Pope’s The Dunciad (1728–43) is a poem which is highly self-conscious about its own positioning within a putative literary history, and which overtly reflects upon the status of ‘competing’ texts and authors. Harold Bloom famously discussed literary history in terms of an agonistic struggle between writers and their influential predecessors (Bloom 1973). Eighteenth-century culture, however, reveals a struggle amongst living contemporaries. This makes debates about literary value both more self-conscious and more vicious.
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