The Language of Knowledge and the Language of Power

Thomas De Quincey published in 1848 an essay on the poetry of Pope with a long digression on “the literature of knowledge” and “the literature of power.” I want to treat these categories speculatively, in order pursue the question of what we may mean by “knowledge”: a word that in the eighteenth century was synonymous with science, and that in De Quincey’s day hadn’t yet drifted far from that sense. The function of the literature of knowledge, De Quincey wrote,