On "vulgar exhibition": Hazlitt, "the fight," and the pornography of popularity

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Reversing the terms of possession in Andrew Ross's study of pornography, and developing Suzanne Kappeler's detection of something "pornographic in the idea of mass circulation" (27), this essay historicizes the embedding of pornography in the modern discourse of popular culture. The paper articulates a genealogy of this embedding by rereading William Hazlitt's 1822 essay "The Fight" in the contexts of its production. The familiar style and popular cultural subject of Hazlitt's essay - controversial when published - cohere around references to the author's "emotional pornography" (Paulin 45). The genealogy opened by Hazlitt's text and its production context illuminates the historically class-biased imbrication of pornography in the epistemology of popular culture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-100+229
JournalNineteenth Century Prose
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar. 2009


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