Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A-Z Wednesday: The Letter N


It's A-Z Wednesday!! by Reading at the Beach.
To join in, here's all you have to do:

*Go to your stack of books and find an author whose first or last name starts with the letter of the week.

*Post:
1~ a photo of the book
2~ title & synopsis
3~ a link (amazon, barnes & noble, etc)
4~ go back to Reading at the Beach and link up your post

This week the letter is "N"
Wild Enlightenment: The Borders of Human Identity in the Eighteenth Century by Richard Nash
  • Publisher: University of Virginia Press (May 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813921651
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813921655
  • Category: 18th Century Studies; British Literature & Culture
Synopsis (from the U of Virginia Press site): Wild Enlightenment charts the travels of the figure of the wild man, in each of his guises, through the invented domain of the bourgeois public sphere. We follow him through the discursive networks of novels, broadsheets, pamphlets, and advertisements and through their material locations at fair booths, the Royal Society, Court, and Parliament. He leads us on in various disguises: as Tyson’s Orang-Outang, Swift’s Yahoos, and Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. Yet Richard Nash is not primarily telling a story of the English gentleman abroad in the realm of the wild man; instead Nash explores the wild man abroad in the realm of the English gentleman. His is the tale of the wild man as complex alter ego to the idealized abstraction of “the citizen of the Enlightenment.”
My Review:
This is Richard Nash at his best. Superb research, combined with the author's wit makes this scholarly work a delight to read. There are so many bits of this work that I love. A few quotes:
"Indeed such is Montagu's enthusiasm, and so engaging is his undisguised admiration, that one is almost obligated to overlook the aside on page 311 where Montagu acknowledges indirectly that Tyson was almost entirely in error in all of his conclusions."
(about Robinson Crusoe): "Throughout his twenty-eight years on the island, goats are as wild as it gets."
(a footnote): "There are, of course, cannibals; but strictly speaking they are foreigners--nonnative natives, as it were--who only venture to Crusoe's island when dining out."
(About the "Anti-Saccharine Society"): "an unfortunate acronym, but that may not have been so relevant in a society that had not yet developed the marketing refinements of T-shirts and bumper stickers."
I was particularly intrigued by his focus in the beginning chapters on the difference between spectacle and curiosity and would like to read more. That, I think is one of the marks of very good writing (research)--it always leaves the reader wanting more...or wanting to learn more about the subject. This is one of my all-time favorite "intellectual" reads.

***And, just so you know, Richard is awesome in person too. I've worked in the English Department with him for ten years. But I haven't given his book a five-star review just because I know him. This is truly the best book I've read on 18th C studies.

1 comment:

Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow said...

This does sound like a unique book...thanks for sharing.

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