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William St Clair's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books William St Clair recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of William St Clair's favorite book recommendations of all time.

Robert Darnton's work is one of the main reasons that cultural history has become an exciting study central to our understanding of the past.

More popular than the canon of the great Enlightenment philosophers were other books, also banned by the regime, written and sold "under the cloak." These formed a libertine literature that was a crucial part of the culture of dissent in the Old Regime. Robert Darnton explores the cultural and political significance of these "bad" books and introduces readers to three of the most influential illegal best-sellers, from which he includes...
Recommended by William St Clair, and 1 others.

William St ClairThe French Revolution was driven by ideas, and once you start trying to trace ideas you have to consider the print in which ideas were carried. As a young man, Darnton discovered in Switzerland the archive of an offshore publishing firm that smuggled books into France before the French Revolution. It had all the records about the paper, the production, even on the mules that carried banned books... (Source)

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English Common Reader

The English Common Reader was the first comprehensive and systematic exploration of how the ordinary Englishman became a reader. A rich social history as well as a history of the English reading public, the book has become a classic. It will continue to be read and enjoyed by scholars and students as we make our way through another age of profound social change for the reader and for the book. This edition features an extensive new bibliography. less
Recommended by William St Clair, and 1 others.

William St ClairIt’s an astonishing book, published in 1957. Altick is so different from what came before because he wants to find out what was actually available to be read in the 19th century. He has lists of sales figures and best sellers, and books produced for the poor. He’s very much a direct predecessor of what I tried to do. (Source)

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This volume presents for the first time in English the foundational writings of the leading proponent of the aesthetic of reception. Jauss here attempts to develop categories to channel conventional literary history into a history of aesthetic experience. These essays explore the relation of art history to social history, the nature of genres in the middle ages, and provide exemplary readings in the comparative analysis of literature. less
Recommended by William St Clair, and 1 others.

William St ClairI put them together because Jauss and Iser worked at the same university and led a movement – the Konstanz school. They both tried to theorise the role of the reader. They too were very uncomfortable – as McGann was – with the notion that meaning just inheres in texts and it’s the role of the professor to tell people what the text means. So they theorised what goes on in the act of reading. The... (Source)

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Claiming that the scholarship and criticism of Romanticism and its works have for too long been dominated by a Romantic ideology—by an uncritical absorption in Romanticism's own self-representations—Jerome J. McGann presents a new, critical view of the subject that calls for a radically revisionary reading of Romanticism.

In the course of his study, McGann analyzes both the predominant theories of Romanticism (those deriving from Coleridge, Hegel, and Heine) and the products of its major English practitioners. Words worth, Coleridge, Shelley, and Byron are considered in...
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William St ClairI’ve chosen this book because, along with other essays by Jerome McGann, it does explain and consider what Romanticism is, and how it continued to influence our ways of thinking. Romanticism can be regarded as beginning as a movement in the later 18th century in Germany and going on until the mid-Victorian period. It has a number of components that don’t necessarily cohere. One is the rhetoric of... (Source)

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The Wealth of Nations

In his book, Smith fervently extolled the simple yet enlightened notion that individuals are fully capable of setting and regulating prices for their own goods and services. He argued passionately in favor of free trade, yet stood up for the little guy. The Wealth of Nations provided the first--and still the most eloquent--integrated description of the workings of a market economy. less

Elon MuskAdam Smith FTW obv. (Source)

Barack ObamaObama, unsurprisingly, appears to be more drawn to stories sympathetic to the working classes than is McCain. Obama cites John Steinbeck’s “In Dubious Battle,” about a labor dispute; Robert Caro’s “Power Broker,” about Robert Moses; and Studs Terkel’s “Working.” But he also includes Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” and “Theory of Moral Sentiments” on his list. (Source)

Neil deGrasse TysonWhich books should be read by every single intelligent person on planet? [...] The Wealth of Nations (Smith) [to learn that capitalism is an economy of greed, a force of nature unto itself]. If you read all of the above works you will glean profound insight into most of what has driven the history of the western world. (Source)

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