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Poetry and the Making of the English Literary Past1660-1781$
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Richard Terry

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780198186236

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198186236.001.0001

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Authorial Dictionaries and the Cult of Fame

Authorial Dictionaries and the Cult of Fame

Chapter:
(p.63) 3 Authorial Dictionaries and the Cult of Fame
Source:
Poetry and the Making of the English Literary Past
Author(s):

Richard Terry (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198186236.003.0004

In 1616, there occurs a notable event in the history of English publishing: the appearance of the monumental folio edition of The Workes of Benjamin Jonson. Its purpose was not to announce the arrival of a new poet, but instead to proclaim the accession of an older poet to the status of a vernacular classic. Jonson's Works represent a key realisation of the idea that all literary creation is, almost inevitably, a project for fame. And from this idea is generated a complementary one with which the current chapter is expressly concerned: namely, that the very purpose of a discourse of literary tradition is to minister to, to salve and to satisfy, the innate authorial desire for ‘fame’. This chapter looks at the works whereby fame provides the principal aegis under which the preservation of the literary past takes place, focusing on biographical dictionaries and their relation to an unfolding articulation of an English literary heritage.

Keywords:   Benjamin Jonson, poetry, English literature, literary past, fame, dictionaries, biographies

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