Formalist Cultural Criticism and the Post-Restoration Periodical

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Examining the tendency in eighteenth-century periodical studies to focus on the genre's referential elements, its supposed reproduction of the material reality of English society, this article attends to formal aspects of Addison's and Steele's essays that call into question these historicist claims. By ignoring the performative and self-allegorizing dimensions of the periodical, critics have perpetuated the essayists' promotional image of themselves as enacting values idealized in neoliberal public-sphere discourses: most especially the Habermasian notion that media culture(s) should enable politically consequential, egalitarian debate in a way that responds to the self-generated demands of consumers. Formalist attention to the question-and-answer periodical reveals the extent to which these values were deployed as rhetorics for mediating the contradiction between early Enlightenment theories of inclusive participation in print culture and the ongoing practices of exclusion and inequality that condition the production and reception of the very texts that articulate such theories.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-250
Number of pages24
JournalPhilological Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • History
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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