Case Studies in the History of Reviewing
BKS 2000H, Winter 2007
Wednesday 2:00-4:00, Colin Friesen Room, Massey College

Professor: Dan White
Office: Book History Office, Massey College (House V, Room 3)
Office Hours: Wednesday 4:00-5:00


Course Focus: In diverse ways throughout different eras, reviewing has served to mediate between, on the one hand, writers, texts, and publishers, and, on the other hand, individual readers, reading publics, and markets for cultural products. We will begin by introducing ourselves to the history of reviewing: its development as an act and then as an industry, its roles in the consolidation of literary periods and canons, its place within the conception of a European “bourgeois public sphere,” and its relation to the rise and definition of criticism. We will then turn to the Romantic period in Britain as a specific case, focusing on the struggle to define British culture manifested in the vitriolic “Cockney School” debates (at the center of which was the new, experimental poetry of John Keats and Leigh Hunt) carried out in periodicals such as The Examiner, Quarterly Review, and Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine. Between roughly 1780 and 1830, the reviews contested the largest and most important questions of modern culture: Can literature and politics be separated? Is a coherent “Republic of Letters” possible in a nation fragmented by political, religious, and economic interests? What is criticism, and what roles should critics play? Is taste a matter of common sense, rational judgment, and universal sensibility, or does a reader’s subjectivity determine literary value? Can and should writing have qualities governed by gender, class, and their attendant hierarchies? What is the reader’s agency as a participant in or consumer of literary culture? The second half of the course will then provide you with the opportunity to apply our work to research in your own period(s) and field(s). Each of you will select a case to examine – an edition and its reception; a review and its history; an author or set of authors and the responses of a reviewer, review, or reviews – and then present a report to the class. This report will lead to a substantial work of scholarship, grounded in the history and theory of reviewing, to be submitted at the end of the course as a term paper.

Conduct of Course: Seminar/discussion. Research paper (50%, 20 pp.), research report (20%), mini-presentation (10%), class participation (20%).

Texts: The following text is available for purchase at the Bob Miller Book Room (180 Bloor Street West, Lower Concourse, 416-922-3557):  Keats, John. Complete Poems. Ed. Jack Stillinger. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1978.

Available from Print City (180 Bloor West, Main Concourse, 416-920-3040) are two coursepacks, “Primary” and “Secondary” Readings, containing those primary readings marked “[CP]” and all secondary readings (bulleted below), respectively. I have also put all of these materials on reserve at Robarts Short Term Loan, should you wish to do your own photocopying instead.

Wednesday, January 10


Wednesday, January 17

Critical Review 11 (January 1761): “Preface,” “An Enquiry into the Nature of Criticism, with regard to the Progress of Literature” [handout]

Critical Review 19 (January 1765), Robarts P LE C (9th floor, blue section, row 7)

Monthly Review 32 (February 1765), Robarts AP4 .M63

  • Frank Donoghue, “Review Criticism and Reading 1749-75,” from The Fame Machine: Book Reviewing and Eighteenth-Century Literary Careers (1996)

  • Antonia Forster, “Review Journals and the Reading Public,” from Books and Their Readers in Eighteenth-Century England: New Essays (2001)

Wednesday, January 24

Samuel Leigh, from Leigh’s New Picture of London (1827) [CP]

William Hazlitt, “The Periodical Press,” Edinburgh Review 38 (May 1823) [CP]

Selections (“The Periodical Press”) from Revolutions in Romantic Literature (2004) [CP]

  • Jürgen Habermas, “Introduction: Preliminary Demarcation of a Type of Bourgeois Public Sphere” and “Social Structures of the Public Sphere,” from The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962)

  • Terry Eagleton, from The Function of Criticism: From The Spectator to Post-Structuralism (1984)

Wednesday, January 31

Edinburgh Review 28.56 (August 1817), Robarts P LE E (9th floor, beginning of blue section, row 7)

Optional supplementary reading:  James Mill, “Periodical Literature: 1. The Edinburgh Review,” Westminster Review (January 1824); John Stuart Mill, “Periodical Literature: The Edinburgh Review,” Westminster Review (April 1824) [CP]

  • John O. Hayden, “The Historical Background of the Reviewing Periodicals,” from The Romantic Reviewers 1802-1824 (1968)

  • Kim Wheatley, “Introduction,” from Romantic Periodicals and Print Culture (2003)

  • Marilyn Butler, “Culture’s Medium: The Role of the Review,” from The Cambridge Companion to British Romanticism (1993)

  • William St. Clair, “Selling, Prices, and Access” and “Appendix 8. Periodicals,” from The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period (2004)

Wednesday, February 7

Quarterly Review 19.37 (April 1818), Robarts AP4 Q2 v.19

Optional supplementary reading: James Mill, “Periodical Literature: The Quarterly Review,” Westminster Review (October 1824) [CP]

  • Jon Klancher, “Reading the Social Text” and “Introduction: Historical Audiences and Social Theory” from The Making of English Reading Audiences, 1790-1832 (1987)

Wednesday, February 14

Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine 2 (October 1817), Robarts AP4 B6 v.2

John Gibson Lockhart (“Baron von Lauerwinkel”), “Remarks on the Periodical Literature of England – in a Letter to a Friend,” Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine 12 (March 1818): 670-79 [handout]

  • David Higgins, from Romantic Genius and the Literary Magazine (2005) [handout]

  • Mark Parker, “Introduction: The Study of Literary Magazines,” from Literary Magazines and British Romanticism (2000)

Wednesday, February 21 (Reading Week)

Wednesday, February 28

Leigh Hunt, The Story of Rimini [CP]

The Examiner 466 (1 December 1816) [CP]

John Gibson Lockhart (“Z.”), “On the Cockney School of Poetry” I-III, in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine (1817-18) [CP]

  • John O. Hayden, “The Cockney School,” from The Romantic Reviewers 1802-1824 (1968)

  • Jeffrey Cox, “Introduction: or, The visionary Company, Inc.,” and “The Cockney School Attacks: or, the Antiromantic Ideology,” from Poetry and Politics in the Cockney School: Keats, Shelley, Hunt and their Circle (1998)

Wednesday, March 7

John Keats, Endymion: A Poetic Romance (1818)

The Examiner 492 (1 June 1817), 497 (6 July 1817), and 498 (13 July 1817) [CP]

Lockhart (“Z.”), “On the Cockney School of Poetry” IV, in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine (1818) [CP]

John Wilson Croker, review of Endymion, in The Quarterly Review (1818) [CP]

  • Nicholas Roe, “Lisping Sedition: Poems, Endymion, and the Poetics of Dissent,” from John Keats and the Culture of Dissent (1997)

Wednesday, March 14

Mini-presentations: provisional articulation of research project

Wednesday, March 21

Mini-presentations: provisional articulation of research project

Wednesday, March 28

Research reports

Wednesday, April 4

Research reports

Wednesday, April 11

Research reports


Wednesday, April 18, Research Papers Due in

Massey College Library Office, 2:00 p.m.


Daniel E. White