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Title page for ETD etd-07252010-121342

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Miller, Adam Jason
Author's Email Address adam.j.miller@vanderbilt.edu
URN etd-07252010-121342
Title Vicesimus Knox and the Poetic Canon: Reflections of a Disaparate Middle Class in the Eighteenth-Century Anthology
Degree Master of Arts
Department English
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Dahlia Porter Committee Chair
  • eighteenth century
  • anthology
  • canon
  • vicesimus knox
Date of Defense 2010-06-13
Availability unrestricted
Eighteenth-century anthologist Vicesimus Knox’s Elegant Extracts were popular and influential literary collections that played no small part in the formation of the English literary canon. While Knox and his contemporaries have provocatively been analyzed with economic and generic models, this paper examines Knox’s subjective views about literature and the project of the anthologizing. While Knox ardently believed in egalitarian access to literature for the aristocracy and bourgeoisie alike, he felt threatened by a perceived split in the increasingly literate middle class. Knox roughly divided the middle-class readership into merchants and artisans and feared that the crude, utilitarian demands of the merchant for social mobility through literary acumen would diminish a popular taste for poetry— Knox’s most esteemed genre. As a result, Knox anthologized only the best, the most “canonical” English poetry so as to preserve its cultural capital. Understanding Knox’s canonizing project as reacting to popular opinions rather than imperializing them gives a different inflection to commonly-held notions of canonization. For Knox, canonization was not so much a move to unite the reading masses as it was a ploy to save what poetry he could from cultural neglect.
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