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ABR Ian Potter Foundation Fellowship

‘We place on paper without hesitation a tissue of flatteries, to which in society we could not give utterance, for our lives, without either blushing or laughing outright,’ wrote Edgar Allan Poe in 1846. His title was ‘The Literati of New York City’; his topic was the discrepancy, as he saw it, between the critics’ private opinions of books and the polite reviews of them that appeared in print. Literary criticism in New York in the middle of the nineteenth century, Poe argued, was essentially corrupt: a matter of back-scratching, currying favour, and chasing after influence, power, and money.

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