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In the first half of the nineteenth century, technological developments in printing led to the industrialization of English publishing, made books and periodicals affordable to many new readers, and changed the market for literature. In The Economy of Literature Lee Erickson analyzes the effect on literary form as authors and publishers responded to the new demands of a rapidly expanding literary marketplace.
These developments, Erickson argues, offer a new understanding of the differences between Romantic and Victorian literature. As publishing became more profitable, authors became able to devote themselves more professionally to their writing. The changing market for literature also affected the relative cultural status of literary forms. As poetry became less profitable, it became hard to publish. As periodicals grew in popularity, essays became the center of reviews, and their authors the arbiters of culture. The novel, which had long sold chiefly to circulating libraries, found an outlet in magazine serialization -- and novelists discovered a new popular audience.
With chapters on William Wordsworth, Thomas Carlyle, and Jane Austen, as well as on specific literary genres, The Economy of Literary Form provides a significant new synthesis of recent publishing history which helps to explain the differences and continuities between Romantic and Victorian literature. It will be of interest not only to literary critics and historians but also to bibliographic historians, cultural or economic historians, and all who have an interest in the commercialization of English publishing in the nineteenth century.