Idleness, Contemplation and the Aesthetic, 1750-1830

Idleness, Contemplation and the Aesthetic, 1750-1830

by Richard Adelman


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Beginning with Adam Smith's dictum that labour was the most significant human occupation, and William Cowper's idealisation of 'The Task', Richard Adelman traces the ways in which Romantic writers responded to a debate over the dangers and rewards of idle contemplation taking place in the second half of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries. Evolving over a series of discourses which the book considers at length – Scottish Enlightenment political economy, penal and educational reform debates, literature, British and German aesthetic theory, social philosophy – this debate precipitates the growth of a 'British idealism' in these decades. Exploring the thought of Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham, Friedrich Schiller, William Cowper, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Mary Wollstonecraft, and many of their contemporaries, this study analyses the chain of events that leads to this 'British idealism', and considers its social and political consequences in the cultural theory of the first decades of the nineteenth century.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781107449176
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publication date: 06/26/2014
Series: Cambridge Studies in Romanticism , #89
Pages: 220
Product dimensions: 5.98(w) x 9.02(h) x 0.47(d)

About the Author

Richard Adelman is Lecturer in English at the University of Dundee.

Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. The division of labour; 2. Utilitarian education and aesthetic education; 3. Cowper, Coleridge and Wollstonecraft; 4. Coleridge's pantisocracy, biographia and church and state; Conclusion; Epilogue: Wordsworth and Kingsley.

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