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ECF virtual issue, September 2018
Curator Rachel K. Carnell, Cleveland State University

Introduction by Rachel K. Carnell: click here.

In his recent history of literary criticism, Joseph North describes mid-twentieth-century American and British New Criticism (he does not identify a separate category of Canadian New Criticism) as more focused on aesthetics and more disconnected from historical and cultural context than the founding theorists of that approach necessarily intended (North, Literary Criticism: A Concise Political History [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2017], 44-45). Not surprisingly, scholars of literature long ceded the study of propaganda—traditionally viewed as antithetical to serious literature—to political scientists and rhetoricians (see collections of essays edited by Laswell, Lerner, and Speir [1980] and Henderson and Braun [2016]). Despite the aesthetic bias of New Criticism, scholars of eighteenth-century literature, whether Canadian, British, or American, have never been inclined to ignore the political history that shaped so much literature of the period.

Only a few ECF articles address propaganda specifically, and yet the scholarship in ECF, a journal inaugurated in 1988 at the height of the influence of New Historicism, acknowledges the ongoing connections, conversation, and overlap between literature and the propaganda of its day. Since its inception, ECF has offered a balanced approach to interpreting the politics of eighteenth-century literature. Most of its scholarship is inflected by the New Historicist emphasis on ideological analysis, but is still informed by specific historical context. Insofar as it has recently incorporated trends sometimes termed “New Formalism,” the scholarship in ECF generally offers what Marjorie Levinson would term “a new formalism that makes a continuum with new historicism” rather than “a backlash new formalism” (Levinson, “What is New Formalism?,” PMLA 122, no. 2 [2007]: 558). My 2013 ECF article “Slipping from Secret History to Novel,” for example, locates the origin of free indirect discourse, a formal feature prized by New Critics, in the narratological structures of prior political secret histories. …

Introduction by Rachel K. Carnell: click here.

©McMaster University, 2018.

ECF articles on propaganda are available at the free-to-read archive:

Fashioning the Legal Subject: Narratives from the London Treason Trials of 1794
by Nancy E. JOHNSON, ECF 21, no. 3 (2009): 413-43.

Women Novelists and the French Revolution Debate: Novelizing the Revolution/ Revolutionizing the Novel
by Gary KELLY, ECF 6, no. 4 (1994): 369-88.

The Radical Education of Evenings at Home
by Michelle LEVY, ECF 19, no. 1 (2006): 123-50.

Yellow Fever as Yellow Journalism in Charles Brockden Brown’s Arthur Mervyn
by Louis Kirk McAULEY, ECF 19, no. 3 (2007): 307-40.

The Moral and Political Economy of Property in Austen’s Emma
by Beth Fowkes TOBIN, ECF 2, no. 3 (1990): 229-54.

About savages and the awfulness of America”: Colonial Corruptions in Humphry Clinker
by Tara Ghoshal WALLACE, ECF 18, no. 2 (2005-6): 229-50.

ECF articles on Project MUSE:

New People in a New World?: Defoe’s Ambivalent Narratives of Emigration
by Joseph F. BARTOLOMEO, ECF 23, no. 3 (2011): 455-70.

Slipping from Secret History to Novel
by Rachel CARNELL, ECF 28, no. 1 (2015): 1-24.

On Candide, Catholics, and Freemasonry: How Fiction Disavowed the Loyalty Oaths of 1789–90
by Julia V. DOUTHWAITE, ECF 23, no. 1 (2010): 81-117.

Manley’s Feigned Scene: The Fictions of Law at Westminster Hall
by Kathryn TEMPLE, ECF 22, no. 4 (2010): 229-54.

Extraordinary and Dangerous Powers: Prisons, Police, and Literature in Godwin’s Caleb Williams
by QUENTIN BAILEY, ECF 22, no. 3 (2010): 525-48.

A Romance the Likest to Truth That I Ever Read”: History, Fiction, and Politics in Defoe’s Memoirs of a Cavalier
by Nicholas SEAGER, ECF 20, no. 4 (2008): 479-505.

Further reading:

Doody, Margaret Anne. “Richardson’s Politics.” ECF 2, no. 2 (1990): 113-26.

Downie, J.A. Robert Harley and the Press: Propaganda and Public Opinion in the Age of Swift and Defoe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979.

Grenby, M. O. “Orientalism and Propaganda: The Oriental Tale and Popular Politics in Late-Eighteenth-Century Britain.” Eighteenth-Century Novel 2 (2002): 215-37.

Henderson, Gae Lyn, and M. J. Braun, eds. Propaganda and Rhetoric in Democracy: History, Theory, Analysis. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2016.

Laswell, Harold D., Daniel Lerner, Hans Speier, eds. Propaganda and Communication in World History, 3 vols. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1980.

North, Joseph. Literary Criticism: A Concise Political History. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2017.

Pacini, Giulia. “The Monarchy Shapes Up: Arboreal Metaphors in Royal Propaganda and Court Panegyrics during the Reign of Louis XV.” Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies 39, no. 3 (2016): 431-48.

Rombouts, Stephen. “Art as Propaganda in Eighteenth-Century France: The Paradox of Edme Bouchardon’s Louis XV.” Eighteenth-Century Studies 27, no. 2 (1993-94): 255-82.

See other ECF virtual issues:



Romancières des Lumières


Women’s Sexuality

©McMaster University, 2018. All articles published on the Eighteenth-Century Fiction website are protected by copyright held by Eighteenth-Century Fiction, a journal published by the Faculty of Humanities at McMaster University.