Date of Award

2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

Abstract

This dissertation explores the cultural presence of the quarto book in Romantic-era Britain and argues that the format classed the period's defining literary ideologies--from sentimentalism, to liberalism, to Wordsworthian Romanticism, to orientalism--as luxuries meant exclusively for the nation's wealthiest consumers. Chapter 1 situates the quarto within the context of the period's luxury debates and advances a conception of the quarto as the era's predominant luxury format. Focusing on Oliver Goldsmith's The Deserted Village, Chapter 2 argues that early quarto editions of the poem classed the sympathetic feeling it celebrated as the unique privilege of a readerly elite and describes how the poem was later appropriated and repurposed by radically oriented Irish and English printers. In so doing, the chapter shows that British sentimentalism's political alignments were shaped by the formats of its major texts as much as changing political contexts. Chapter 3 argues that the Crown's refusal to prosecute quarto publications during the 1790s gave the format a protected status that was exploited by the era's major publisher of respectably radical political literature, Joseph Johnson. By publishing the anti-monarchical poems of Blake, Barlow, Wordsworth, and Coleridge in quarto, Johnson curbed their seditious tendencies and configured them as liberal works whose textual appeals to middle-class audiences were reinforced by their bibliographic format. Chapter 4 examines William Wordsworth's use of the quarto format to publish his career-defining poem The Excursion, arguing that the poem's quarto publication was not only intended to mitigate Wordsworth's anxieties of influence or declare his newly Royalist political alliance but that it also succeeded in classing the poem's aesthetic ideology for many Regency readers. Chapter 5 investigates the quarto's role in stoking British fears about oriental luxury: by showing how the reception of Regency-period oriental verse quartos like Robert Southey's The Curse of Kehama and Thomas Moore's Lalla Rookh displayed the luxurious bibliographic contours of Romantic-period orientalism, the chapter demonstrates that those anxieties of empire unsettling Romantic writers were also triggered by the expensive quarto book.

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