© 2016

Fashioning Authorship in the Long Eighteenth Century

Stylish Books of Poetic Genius

  • Takes an original approach that combines literary criticism and the study of material culture

  • Speaks to the field of celebrity studies

  • Examines the work of three prominent eighteenth-century writers


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xvii
  2. Gerald Egan
    Pages 1-9
  3. Gerald Egan
    Pages 85-122
  4. Gerald Egan
    Pages 123-164
  5. Gerald Egan
    Pages 165-204
  6. Back Matter
    Pages 205-229

About this book


This book examines a singular cultural formation of the long eighteenth century, the poetic genius who was also a lady or gentleman of fashion. It applies an innovative mix of approaches — book history, Enlightenment and twentieth-century philosophy, visual studies, and material analyses of fashions in books and in dress — to specific editions of Alexander Pope, Mary Robinson and Lord Byron. In its material analyses of these books, this study looks closely at bindings, letterforms, engravings, newspaper advertisements, correspondence, and other ephemera. In its theoretical approaches, it takes up the interventions of Locke and Kant in connection with the visual theories of Richardson, Hogarth, and Reynolds. These investigations point ultimately to a profound connection between Enlightenment formulations of subjectivity, genius, and fashion, a link that is relevant to the construction of celebrity in our own cultural moment.


Visual culture Celebrity Book history Material history Eighteenth-century poetry Pope Byron Kant Locke

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EnglishCalifornia State University at Long BeachLong BeachUSA

About the authors

Gerald Egan teaches in the English Department at California State University, Long Beach. His book, Fashioning Authorship: Stylish Books of Poetic Genius, was published in 2016.


Bibliographic information


“Fashioning Authorship in the Long Eighteenth Century brings together disparate reading practices influenced by art history, book history, literary theory, close reading and twentieth-century philosophy, to analyse three poet-celebrities ranging from the early eighteenth century to the late Romantic period: Alexander Pope, Mary Robinson and Lord Byron. … This is an intriguing book that makes many convincing points about negotiating the divergent pulls of writing serious poetry and playing the fame game.” (Louise Curran, The Review of English Studies, Vol. 69 (291), September, 2018)

“A stunning, unique study that blends expansive theoretical inquiry and intellectual history with detailed examinations of the material forms of Pope's, Robinson's, and Byron's poetic editions during their lives (right down to the level of physical pages and typography, with special attention to the poets' frontispiece portraits). Egan shows how books at the time were media forms for a new kind of intellectual subjectivity poised between "genius" and "celebrity." Contributing to our contemporary exploration of the unexpected vitality of artifacts, objects, and "media archaeology," the study traces surprising connections between the material history of books, the image of the poets' physical bodies, and the immaterial force of "mind."” (Alan Liu, University of California, Santa Barbara)

“This is a fascinating book that draws on art history, literary studies, disability studies and the history of the book to re-examine the rise of the ‘celebrity poet’ in the long eighteenth century. Its close focus on Alexander Pope, Mary Robinson and Lord Byron gives Egan’s argument an impressive historical scope, and demonstrates the evolving ways in which poets constructed their image for public consumption in a rapidly developing literary marketplace. Drawing on remarkable details about the material conditions of production for several key poetic texts, this book is an excellent demonstration of why book history matters to how we think about poets and their poetry.” (Olivia Murphy, University of Sydney, Australia)