Labouring bodies, feeling minds: intellectual improvement and Scottish writing, 1759-1828

Deans, Alexander Eden Atkinson (2015) Labouring bodies, feeling minds: intellectual improvement and Scottish writing, 1759-1828. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis traces the dynamic between labour and learning as it was figured by Scottish writers in the period 1759-1828. Vocational specialization and engagement with a literary field that traversed professional and disciplinary boundaries were the twin imperatives of the Scottish Enlightenment’s modernising credo. But the division of labour was also associated with a narrowing of intellectual and moral capacity thought to be incompatible with the exhortations of politeness and civility. Leisured cultivation offered readers and writers a middle ground in which to negotiate between these contradictory demands.

This study explores the way in which this culture of intellectual improvement was claimed by authors and readers involved in manual labour as a counterinfluence to the rigours of work, and as a civilizing prerogative that extended to all social levels. But others registered significant anxiety towards the destabilising effects of excessive delicacy or refinement, and feared that these might be exacerbated by contact with the necessity of bodily labour. I argue that this contributed to a redressing of the content and purpose of popular education that sought to match it to the role of the lower classes within the economic and political order. Particular attention is paid in the following study to authors who either claimed or were ascribed a labouring identity such as Robert Burns and James Hogg, but I also deal with lesser-known writers, and frame their engagement with intellectual improvement through broader eighteenth-century discourses on the division of labour and the theory of mind. In doing so, I discuss a variety of genres and forms, including philosophical and economic treatises, poetry, memoir, biography, the novel, and the literary periodical.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Scottish Enlightenment, Scottish Romanticism, Long Eighteenth Century, Popular Enlightenment, Libraries, Robert Burns, James Hogg, Adam Smith, James Currie, Labouring-class Writing, Improvement
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities
Supervisor's Name: Leask, Professor Nigel and Kirsteen, Dr. McCue
Date of Award: 2015
Depositing User: Mr Alex Deans
Unique ID: glathesis:2015-6170
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 26 Mar 2015 09:22
Last Modified: 26 Mar 2015 09:24

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