Introduction: Literary Persuasions
This introductory chapter explains the prominence and significance of forms of public oratory for 19th- and early 20th-century writers and their audiences. It includes consideration of the rise of the press and Hansard as well as the increased use of the extra-parliamentary platform, and makes a case for the importance of these developments for a nuanced understanding of literary politics in the period. Focusing on critical arguments about aesthetic ‘disinterestedness’, the chapter also argues for the continuing value of this term as a form of commitment to the classical rhetorical imperative to argue in utramque partem. Disinterestedness is conceived and explored as a responsible form of civic conduct, and as a way of re-figuring the relationship between literary and political realms.
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