Liber Amoris and the Lineaments of Hazlitt’s Desire
McCutcheon, Mark A.
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This essay counters the literary critical consensus whereby William Hazlitt’s representations of the woman he arguably libeled in Liber Amoris have been taken at face value. The essay first historicizes Hazlitt’s professional life and canonical marginality in relation to his widely remarked traffic with prostitutes, then contextualizes Liber Amoris in relation to both the politically charged modes of literary production in Hazlitt’s time and the gender-polarized criticism that has gathered around the text. These contextual considerations enable a close reading of Liber Amoris itself that reveals the consistently “whorish” characterization of his subject, and the essay concludes with consequent speculations on the sexual politics of literature and literary canon formation.