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Title: Antiquaries to Romantics : a reception history of Thomas Chatterton
Author: Cook, Daniel Paul
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2008
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Although Thomas Chatterton’s influence on the major English Romantics is commonly known, how and why he acquired such prestige between the 1770s and the 1820s is little understood. Antiquaries to Romantics is a revisionist study that historicises the poet’s reception in detail for the first time. Rejecting older models of ‘critical heritage’, this study traces a more nuanced dialectic between polite and popular responses in both print and visual culture in order to situate the role of regulative authority in canon formation. My approach examines the interpretative strategies of editing, exegesis, appropriation and textual redeployment that kept Chatterton and his works in the public realm. Conventionally dismissed as the pedantic ‘Rowley controversy’, the initial antiquarian response to his mock-ancient Rowley poems embosses many of the underlying methodological tensions more readily associated with the emergence of modern literary criticism in the period. Anxiously misreading these tensions, sentimental commentators sought to reinstate Chatterton within his wider corpus, often reducing his now dated imitations of mid-century fashions to autobiographical sketches. By the final decades of the eighteenth century, Chatterton’s modern poetry and prose – originally written within the semiotics of the transitory magazines – were anthological alongside modernisations of his Rowleyan “literary curiosities”. In response to this expanding canon, focus shifted from what were often highly learned and pedagogically useful readings of the works to an unstable legacy that recovered Chatterton as a neglected genius and yet chastised him as a willing victim of his own immorality. This study draws out these tensions in order to make sense of Chatterton’s declining prominence in the nineteenth century.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available