By Alok Yadav (auth.)

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Additional info for Before the Empire of English: Literature, Provinciality, and Nationalism in Eighteenth-Century Britain

Sample text

I trace the development of this topos, and the shift it undergoes from the end of the eighteenth century and on through the nineteenth century and beyond with the changing status of the Englishlanguage literary tradition. Finally, I dig one layer deeper still, to examine briefly the dynamic involved in the process through which the English language acquired its national status as a language of culture in contrast to the other regional vernaculars of the British Isles. The scope of the discussion in this chapter suggests some of the ways in which developments in each of the three contexts I emphasize in this book—that of the British Isles, of the European world, and of the wider, extra-European terrain—bear on one another, producing a complex nexus of value and status through which the standing of the English-language literary tradition is negotiated and defined.

44 Adams’s comment is still cast as a future expectation regarding “the next and succeeding Centuries,” but now the expectation is not simply that English will be recognized in foreign lands as a major language, but that it will be recognized as “the language of the world”—and this in a more emphatic sense than any previous language in human history. ”45 Adams, we should note, is not simply concerned with the empirical spread of English (which he, like De Quincey, imagines as a violent process) but more particularly with the “respect” the language will gain through this dissemination.

The Temple of Apollo, as it is pictured here, is a commodious structure. It is cosmopolitan in scope, but organized into distinct national literary traditions (much like the eighteenth-century republic of letters). ” Thus, behind the five busts, we find the following arrangement of large volumes: Gower, Hubert | Sydney, Drayton, Fairfax, Surry, Beaumont | Johnson, Bathurst, Bacon, Fletcher, Ralegh | Milton, Butler, Wycherly, Congreve | Temple, Addison, Pope, Gay,Tillotson. 1 29 30 BEFORE THE EMPIRE OF ENGLISH of the major authors, but they remain individually anonymous and indistinct.

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