Writing for the Street, Writing in the Garret: Melville, Dickinson, and Private Publication

Writing for the Street, Writing in the Garret: Melville, Dickinson, and Private Publication

by Michael Kearns


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Although Herman Melville and Emily Dickinson differed dramatically in terms of their lives and writing careers, they shared not only a distaste for writing “for the street” (mass readership) but a preference for the intimate writer–reader relationship created by private publication, especially in the form of manuscripts. In Writing for the Street, Writing in the Garret: Melville, Dickinson, and Private Publication, Michael Kearns shows that this distaste and preference were influenced by American copyright law, by a growing tendency in America to treat not only publications but their authors as commodities, and by the romantic stereotype of the artist (usually suffering in a garret) living only for her or his own work.

For both Melville and Dickinson, private publication could generate the prestige accorded to authors while preserving ownership of both works and self. That they desired such prestige Kearns demonstrates by a close reading of biographical details, publication histories, and specific comments on authorship and fame. This information also reveals that Melville and Dickinson regarded their manuscripts as physical extensions of themselves while creating personae to protect the privacy of those selves. Much modern discourse about both writers has accepted as biographical fact certain elements of those personae, especially that they were misunderstood artists metaphorically confined to garrets.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814292396
Publisher: Ohio State University Press
Publication date: 11/09/2010
Product dimensions: 4.50(w) x 4.50(h) x 0.13(d)

About the Author

Michael Kearns is professor of English at the University of Southern Indiana.


Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vii

Preface and Acknowledgments ix

Chapter 1 Marketing by Mug 1

Photography, Capital, and Class 3

Fields of Restricted Production and the Legitimizing of Artists 18

Chapter 2 The "Endless Riband of Foolscap" and Publishing by Manuscript 28

Earning Symbolic Capital with the Labor of Writing 32

Noncommercial Marketing of Literary Goods 42

The Markets for Symbolic Goods and Art as Intimate Connection 49

Symbolic Capital and the Intimate Hand 56

Chapter 3 "Firmament" or "Fin": Copyright, Authority, and Ownership 64

Copyright Law in Nineteenth-Century America 66

Copyright and Capital 69

Ownership, Labor, and Private Publication 77

Chapter 4 "The brain is just the weight of God": Hand, Mind, and Manuscript 84

The "Body-Minded Brain" and the Materiality of Writing 91

Beyond the Art of Bookcraft 100

The Persona as a Commodity in a Material Economy 110

Chapter 5 Not "Convenient to Carry in the Hand": Commercializing Melville and Dickinson in the Twentieth Century 120

Notoriety and the Personal Side of Profit 121

The Posthumous Careers of Emily Dickinson and Herman Melville: Scholarship, Editions, Monuments, and Consumers 126

The Capital of Popular Culture 137

Notes 147

Works Cited 155

Index 165

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