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William HazlittPolitical Essayist$
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Kevin Gilmartin

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198709312

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198709312.001.0001

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Being Critical

Being Critical

History and Contradiction

(p.136) 3 Being Critical
William Hazlitt

Kevin Gilmartin

Oxford University Press

A radical language of corruption often involved catastrophic or apocalyptic expectations. Hazlitt’s calculated engagement with this dimension of contemporary radical discourse shaped his approach to historical representation, particularly his tendency to develop contradictory relationships among competing period frames. The essay “Of Paradox and Common-place” offers revealing evidence of his interest in paradox and his approach to typical or representative figures, notably the poet Percy Shelley and the politician George Canning. While contradictory forces unfold throughout his political prose, Hazlitt remained committed to radical expression. His conception of “Legitimacy” as a form of power that required absolute submission underwrote his determination to “be critical” and to value the “word uttered against” as an indispensable form of protest.

Keywords:   William Hazlitt, radicalism, criticism, paradox, apocalypse, history, Percy Bysshe Shelley, George Canning

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