ABSTRACT

The nineteenth century, to a far greater degree than any other period, acclaimed its poets and writers with overwhelmingly spiritual honorifics: rather than mere poets and writers, they were priests and magicians, oracles and prophets, sorcerers and seers. In this essay, rather than repeat the various narratives in which literature is exalted as a secular religion and credited for salvaging magic from modern disenchantment, my aim, more philosophical than strictly historiographical, is to consider these honorifics as magical epithets—terms that give to their object the reputation of being magical—that are made effective by following a logic of their own: attributed to writers in acts of readerly judgment, these epithets, when the act of their attribution carries emotional conviction, are experienced as magical and thereby make themselves true in the moment in which they are uttered.

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