Performing Authorship in Eighteenth-Century English Periodicals

Manushag N. Powell

292 pages
ISBN 9781611484168

Now in paperback

Performing Authorship in Eighteenth-Century Periodicals discusses the English periodical and how it shapes and expresses early conceptions of authorship in the eighteenth century. Unique to the British eighteenth century, the periodical is of great value to scholars of English cultural studies because it offers a venue where authors hash out, often in extremely dramatic terms, what they think it should take to be a writer, what their relationship with their new mass-media audience ought to be, and what qualifications should act as gatekeepers to the profession. Exploring these questions in The Female Spectator, The Drury-Lane Journal, The Midwife, The World, The Covent-Garden Journal, and other periodicals of the early and mid-eighteenth century, Manushag Powell examines several "paper wars" waged between authors. At the height of their popularity, essay periodicals allowed professional writers to fashion and make saleable a new kind of narrative and performative literary personality, the eidolon, and arguably birthed a new cult of authorial personality. In Performing Authorship in Eighteenth-Century Periodicals, Powell argues that the coupling of persona and genre imposes a lifespan on the periodical text; the periodicals don't only rise and fall, but are born, and in good time, they die.

"...Powell revitalizes our thinking about the genre."
--Chantel Lavoie, Royal Military College of Canada, Eighteenth-Century Fiction 26.2 (2013-2014): 322-324.

"Powell's book is extensive in its survey, providing in-depth examinations of the authorial personae of the Female Tatler, British Apollo, Covent-Garden Journal, Inspector, Drury-Lane Journal, Old Maid, Connoisseur, Female Spectator, and Parrot. Powell 's mastery of her material is exemplary. Necessarily selective in its focus, I think wisely, and choosing to concentrate on lesser-studied journals than The Tatler, The Spectator, The Guardian, and The Rambler, Performing Authorship does not neglect those august periodicals but uses them as more familiar touchstones in its survey of forty-odd years of popular periodicals."

--Erin Mackie, Syracuse University, Eighteenth-Century Life (Fall 2014)

"The examination of eidolons' flexibility and rhetorical trickery will enlighten and entertain readers, who can compare such to those of satirists outside the periodical, such as Swift's in A Tale of a Tub--my sense is that students of satire have long identified artistry comparable to that found here in the essay periodical. The persuasive, ironic, and theatrical posturings shown in the periodicals should lead those "working outside the periodical" to benefit from Powell's study, as Chantel Lavoie observes in her very favorable review for Eighteenth-Century Fiction (26.2 [2013-14], 322-24). Performing Authorship in Eighteenth-Century English Periodicals makes working inside periodicals inviting and interesting."
--J.May, The Eighteenth-Century Intelligencer, September 2014

"Above all else, this new monograph contributes greatly to recent scholarship on the professionalization of authorship in the eighteenth century, not merely in terms of the logistics of the modern marketplace but, more importantly I think, in terms of the authors' own attitudes to their profession."
--Daniel Cook, University of Dundee, Modern Language Review (Volume 109, part 4), October 2014

Read a review in Recent Studies in the Restoration and Eighteenth Century here.

Read the University press article here.

About the author:

Manushag N. Powell's research interests are centered on the cultural history of literary forms and include early types of "genre" fiction writing, the periodical essay, and authors-as-characters.


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