Writers, publishers, and readers: popular romanticism in the marketplace

Wright, Leighton (2019) Writers, publishers, and readers: popular romanticism in the marketplace. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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Abstract

In Reading, Writing, and Romanticism: The Anxiety of Reception (2000), Lucy Newlyn posits that ‘Romanticism can be understood as a species of “reaction-formation”—a system of defences against the new power of reading’ due to the new industrialised conditions of the Romantic print market, characterised by the ‘rise of the reader’. This thesis builds on contributions like Newlyn’s that have considered how Romantic-era creativity was influenced by the changes that marked the print culture of the era. It departs from these studies in arguing that the idea of a ‘reaction-formation’ was unavailable for popular writers of the era. I present a model of creativity that sees the texts of popular authors as the product of a sometimes vexed, sometimes playful, but always engaged relationship between writers, audiences, and non-authorial agents such as publishers and editors. I take three case studies of three of the most popular writers of the period: Lord Byron, Walter Scott and Letitia Elizabeth Landon. These writers’ careers were made possible by the newly precarious conditions of Romantic-period print culture. These writers thrived by embracing these conditions and inviting their vast and varied audiences, perceptive publishers, and the print market into the construction of their texts. Their works became poly-vocal products that achieved enormous contemporary fame. I propose that, in such a precarious period for authors, open play and experimentation in relation to audience, editors, and literary culture was the response that created and maintained Byron, Scott, and Landon’s popularity. Audience desire, interpretation, and response was central to their creativity, but rather than being anxious about it, these authors toyed and experimented with these elements in pursuit of their success. In a period which saw an increasingly responsive and diverse audience and an industrialised print market, popular authors thrived by testing the boundaries and tastes of the era through such play. By utilising fan-mail, authorial and editorial correspondence, considering print history and the phenomenon of celebrity, this thesis provides an understanding of author, editor, and audience relationships that helps map the models of creativity amongst popular authors, authors whose work constitutes the basis of a currently growing critical interest.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Anxiety of reception, Book history, Print Culture, Celebrity studies, Romantic audiences
Subjects: Q300 English studies
R900 Others in European Languages, Literature and related subjects
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Humanities
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: Rachel Branson
Date Deposited: 05 Feb 2020 14:58
Last Modified: 05 Feb 2020 15:00
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/42033

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