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Eric Eisner, "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.

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Nicola J. Watson, "Fandom Mapped: Rousseau, Scott and Byron on the Itinerary of Lady Frances Shelley"

This essay investigates how the concept of fandom might make sense of a reading practice that emerged in the romantic period, the practice of visiting places associated with authors and their works in order to re-read their works in situ. Focussing on Lady Frances Shelley as a typical romantic literary tourist, the essay considers the ways in which she (and by extension others) produced new constructions of reading and the reader in response to the emergent figure of the romantic author. Shelley's various accounts of visiting romantic locales associated with Rousseau, Scott and Byron not only provides a conspectus of possible tourist-stances and practices but suggests that romantic readers strove to represent themselves on a footing not only of intimacy but of social equality with the author, re-establishing a sense of a coterie audience in the face of the realities of an increasingly heterogenous mass reading public.

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Clara Tuite, "On His Knees: Stendhal, Byron and a Hundred Irresistible Impulses"

This essay examines Stendhal’s recollections of his meeting with Byron in Milan in 1816 at La Scala, and reads these recollections as the revelatory staging of a close encounter between celebrity and fan. It argues that Stendhal’s recollections suggest how practices of sensation can be understood in terms of the affective routines of the fan that are such a vital component of celebrity culture. Focusing on the meeting between Stendhal and Byron as a particular form of ritualized sociable encounter, Tuite examines how Stendhal's recounting of this meeting enacts celebrity culture's transformation of stranger to intimate, and how the fan-celebrity relation between Stendhal and Byron is mediated both by the social materiality of place and by a shared devotion to another contemporary idol, Napoleon Bonaparte.

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Mark Schoenfield, "Byron in the Satirist: Aristocratic Lounging and Literary Labor"

This article analyzes the complex political and cultural rhetorics through which the journal Satirist refracts the figure of Byron in its reviews, its social satire, and its verbal and visual parodies, starting with its 1807 review of Byron’s Hours of Idleness. Animating this interaction in large part is the personal animus between Byron and the Satirist writer Hewson Clarke, who was at Cambridge with Byron and for whom Byron represented not only a rival but the (frustrating) epitome of aristocratic privilege, a privilege Clarke and The Satirist will target in attacks on what they brand Whiggish indolence. Schoenfield demonstrates how even at this early stage in Byron’s career, the Satirist’s attacks function to deflate, by redeploying, Byron’s figuration of his own fame, reflecting back to the poet and his audience “the fragility of his public self.” The journal thus influentially produces “a competing version of Byronic celebrity to that produced by Byron.”

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David A. Brewer, "The Moment of Tom and Jerry ('when fisticuffs were the fashion')"

The early 1820s craze for Pierce Egan's and Robert and George Cruikshank's Life in London has long seemed both deeply puzzling and yet somehow emblematic of its age. Brewer proposes that the mania becomes far more explicable if we focus, in a very precise way, on the interplay between serial publication, the so-called "illegitimate" theater, and the geography of London, especially insofar as those relations, in turn, line up with the peculiar and rapidly shifting reputation and mood of the metropolis in these years. By carefully mapping out Life in London part by monthly part, and dramatic adaptation by dramatic adaptation, we can both recover the underlying aesthetics of the craze (which revolved around questions of the adequacy of representation) and further theorize what Franco Moretti has termed the "profoundly social aspect[s]" of form: the ways in which the forms of individual texts are not only shaped by forces beyond their bounds and beyond their control, but also how the significance of those individual forms largely emerges from their perceived relations with one another. In short, by slowing down and zeroing in upon the very particular qualities of "the Moment of Tom and Jerry," we can begin to think in new ways about how literature works in the world more generally.

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Published @ RC

April 2011