De Quincey's Disciplines

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Drawing on a broad range of sources, De Quincey's Disciplines reveals the English Opium-Eater to be a more complex and contradictory figure than is usually portrayed. All too often pigeon-holed as a latter-day Roamntic and psychedelic dreamer, Thomas De Quincey is shown here to have been a prolific contributor to the periodicals of his day, on subjects as diverse as astronomy, economics, psychology, and politics. Josephine McDonagh traces the formulation of De Quincey's disciplines through an examination of his less frequently scrutinized works - political commentaries, translations of German philosophy, numerous essays, his treatise on economics - and shows that the writer aspired (often unsuccessfully) to participate in the major intellectual project of his time: the formation of new fields of knowledge, and the attempt to unify these into an organic whole. At the same time, De Quincey's works were often compromised by the demands of the market, his own political beliefs, and his tendency to produce works of 'the most provoking jumble'. Focusing on works produced in Edinburgh in reduced circumstances in the years after 1830, De Quincey's Disciplines portrays a transitional literary voice disseminating high Romantic values to a Victorian periodical audience, and a displaced High Tory regretting the end of England's ancien regime, even as he remains open to innovation in the diverse fields of knowledge. This innovative study recontextualizes De Quincey as a true interdiscipinarian, journalist, and man of letters. It will appeal to readers interested in new historicism and in literatures bridging the Romantic and Victorian periods.