Jerome McGann, Byron and Romanticism. Ed. James Soderholm. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2003. 328 pp. $85.00. (Hdbk: ISBN 978-0521809580).
Drummond Bone, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Byron
. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004. 360 pp. $24.99 (pbk). (Pbk: ISBN 978-0521786768).
Gillen D'Arcy Wood
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Byron plays Mephistopheles to Wordsworth's (and synecdochally, Romanticism's) Faust. Even at moments where he appears a poetic failure—in Childe Harold III or "Fare Thee Well"—he remains magister ludi, hoisting the reader on his own falsifiable expectations. But Byron at the last is also Faust himself. . . .
Such is Jerome McGann's Byron, whose articles on the poet, independent of his two early books, have now been collected in a single, indispensable volume. The first two-thirds of the collection, nine essays in all, constitute a Byron book unto themselves, but have been supplemented by seven further pieces, including a retrospective interview published here for the first time, that showcase McGann's crucial theoretical interventions—on the subjects of ideology, historical method, and deconstruction—and treat Byron mostly obliquely. Taken together, the volume offers both an assembly of vital essays by the most important Byronist of his generation, while pointing toward the Greater McGann of Social Values and Poetic Acts (1988) and the epoch-making Romantic Ideology (1983).