Romantic Fandom: Introduction

Romantic-era audiences participated enthusiastically in what we would now recognize as fan practices and fan cultures. In his introduction to this volume, Eisner proposes an understanding of fandom as a culturally situated, qualitatively distinctive, and complexly mediated form of audience response, arguing that fandom rewards analysis as a historical phenomenon in its own right and not simply as a register of the celebrity of the objects of fan interest. Pointing out the ways in which the volume’s essays frame the topic of fandom as a provocation to methodological innovation, Eisner’s introduction locates the volume’s approach to fandom in relation to recent scholarship in Romantic studies and cultural studies, and in contradistinction to more traditional studies of reception. The introduction argues that the volume’s essays deepen our understanding of Romanticism’s publics as socially heterogeneous, inventive, and unpredictable, shaped by and shaping rapidly changing institutions of performance, publication, reading, spectatorship, leisure and consumption. By mapping the complicated social dynamics informing the activity of particular fans, the essays in this volume demonstrate both the diversity of Romantic fan practices and the historical particularity of the forms Romantic fandom takes. While these essays contest literary criticism’s often habitual abjection of the fan, Eisner emphasizes that they also resist conflating Romantic fandom with our own.