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For Mary Wollstonecraft, the word “gothic” would not have denoted a kind of literature, let alone a mode or genre. At best, it would have signaled an architectural style and the epoch and people who produced it. Literally denoting “of the Goths,” the word signified “medieval,” perhaps vaguely “barbarous”: at once “not classical” and “not modern.” It also carried political connotations, thanks to the widespread belief that the ancient Goths were the same Germanic invaders who had settled in England during the late Roman Empire. Synonymous with nativist associations of pre-Norman England, it could be associated with various Saxon traits of inclusiveness, fairness, vigor, and forthrightness. Students of popular culture already will have a notion how such a rich yet opaque term could come, with time, to denote a literature. And once established, Gothic’s blend of historical fantasy, uncanny phenomena, sexual danger, and extreme situations has never left us.
This is the first book to examine how Romantic writers transformed poetic collections to reach new audiences. In a series of case studies, Michael Gamer shows Romantic poets to be fundamentally social authors: working closely with booksellers, intimately involved in literary production, and resolutely concerned with current readers even as they presented themselves as disinterested artists writing for posterity. Exploding the myth of Romantic poets as naive, unworldly, or unconcerned with the practical aspects of literary production, this study shows them instead to be engaged with intellectual property, profit and loss, and the power of reprinting to reshape literary reputation. Gamer offers a fresh perspective on how we think about poetic revision, placing it between aesthetic and economic registers and foregrounding the centrality of poetic collections rather than individual poems to the construction of literary careers.