2009 Elma Dangerfield Award, presented by the International Byron Society
Argues that Byron’s popularity marked the beginning of celebrity as a cultural identity.
Byromania and the Birth of Celebrity Culture argues that Byron’s popularity, particularly among women, marked the beginning of celebrity as a cultural industry. For nearly two hundred years, Romantic criticism has maintained distinctions between Byron the politically engaged poet and Byron the object of obsessive feminine adulation, or “Byromania.” Ghislaine McDayter asserts that this distinction results more from the preferences of critics rather than discrepancies inherent in Byron’s poetry. Drawing upon recent scholarship on nineteenth-century politics of sexuality and perversity, this book extends the discussion into the realm of feminine desires and fantasy. Rather than isolating Byron from the mania he excited, McDayter uses unpublished fan letters and anonymous contemporary poetry to argue that it was precisely Byron’s involvement with popular culture and feminine hysteria that in part made him so politically influential. In essence, Byromania marked the emergence of a celebrity culture and a feminization of popular culture that has endured to the present day.
“Ghislaine McDayter’s study offers a timely, entertaining and readable study of one of the earliest manifestations of ‘fandom’, ‘Byromania’ … It is a thoughtful, rigorous, yet accessible rereading of Byron’s fame, his relationship with his ‘fans’, and the public, which not only offers fresh ideas about the actuality of Byromania in its own time, but also about its location in subsequent fandom studies and its role in relation to contemporary popular culture. It will be of interest to Romantic scholars and Byron scholars, but also those who work in the realm of popular culture and the history and development of fan culture.” — Victoriographies
“…thoughtful and erudite … McDayter has crafted an important book.” — The Wordsworth Circle
Ghislaine McDayter is Associate Professor of English Literature at Bucknell University. She is the editor of Untrodden Regions of the Mind: Romanticism and Psychoanalysis and coeditor (with Guinn Batten and Barry Milligan) of Romantic Generations: Essays in Honor of Robert F. Gleckner.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
1. “The Blazing Muse”: Hysteria and the Politics of Popularity
2. “Convulsions in Rhyme”: The Turkish Tales
3. Periodical Hysteria: Literary Commodiﬁ cation and the Problem of Authority
4. “Conjuring Byron”: Subjectivity and the Operations of Fan Culture