Essays in Romanticism

Neglect, Death, and Apostasy: Narrating Living Authorship in Romantic Periodicals

Essays in Romanticism (2018), 25, (2), 209–228.


With their emphasis on reviewing new publications and their interest in determining literary value, Romantic periodicals were uniquely positioned to problematize the fact that an author was alive. While the reception of dead authors had begun to incorporate biography as a critical criterion in the eighteenth century, it was Romantic periodicals that confronted the problems of applying such modes of evaluation to the still-living. Popular Romantic narratives of living authorship reveal the difficulties of assessing political and literary worth during careers that had yet to unfold. While the popular narrative of the neglected author replaces present experience with the promise of redemption by posterity, narratives of authorial death and apostasy draw attention to the fledgling professional author’s precarious economic position. The living author emerges as a compromised figure, for whom a pejorative meaning of “authorship” as pernicious self-promotion uneasily coexists with the prospect of reevaluation by posterity.

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Author details

Woody, Christine M.