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The ‘Backstage’ of Classic Modernity: Time and Leisure in the City in Eighteenth-century English Popular Culture Texts

University of Bucharest

The notion of ‘backstage’ fills a clichéd gap – understood as high vs. low – so much preferred by the grand narrative of Modernity. Perceived as an alternative discourse (modernity with a lower-case m) or as a discourse of resistance, the ‘backstage’ becomes the symbol of what I call popular hegemony translated as diversion and entertainment in the city where ‘adaptation’ (the popular strategies of the weak) conflates with ‘compulsion’ (the culture of the strong). Permanently considered from the perspective of a negotiation process, the two concepts shed light on daily activities like socialization in a carnivalised space (the Bartholomew Fair), regulation of time and leisure in the city by means of popular reading practices (almanacs), astrology and buyable advertisement. These are just a few instantiations of eighteenth-century English popular culture that project a discourse made up of small narratives or anecdotal views that undermine the idea of universal reason, absolute values and aristocratic modes of (social) conduct.

Backstage of modernity, popular culture, customs, social practices, the culture of the vulgus, popular hegemony



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