The Anxieties of Idleness: Idleness in Eighteenth-century British Literature and Culture

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Bucknell University Press, 2003 - 298 pages
The Anxieties of Idleness: Idleness in Eighteenth-Century British Literature and Culture investigates the preoccupation with idleness that haunts the British eighteenth century. Jordan argues that as Great Britain began to define itself as a nation during this period, one important quality it claimed was industriousness. However, this claim was undermined and complicated by many factors, such as leisure's importance to class status. Thus idleness was a subject of intense anxiety. One result of this anxiety was an increased surveillance of the supposed idleness of those members of society with less power to wield: the working classes, the nonwhite races, and women. Jordan analyzes how the "idleness" of these groups is figured, in traditional literature and in extra-literary works. Idleness was also a concern for writers of the day, as writing became a money-earning profession. Jordan examines the lives and works of two writers especially obsessed with idleness, Samuel Johnson and William Cowper.
 

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Contents

Introduction
13
Six Days Shalt They Labor Idleness and the Laboring Classes
37
Whilst We Beside You But as Cyphers Stand Idleness and the Ladies
84
An Empire of Degenerated Peoples Race Imperialism and Idleness
123
Driving On the System of Life Samuel Johnson and Idleness
153
Under the Great Taskmasters Eye William Cowper and Idleness
178
Conclusion
217
Notes
222
Works Cited
276
Index
289
Copyright

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Page 23 - Was nought around but images of rest : Sleep-soothing groves, and quiet lawns between ; And flowery beds that slumbrous influence kest, From poppies breathed, and beds of pleasant green, Where never yet was creeping creature seen. Meantime, unnumbered glittering streamlets played, And hurled everywhere their waters sheen ; That, as they bickered through the sunny glade, Though restless still themselves, a lulling murmur made.
Page 13 - Were we to examine in the same manner all the different parts of his dress and household furniture, the coarse linen shirt which he wears next his skin, the shoes which cover his feet, the bed which he lies on, and all the different parts which compose it, the...
Page 24 - Placed far amid the melancholy main, (Whether it be lone fancy him beguiles ; Or that aerial beings sometimes deign To stand embodied, to our senses plain) Sees on the naked hill, or valley low, The whilst in ocean Phoebus dips his wain, A vast assembly moving to and fro: Then all at once in air dissolves the wondrous show.

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