Cover of Enlightenment Links by Collin Jennings
Enlightenment Links
Theories of Mind and Media in Eighteenth-Century Britain
Collin Jennings


May 2024
282 pages.

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503637979
Ebook ISBN: 9781503639065

Request Review/Desk/Examination Copy


Excerpts and More

In this ambitious work, Collin Jennings applies computational methods to eighteenth-century fiction, history, and poetry to reveal the nonlinear courses of reading they produce. Hallmark genres of the British Enlightenment, such as the novel and the stadial history, are typically viewed as narratives of linear progress, emerging from Britain's imperial growth and scientific advancement. Jennings foregrounds Enlightenment links: the paratextual devices, including cross-references, footnotes, and epigraphs, that make words work differently by pointing the reader to places inside and outside the text. Writers and printers combined text and paratext to produce nonlinear paths of reading and polysemous forms of reference that resist simple, causal structures of experience or theories of mind. Alexander Pope, Adam Smith, Ann Radcliffe, and other writers developed genres that operate diagrammatically, with different points of entry and varied relationships between the language and format of books.

Revealing the eighteenth-century genealogy of the digital hyperlinks of today, Enlightenment Links argues that emergent print genres combined language and links to bring forward the associative, circular, and multi-sequential ways in which literature makes language work.

About the author

Collin Jennings is Assistant Professor of English at Miami University.

"This welcome, new scholarly work collects computational studies of reference works, poetry, novels, and nonfiction. The writing is ambitious and exciting, and I came away convinced that the link is a literary device—in fact, one with an eighteenth-century genealogy."

—Brad Pasanek, University of Virginia

"This study breaks new ground with respect to what we know about the organization of knowledge in the British Enlightenment. Jennings provocatively inverts his historical texts in order to read them as engaging with our current technologies of AI."

—Peter de Bolla, University of Cambridge