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Idleness, Contemplation and the Aesthetic, 1750–1830


Part of Cambridge Studies in Romanticism

  • Date Published: October 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107449176

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About the Authors
  • Reconstructing the literary and philosophical reaction to Adam Smith's dictum that man is a labouring animal above and before all else, this study explores the many ways in which Romantic writers presented idle contemplation as the central activity in human life. By contrasting the British response to Smith's political economy with that of contemporary German Idealists, Richard Adelman also uses this consideration of the importance of idleness to Romantic aesthetics to chart the development of a distinctly British idealism in the last decades of the eighteenth century. Exploring the work of Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham, Friedrich Schiller, William Cowper, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Mary Wollstonecraft and many of their contemporaries, this study pinpoints a debate over human activity and capability taking place between 1750 and 1830, and considers its social and political consequences for the cultural theory of the early nineteenth century.

    • Offers new insights into positive and negative aspects of the Romantic concept of idleness
    • Proposes a new framework for understanding key Romantic poets
    • Demonstrates the interactions between British and German thought in this period in surprising areas
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Among the many impressive features of this study, especially given the number of different figures involved, is Adelman's consistently lucid and coherent explication of his primary sources … Adelman's book is the kind of study which provides an impetus for further scholarly explorations.' Notes and Queries

    'Idleness, Contemplation and the Aesthetic, 1750–1830 is more than a mere study of the history of these concepts; it is also an investigation into human creativity and the possibility of moral and political agency … Adelman's book is no passive read - sparks will fly in the reader's mind as well.' Eighteenth-Century Fiction

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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2014
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107449176
    • length: 220 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 12 mm
    • weight: 0.3kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    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
    Epilogue: Wordsworth and Kingsley.

  • Author

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

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