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Abstract

Employing the persona of a Chinese philosopher, Oliver Goldsmith in The Citizen of the World (1762) examines the chang­ing roles of the professional author and critic in the liter­ary marketplace. Through other, various outsider per­sonae, Goldsmith questions whether popular literature can establish cultural and moral author­ity over an expanding readership. In adapting the genre of oriental correspondence to periodi­cal jour­­nalism, particular­ly the commercial news­paper the Public Ledger where the "Chinese letters" orig­inally appeared, Goldsmith ironically critiques the util­ity and authen­ticity of such fictions. Although the Chinese phi­losopher repre­sents cos­­­mo­­politan and enlightened tradi­tion, he fails as a potential arbiter of polite taste. He also fails to recon­cile the writer's obli­­­ga­­tions to instruct and amuse. The professional author in The Citizen of the World is increasingly marginalized, facing a widen­ing gulf between his material and his desired audience, a forerunner of the sen­ti­mentalized persona that would establish Goldsmith's post­humous reputation.

Contributor's Note

Megan Kitching is a PhD candidate in English Literature at Queen Mary, University of London. Her thesis investigates concep­tions of natural order in philosophical poems of the eighteenth century. Research for this article was undertaken at the University of Otago, with support from the university's Postgraduate Publishing Bursary. This article is the winner of the 2011 Eighteenth-Century Fiction Graduate Essay Prize.

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