New Book | Poetry and the Idea of Progress, 1760–1790

Posted in books by Editor on April 15, 2018

From Anthem Press:

John Regan, Poetry and the Idea of Progress, 1760–1790 (London: Anthem Press, 2018), 222 pages, ISBN 9781783087723, £70 / $115.

Poetry and the Idea of Progress, 1760–1790 explores under-examined relationships between poetry and historiography in the eighteenth century, deepening our understanding of the relationship between poetry and ideas of progress with sustained attention to aesthetic, historical, antiquarian, and prosodic texts from the period. Its central contention is that the historians and theorists of the time did not merely instrumentalize verse in the construction of narratives of human progress, but that the aesthetics of verse had a kind of agency—it determined the character of—historical knowledge of the period. With numerous examples from poems and writing on poetics, Poetry and the Idea of Progress, 1760–1790 shows how the poetic line became a site at which one could make assertions about human development even as one experienced the expressive effects of metred language.

John Regan is a research fellow in English literature at the University of Cambridge. His research interests centre on the cultural dialogue between poetics and historical writing in the long eighteenth century.


List of Figures

1  Progress by Prescription
2  Thomas Sheridan and the Divine Harmony of Progress
3  ‘There Is a Natural Propensity in the Human Mind to Apply Number and Measure to Every Thing We Hear’: Monboddo, Steele and Prosody as Rhythm
4  ‘[C]ut into, distorted, twisted’: Thomas Percy, Editing and the Idea of Progress
5  ‘Manners’ and ‘Marked Prosody’: Hugh Blair and Henry Home, Lord Kames
Afterword: Rude Manners, ‘Stately’ Measures: Byron and the Idea of Progress in the New Century


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