March 2011

Karen Fang, Romantic Writing and the Empire of Signs: Periodical Culture and Post-Napoleonic Authorship

Karen Fang, Romantic Writing and the Empire of Signs: Periodical Culture and Post-Napoleonic Authorship (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010). 248 pp. (Cloth; ISBN: 978-0-8139-2874-6; $35.00).

Reviewed by
Luke Iantorno
University of North Texas

Karen Fang’s examination of post-Napoleonic periodical culture in Britain focuses on the works of Charles Lamb, James Hogg, Letitia Landon, and Lord Byron, their individual experiences with imperialism, and how they translated those experiences for British periodicals. Periodical culture, according to Fang, was the nexus of empire and capital, consumption and commodification--a privileged formation that brought imperial exoticism to the domestic consumer, in the "visual and textual representation[s] within newspapers and magazines" (2). Jon Klancher's work figures heavily here, especially his sense that "the professionalization of the early-nineteenth-century periodical marketplace" constituted a "fundamentally different cultural economy": as such, Fang follows Klancher in reading the semiotics of the imperial project, an "'empire of signs, a phrase he derives from contemporary Romantic metaphors of the mind” to develop her own examination of the more material, “geographical exoticism” in British periodicals (7).

Matthew Rowlinson, Real Money and Romanticism

Matthew Rowlinson, Real Money and Romanticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010). 266pp. (Hdbk., $85.00; ISBN: 978-0521193795).

Reviewed by
Brett Mobley
Fordham University

The guiding claim of Matthew Rowlinson’s Real Money and Romanticism is that literary historians have overlooked the ways in which “British literature of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was shaped by changes in the economic structure of the publishing industry and the commodity status of intellectual property” (32). Rowlinson’s objective is to develop a new understanding of the connections between Romantic authors, print culture, and capital as each was changing during this tumultuous period. While much good work has been done on the economics of Romantic literature, Rowlinson’s approach departs from predecessors such as William St. Clair and Lee Erikson. His critical lexicon and methodology are primarily derived from Marx’s Capital (and reactions against Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations), with informing ideas from Marcel Mauss and Jacques Lacan. The works that receive this theoretically-charged critique include Scott’s Waverly novels (particularly Guy Mannering and The Antiquary), Keats’s “Fall of Hyperion,” and Dickens’s The Old Curiosity Shop. One of these things is not like the other: Rowlinson includes Dickens in his broadened Romanticism as a writer who “acutely experienced” this “period of rapid change in the monetary system, in the British economy at large, and in the publishing trade” (32).

Robert Bloomfield: Lyric, Class, and the Romantic Canon, ed. White, Goodridge, and Keegan

Robert Bloomfield: Lyric, Class, and the Romantic Canon, ed. Simon White, John Goodridge, and Bridget Keegan (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 2006). 315pp (ISBN-10: 0838756298).

Reviewed by
Ron Broglio
Arizona State University

Several years ago, Pickering and Chatto published three volumes of collected period poems entitled Eighteenth-Century Laboring-Class Poets, as well as another three volumes under the title Nineteenth-Century Laboring-Class Poets. Through this large project general editor John Goodridge and a list of volume editors have brought to light many lesser known poets, and they have contextualized better known peasant poets such as Stephen Duck, Mary Collier, Robert Burns, Ann Yearsley, Elizabeth Hands, Robert Bloomfield and John Clare. The formidable size of this handsome collection calls for scholarly inquiry into a large number of poets and poems which have seen only marginal attention.

The Woman of Colour: A Tale, by Anonymous, ed. Lyndon J. Dominique

The Woman of Colour: A Tale, by Anonymous, ed. Lyndon J. Dominique (Broadview, 2007). 268pp (Paperback, ISBN-10: 1551111764; $24.95).

Reviewed by
Patricia A. Matthew
Montclair State University

The allure of editing a text that has been out of print for two hundred years is irresistible to any scholar interested in lesser-known texts from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, especially a novel compelling enough to gain the notice of influential periodicals like The British Critic and The Monthly Review. For anyone interested in histories of prose fiction, Lyndon J. Dominique’s edition of The Woman of Colour: A Tale (1808) has much to offer. The novel fits neatly into that period between Frances Burney’s novels of the late eighteenth century and the historical novels of the Romantic era, and anticipates Bertha Mason in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (1847). As Dominique convincingly argues, it extends the traditions introduced by Samuel Richardson in Pamela; Or, Virtue Rewarded (1740). The meticulously annotated primary text and the supplemental material Dominique has selected to situate it within its cultural moment has the potential to fill in gaps in our understanding of literary history, expand our understanding of a specific cultural moment and struggle (namely England’s competing projects of abolition and empire), and provide an entry to heretofore marginalized (if not completely unknown) literary traditions, all the while highlighting previously ignored threads in existing ones.

Kevis Goodman, Georgic Modernity and British Romanticism: Poetry and the Mediation of History

Kevis Goodman, Georgic Modernity and British Romanticism: Poetry and the Mediation of History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004). 244 pp (Cloth; ISBN: 0521831687; £45.00).

Reviewed by
Seamus Perry
Balliol College, Oxford

Readers have often noticed that something odd keeps happening in Thomson’s The Seasons. A poem supposedly devoted to the Newtonian excellences of order and proportion keeps surprising itself with the counter-experience of disorderliness and unruly profusion. These glimpses of covert chaos prove no less absorbing for their being so obviously troublesome to the poem’s tidy-minded Deist agenda:

Nor undelighted by the boundless Spring
Are the broad monsters of the foaming deep:
From the deep ooze and gelid cavern roused,
They flounce and tumble in unwieldy joy.
Dire were the strain and dissonant to sing
The cruel raputures of the savage kind …