Domestication of Genius: Biography and the Romantic Poet

Domestication of Genius: Biography and the Romantic Poet by Julian North

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This is a book about the biographical afterlives of the Romantic poets and the creation of literary biography as a popular form. It focuses on the Lives of six major poets of the period: Byron, Shelley, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Felicia Hemans, and Letitia Landon, published from the 1820s, by Thomas Moore, Mary Shelley, Thomas De Quincey, and others. It situates these within the context of the development of biography as a genre from the 1780s to the 1840s. Starting with Johnson, Boswell, and female collective Lives, it looks at how the market success of biography was built on its representation and publication of domestic life. In the 1820s and 30s biographers 'domesticated' Byron, Shelley, and other poets by situating them at home, opening up their (oftenscandalous) private lives to view, and bringing readers into intimate contact with greatness. Biography was an influential transmitter of the myth of 'the Romantic poet', as the self-creating, masculine genius, but it also posed one of the first important challenges to that myth, by revealing failures in domestic responsibility that were often seen as indicative of these writers' inattention to the needs of the reader. The Domestication of Genius is the most comprehensive account todate of the shaping of the Romantic poets by biography in the nineteenth-century. Written in a lively and accessible style, it casts new light on the literary culture of the 1830s and the transition between Romantic and Victorian conceptions of authorship. It offers a powerful re-evaluation of Romanticliterary biography, of major biographers of the period, and of the posthumous reputations of the Romantic poets.
Publication Date:
19 / 11 / 2009

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