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The Constitution of English Literature: The State, the Nation, and the Canon (Wish List) [Hardcover]

Michael Gardiner
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

18 July 2013 Wish List
In this extended essay, Michael Gardiner examines the ideology of the discipline of English Literature in the light of the serious redefining work on England and Englishness that has been conducted in Political Studies in the last decade. He argues that English Literature emerges from the development of the state and that consequently it has suppressed the idea of the nation. His claim is that English Literature has lost its form since its methodology and canonicity depended so heavily on a constitutional form which can no longer be defended.

He calls upon those working in English Literature to recognise that they are not really participating in the same discipline, defined by the Burkean constitutional settlement, even if they think of themselves as writing 'within the canon'. His view is that a lack of appreciation of 'hard-edged' political factors have led to a 'continuant' and regressive form of English Literature which tends to hang on to stifling methodologies. In its place, he appeals for the creation of a more open-ended, inclusive, internationalist, and comparative 'literature of England'.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury 3PL (18 July 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1780930364
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780930367
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 994,349 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Michael Gardiner is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick, UK. His books include The Cultural Roots of Devolution (2004), From Trocchi to Trainspotting: Scottish Critical Theory since 1960 (2007) and At the Edge of Empire: The Life of Thomas B. Glover (2008).

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Popular Sovereignty: Unforeseen Delays 8 Aug 2013
By Darm
Came to this short but sweet text after reading Gardiner's `Return of England in English Literature'. `Constitution of English Literature' continues the direct critique (often a strident condemnation) of British `state culture' and informal constitutionality expressed through English Literature.

Gardiner stands out particularly in his cultural history of that unique state-form, synthesising a large number of historical sources and drawing on a surprising selection of contemporary manifestations of British decline management and neo-imperial practice. I particularly liked the satirical use of late-running trains imagined as a catalyst for genuine political action, which subverts one of the old chestnuts of national British stoicism.

The book's insights are unrelenting and demand a certain understanding of key concepts in cultural criticism to fully apprehend and appreciate, but there's absolutely no obscurantism at work here - everything is delivered with clarity and substantiated conviction. If you come at a book like this with an open mind and a willingness to engage, it promises fresh new perspectives and great revelations.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Contemporary Englishness as a moment of rupture 23 July 2013
Michael Gardiner's Constitution of English Literature is a discipline shattering critique of English Literature as ideology and its function within the larger capitalist-imperial project of Britishness. Sweeping in its historical scope it marks a watershed moment for an area of study which, despite developments in te field of World Literature, too often treats its subject as hermetically sealed from politics and historical processes. If you've ever wondered why this is, this study provides a convincing hypothesis through a close analysis of 'action' as a political and intellectual category and its repression by the canonic logic of the British state. Expounding this thesis, the writing style draws on post-structuralist influences but shapes them into something unique, subtle, fascinating and open ended. 'Bizzare', as one review has put it, is a a reaction to be expected given the raw nerves this writing exposes. I would suggest 'penetrating', for its Gramsci-like capacity to destablise the core assumptions of everything from neoliberals to the most self-righteous of the political left. Ultimately, Gardiner's is a voice to be debated with - and his broad focus demands participation from a number of fields. This is a valuable read for anyone interested in cultural history and the everyday struggle against inevitablity of identity.
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0 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bizarre 20 July 2013
Almost every sentence in this book makes one gasp at the author's ignorance, imbecility and ideological incoherence.
The thesis he puts forward is utterly bizarre. He says 'English Literature - not literature from England, or literature in the English language, but English Literature - developed between the 1810s and the 1910s, lost some validity with World War One, revived somewhat during mid-twentieth century consensus, then was gradually overwhelmed by national factors from the late 1950s.'
Why does he make such a foolish claim? Well, he believes English Literature is something very evil which Rich People invented because they wanted to deny the English Nation the glories of the guillotine and the brutalities of Bonaparte. This begs the question, why did they choose English Literature to do the job? Why not use the Army or the Navy or the Magistrates? Killing Frenchmen would keep them from coming over with their nasty Revolutionary ways. In fact, though Gardiner does not say this, that's what actually happened. Enough Frenchies were killed at Waterloo by the Army to put them off from exporting whatever it is that Gardiner thinks was so desirable. Similarly, the Magistrates and Militias were perfectly competent to kill or imprison or exile English Radicals- think of what happened at Perterloo or, 30 years later, General Napier telling the 'Physical force' Chartists that actually it was the Army which had the real 'Physical force'- so, the question arises, why did them Evil Capitalists need to invest in English Literature? Perhaps they were just stupid. But, if they were stupid, how did they manage to get their investment to pay out exactly the sort of dividend that was most in their interest? Okay, maybe they weren't stupid at all but very very clever.
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