By Leon Jackson

ISBN-10: 0804757054

ISBN-13: 9780804757058

Usually, students of authorship in antebellum the USA have approached their topic throughout the lens of professionalization, exploring the ways that writing moved clear of amateurism and into the capitalist industry. The company of Letters breaks new floor through demanding the dominant professionalization version, with its imaginative and prescient of a unmarried literary industry. Leon Jackson indicates how antebellum authors participated in a number of diversified economies together with patronage, charity, reward trade, and competition—each of which had its personal ideas and reciprocities, its personal ethics and alternate rituals, and infrequently even its personal currencies. reading a number of canonical and non-canonical authors, together with ladies, slaves, and artisans, and drawing on theoretical ways from anthropology, sociology, social background, and literary feedback, Jackson finds authors to were social brokers whose acts of authorial alternate concerned them in dense webs of neighborhood. The decisive transformation of the antebellum interval, he concludes, was once no longer from amateurism to professionalism, yet, particularly, from socially embedded alternate to impersonally performed enterprise.

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Extra resources for The Business of Letters: Authorial Economies in Antebellum America

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72 From the Profession of Authorship to the Business of Letters 33 The idea that commodities other than money functioned within discrete economies in the same way that money did within the world of commerce was, in fact, not lost on literary practitioners in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, many of whom were members of the business community as well as the community of letters, and who perceived the often-striking parallels between their avocational and vocational pursuits. Indeed, the metaphors used in the critical discourse of the early republic sometimes anticipate Bourdieu’s concept of diverse capitals in an eerily prescient fashion.

34 As late as the early 1850s, in fact, Nathaniel P. ”35 That one would need to be discouraged from seeking a professional living through amateur authorship simply underscores the idea that these words signified quite differently in the antebellum period than they do now. By the 1840s, it is true, some critics had started to make a distinction between professional and amateur authors. 36 Yet even the announcement of such a conceptual distinction represented a minority perspective within the occupational taxonomies of the decade, as Willis’s letter to his sister made clear, and the comprehensive polemic in which this writer engaged in denouncing the masses of amateur authors suggests that many refused to participate in this new occupational zero sum game.

My reasons for veering into this ostensibly arcane debate are twofold. In the first place, it allows me to summarize my arguments to this point while placing them in a larger and far more suggestive frame of reference. Second, and more importantly, it adds to them a developmental, historicist edge and offers a theoretical vantage from which to create a new narrative about authorial economies to replace the old story of professionalization I have discussed above. With these two thoughts in mind, then, let us turn to the debate itself.

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The Business of Letters: Authorial Economies in Antebellum America by Leon Jackson


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