‘It had an odde promiscuous tone’
Lord Rochester andRestoration modernity
in Aesthetics of contingency
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This chapter explores how the framework of a ‘long eighteenth century’ distorts our sense of Restoration literature through a process of selective reading and imagining that emphasises ‘the shape of the future’. The writings of Lord Rochester provide the ground on which this argument is tested. In tracing Rochester’s texts through the circuits of script and print, this chapter illuminates the radical unfixity of Rochester as cultural sign. To privilege Rochester’s ‘Augustanism’, or to see him, as recent commentators would have it, as a ‘proto-Whig’, is perforce to strain against the varied cultural scripts he so promiscuously fashioned and in which he was no less promiscuously apprehended and imagined. More largely, this chapter argues, by refiguring Rochester, we may also appreciate the decidedly mixed character of whatever might be called ‘Restoration modernity’.

Aesthetics of contingency

Writing, politics, and culture in England, 1639– 89

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