The following annotated bibliography combines a wide range of scholarly texts pertaining to issues of orality, literacy, and media in the Romantic era. While not exhaustive, this list serves as a starting point for creating a useful catalogue for some of the work in this area; I’ve also included some publications on slavery and orality that complement such research already done by Debbie Lee or Alan Richardson on Slavery and Romanticism. Our hope is that our readers may profit from this initial list and perhaps add helpful sources not yet included. Enjoy!
Omar F. Miranda
Adéèkó, Adélékè. The Slave’s Rebellion: Literature, History, Orature. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005.
Examining slave rebellions such as Nat Turner’s in relation to the trajectory of black history and struggles, Adéèkó analyzes how writers reinterpret episodes of historical slave rebellion to conceptualize their understanding of a “master-less future.” From Frederick Douglass’s “The Heroic Slave” and Alejo Carpentier’s The Kingdom of this World to Yoruba praise poetry (Oriki) and novels by Nigerian writers Adebayo Faleti and Akinwumi Isola, each text reflects different national attitudes toward the “historicity of slave rebellions” that shape the ways the texts are read. Adéèkó’s seventh and eight chapters focus on oral traditions about slavery; she isolates the poetics and politics of exclusion as she begins to make sense of the “textual silences” and effacement of slavery in Oriki poetry.
Bailey, Ann C. African Voices of the Atlantic Slave Trade: Beyond the Silence and the Shame. Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, 2007.
Examining a prevailing silence about the Atlantic Slave Trade for Africans, Bailey combines oral and written recorded sources, both historical and literary, to focus on trade memories from the African perspective—a move she claims infrequently occurs without an Americentric or Eurocentric approach. She interviews Ghanaian chiefs and other elders from “the Old Slave Coast” who share various oral histories revealing (or not revealing) the trauma, silence, and shame stemming from Africans as both traders and “of the trade.” She analyzes oral texts of single performance, historical interviews, and other dialogic structures. While Bailey does not cite Adéèkó’s book, Bailey’s study serves as an important extension of this kind of scholarship.
Gaylin, Ann. Eavesdropping in the Novel from Austen to Proust. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
After an introductory “we all do it” analysis existing ever since the novel’s inception, Gaylin focuses on how this practice operates as a plot device and theme in the realist novels of Austen, Dickens, Collins, Balzac, Conrad, and Proust. She describes eavesdropping as a universal practice at the threshold between public and private consciousness. Examining the nuances of eavesdropping—whether behind a door or shrubbery—the acquisition of knowledge, though potentially partial and limited, implicates the listener in the speaker’s concerns. Likewise, the reader engages in the act of eavesdropping as he or she overhears what details the narrator chooses to disclose.
Macovski, Michael. Dialogue and Literature: Apostrophe, Auditors, and the Collapse of Romantic Discourse. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994.
Influenced by Bakhtin, Macovski constructs a theoretical model of literary dialogue as a network of interactive voices contained within the text and beyond to other works, authors, temporalities, and interpretations. In discourse, a literary speaker engages his or her fellow characters in addition to his or her own past, present, and future that creates a communal construction and exchange of meaning. Macovski redefines Romantic discourse as both extratextual and agonistic, re-evaluating such Romantic topics as the history of the “autotelic self,” the proliferation of lyric orality, and a more general nineteenth-century critique of rhetoric. With this critical framework, he examines poetry by Wordsworth and Coleridge as well as Frankenstein, Wuthering Heights, and Heart of Darkness.
McLane, Maureen. Balladeering, Minstrelsy, and the Making of British Romantic Poetry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.
McLane argues that British Romantic poetry, 1760–1830, offers us a window onto the “transhistorical condition of poetic ‘mediality’—the condition of existing in media, whether oral, manuscript, print, or digital.” She focuses on the relationship between the era’s poetry and the “production, circulation, and textuality of ballads,” claiming that Romantic-era poetry’s influences went beyond the literary. Examining the work of eighteenth-century balladeers and antiquarians, she celebrates the revival of the ballad, the figure of the minstrel, and the prevalence of a “minstrelsy complex” in Romanticism. In addition, she imagines a different method of engaging with Romantic poetics by analyzing borders of both “oral” and “literary” modes of poetic construction via an “ongoing negotiation between a history of linguistically-based traditions—whether “oral” or not—and an embrace of new media.”
Richardson, Alan. Literature, Education, and Romanticism: Reading as Social Practice 1780-1832. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
In this landmark text, Alan Richardson argues that between 1780 and 1832 changes in literacy, reading practices, and education in British schools helped shape literature, definitions of childhood, educational methods and institutions, children’s literature, and female education. Given these wide-reaching historical and social issues that comprise an era of cultural revolution, Richardson analyzes various Romantic texts from Blake, Wordsworth, Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, Austen, and Cobbett.
Trumpener, Katie. Bardic Nationalism: The Romantic Novel and the British Empire. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997.
Trumpener examines literary works written both in Britain and in the colonies by describing “the experience of empire in terms of the transcolonial consciousness and transperipheral circuits of influence.” In the Romantic Era, the shaping of the Irish, Scottish, and Welsh national consciousnesses arises quite markedly, in resistance to homogenized attempts of Anglicization, through the emergence of national narratives, tales, national characters like Ossian and other influences from Gaelic oral traditions.