Romantic Parodies, 1797-1831
This is the first collection of literary parodies, both poetry and prose, written during the English Romantic period. Many anthologies of literary parody have been published during the past century, but no previous selection has concentrated so intensively on a single period in English literary history, and no period in that history was more remarkable for the quantity and diversity of its parody. There was no Romantic writer untouched by parody, either as subject or as author, or even occasionally as both.
Most parodies were intended to discredit the Romantics not only as poets but as individuals, and to disarm the threat they were seen as posing to establish literary and social norms. Because it focuses on the "swarm of imitative writers" about whom Robert Southey complained in an 1819 letter to Walter Savage Landor, this collection throws light on a large and often overlooked body of work whose authors had much more serious purposes than mere ridicule or amusement.
Romantic parody situates itself between the eighteenth-century craft of burlesque and the nonsense verse that Victorian parody often became. This anthology demonstrates that parody is concerned with power: that it expresses ideological conflict, dramatizing clashes of ideas, styles, and values between different generations of writers, different classes and social groups, and even between writers of the same generation and class. Parody is not an inherently conservative mode; politically, it serves the whole range of opinion from extreme left to extreme right.
While several of the parodies are playful - a few even affectionate - most angrily testify to the political, social, and aesthetic divisions embittering the times. Some parodies have aged more gracefully than others. But all contribute to a more vivid understanding of the era and to the reception accorded the most important Romantic writers. The venom and alarm of the response those writers provoked may surprise anyone who takes it for granted that the Romantics easily made their way into the mainstream of English literature.
This volume reprints parodies by the major Romantics (including Coleridge, Keats, Byron, and Shelley) as well as by minor, obscure, and anonymous contemporaries. Several longer, better-known texts are given in their entirety, e.g., Peter Bell, Peter Bell III, and The Vision of Judgment, and there are also examples from distinguished collections such as Rejected Addresses, The Poetic Mirror, and Warreniana. Numerous shorter works are taken from periodicals of the time (such as Blackwood's or The Satirist), and many of these are reprinted for the first time since their initial publication.
The foreword by Linda Hutcheon, "Parody and Romantic Ideology," examines the theoretical implications of Romantic parodies. The introduction, headnotes, and annotations by the editors place the parodies in their historical, social, and literary contexts.
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Parody and Romantic Ideology LINDA HUTCHEON
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