Three Theories of Augustan Waste

Barrow, Andrew, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Pasanek, Bradley, Department of English, University of Virginia

This thesis argues for the existence of a recognizable rhetoric of “print waste” in works on literary evaluation in the early eighteenth-century. It does so by first analyzing Milton and Shaftesbury’s descriptions of printed works as metaphors for “waste,” highlighting that word’s multivalent use as both a negatively inflected term for abject or valueless writing, and as an ambiguously laudatory reference to the generative “wastes” of public land and Biblical paradise. Following that contextualizing work, it proceeds to tease out a shared vocabulary used to refer to bad (or “bad”) writing in the works of Addison, Swift, and Pope, focusing in particular on how the Augustan critics use the terms of print waste to suggest that certain authors and genres pose a mounting and immediate threat to the literary taste of the public. Throughout, the thesis continually draws attention to the moments where this rhetoric of literary worth slips into rhetoric of human worth, noting the manner in which the Augustan critics elide ethical concerns and problematic realities through the use of the tropes of print waste.

MA (Master of Arts)
Waste, Eighteenth Century, Jonathan Swift, Joseph Addison, Alexander Pope, Anthony Ashley Cooper, Print, Shaftesbury, Print Culture, Waste Theory, Taste
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