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Chapter 13 - Profession of Letters

from Part III - Literary Background

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 May 2024

Joseph Hone
Affiliation:
University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Pat Rogers
Affiliation:
University of South Florida
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Summary

This chapter introduces the so-called ‘profession of letters’ during Swift’s lifetime: an idealised mode of study that included reading and conversing as much as publishing. Like his friend Alexander Pope, Swift defined his writing against a culture of production dependent on cheap popularity, the machinations of booksellers, and government bribery. Swift took aim against this culture in A Tale of a Tub (1704), which bristles with paratexts parodying standard-issue front matter. Unlike Pope, who implicitly acknowledged his status within the commercial print culture of the early eighteenth century, Swift, this chapter argues, always maintained ambivalence towards the literary marketplace.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2024

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