Reference : Literary Histories, National Literatures, and Early Conceptions of World Literature i...
Scientific journals : Article
Arts & humanities : Literature
Multilingualism and Intercultural Studies
Literary Histories, National Literatures, and Early Conceptions of World Literature in the Athenaeum, 1833-1838.
Millim, Anne-Marie mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Identités, Politiques, Sociétés, Espaces (IPSE) >]
Yearbook of English Studies
Modern Humanities Research Association
Writing in the Age of William IV
Yes (verified by ORBilu)
[en] periodicals ; national literature ; world literature
[en] The reign of William IV represents a period concerned with questions of national identity, not only in a national context, but also in a global one. Periodicals of the time, such as the Athenaeum, present the co-existence of two related, but inherently opposite conceptions of literature and its functions: Goethe’s idea of Weltliteratur is contemporaneous to developments in the formation and consolidation of national literatures, which can be observed to co-exist even in the early nineteenth-century. World literature, as imagined by Goethe in the 1930s, represents a way of circumventing the inward-looking attitude of nationalism, and of prioritising fluidity and flexibility over stability. National literature, as practiced widely during the nineteenth century, represents a way of grounding national genius in literary texts, either by scrutinising only the works of authors of a specific nationality, or by comparing them in a transnational, intercultural perspective. This article investigates two series of articles published almost concurrently in the Athenaeum: ‘A Biographical and Critical History of the Literature of the last Fifty Years’, by Allan Cunningham in 1833, and ‘Literature of the Nineteenth Century’, by diverse authors between 1834 and 1838. This article highlights the co-existence between different authorial focalisations in historicising and historiographing literature, demonstrating the malleability, undecidability, and arbitrariness of dominant models of national literary identities. I argue that during the 1830s, the Athenaeum’s outlook is decidedly cosmopolitan and international as the contributors engage with European literature equally often as they do with British texts. They are also eager to stretch the readers’ awareness beyond the European context, embracing the wealth of ideas, styles, and perspectives as culturally enriching, but not exotic, erudition.
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