professional writer' in the nineteenth century. -- Anne K. Mellor, University of California, Los Angeles In an enterprise strikingly termed 'dedisciplinary,' Clifford Siskin's book undertakes a daring fusion of literary and social theory. Drawing with remarkable breadth on scholarship in history and in the social sciences, Prof. Siskin aims not just to understand a group of literary texts, but to rethink on a historical basis the whole concept of literature. Meticulously detailed and closely argued in its attention to a large range of major and minor writers, to questions of the public, the nation, gender, and genre, it has had an immediate impact on Romantic studies and is essential reading for any scholar wishing to know what matters in the field today. -- Marshall Brown, University of Washington This book has an audaciously grand sweep to it-Siskin appears to have read everything composed between the Restoration and Victorian England-and a vast conceptual territory-the emergence and interrelation of three central abstractions: discipline, profession, and literature. As with all of his previous work, this too effectively combines vast historical knowledge with theoretical sophistication. I know of no one else who can move so easily among Dryden, Wordsworth, and Foucault, and hold all three in rich historical relation. The results are everywhere startling. -- James Thompson, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill A tour de force that pulls together Siskin's work on Wordsworth and Austen with an extensive array of lesser known literary figures and represents them all as major players in the historical drama of professionalizing writing, a drama whose outcome determined the kind of work we now perform as literary scholars. -- Nancy Armstrong Brown University Clifford Siskin's important and original new book provides a sustained and often provocative material history of writing during what some now call the long eighteenth century. He questions received wisdom on the relation of writing and work, remaining alert to the implications of his findings for our own moment of disciplinary crisis. His comments on disciplinarity and professionalism, gender and georgic, nationalism and 'novelism' should reach a wide audience. -- Robert Folkenflik, Professor Emeritus, Cornell University University of California Irvine This powerful book is at once a contribution to theory and to the literary history of the long eighteenth century. Siskin brilliantly engages terms such as 'profession,' 'disciplinarity,' 'nation,' 'lyric,' 'novel,' and the two nouns of his title to give these words a new resonance as he maps out the profound changes that British literature and society underwent during the 18th and early 19th centuries. -- Herbert Lindenberger, Stanford University Siskin is a magnificent synthesizer, perhaps the best in the field of British Romanticism. He assimilates data from many different disciplines and puts them all together with a new clarity and economy and energy. Not only does he synopsize work in literary studies, history, sociology, and political theory, but he makes the so-called Augustan and the so-called Romantic periods cohere-a major feat. The book is as clear and as thrilling as any work in the field I have recently read. -- Kurt Heinzelman, University of Texas

Table of Contents

The Argument: Writing As A New Technology
Part I: Disciplinarity: The Political Economy of Knowledge
Chapter 1. Writing Havoc
Chapter 2. Engendering Disciplinarity
Chapter 3. Scottish Philosophy And English Literature
Part II: Professionalism: The Poetics of Labor
Chapter 4. The Georgic At Work
Chapter 5. The Lyricization of Labor
Part III: Novelism: Literature In the History Of Writing
Chapter 6. Periodicals, Authorship, And The Romantic Rise Of The Novel
Chapter 7. The Novel, The Nation, And The Naturalization Of Writing
Part IV: Gender: The Great Forgetting
Chapter 8. What We Remember: The Case Of Austen
Chapter 9. How We Forgot: Reproduction And Reverse Vicariousness

About the Author

Clifford Siskin, author of The Historicity of Romantic Discourse, holds the Bradley Chair of English Literature at the University of Glasgow.


Once again, Siskin has pulled it off brilliantly. I do not know how complicated the historicist's task will be ten years from now, but I am sure that Siskin will be taking it on, breaking new ground well ahead of the rest of us. Eighteenth-Century Fiction Despite the ferociously abstract character of these subjects, Siskin is always able to exemplify and particularize. -- James Thompson Novel Siskin's already influential book goes even further, raising serious questions about the methodologies and founding principles of print-culture research. -- Nicholas Hudson Eighteenth-Century Life What is most striking about this book is its sense of the intricacy and mobility of the connections between these changing categories of knowing and working-disciplinarity, professionalism, and Literature. -- Paul Keen Epilogue Siskin successfully relocates literature within a broader history of culture, writing, social change, economics, sociology, and communication theory. Choice

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