Document Type: Book Review
Professor of English literature, Department of Economy, Language and Social Studies, Østfold University College, Halden, Norway.
It is widely acknowledged that emotion is deeply embedded in literary criticism. Even when we aspire to scientific analysis and objectivity, we assume that we share a love of literature. Loving Literature is a deep and fascinating exploration of this important assumption. Literary critics and professors of literature are expected not only to know but also to love their work. In the case of professors, they are also required to transmit this love to their students. Lynch’s study investigates the historical origins of such expectations, and discusses their implications for readers, students and professors. Lynch does not assume that love is necessarily a healthy emotion: it can also be painful. Readers and literary critics forget this at their peril.
To understand the role of love in literature, Lynch argues that it is necessary to study the eighteenth century and its ongoing discussions of literary history and the canon. The eighteenth century marked the beginning of English as an academic discipline. Lynch examines not only what early critics knew about literature but also how they felt about it. Only when we know this can we understand how literary studies evolved to its present form.