Review by Choice Review
Aiming at "historical inquiry more fully theorized ... than has commonly been the case in the New Historicism," Manley (Yale), author of the historical exploration Convention, 1500-1750 (CH, Dec'80), here traces relations between literature and the growth of London from feudal enclave to commercial metropolis between 1450 and 1700. The topic is a familiar one, and the author demonstrates command of vast scholarship, old and new, on three centuries of British social, political, and legal history. In a particularly fine section, he uses Georg Simmel to show how in the 17th century urban growth produced new kinds of social interaction and states of mind--"urbanity," characterized by "hyperintellection" and "discrimination"--that were visible in and furthered by a host of convivial and conversational literary forms. What might have been a more exciting story is slowed by Manley's generalizations and resolutely theoretical vocabulary ("Facts are adduced insofar as they are elements of structure and symptoms of change," he says early on); but his book, documented with superbly chosen literary examples, should become important for advanced students of literary history. D. L. Patey; Smith College
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.