During last year’s battle for tenure at my university, I was awarded a sabbatical pending my tenure decision. After winning tenure in nothing less than a street fight, I get to take that proposed sabbatical if California funding doesn’t completely shut our university’s doors. Below is my sabbatical application. There are no real criteria for writing these up; and the application goes through College, Dean, University, and President decisions before an award is made. There seems to be some criteria for judging worthiness and an understanding that newly tenured faculty really get placed first — that didn’t happen this year. A full professor who’s been on one or two sabbaticals was ranked high enough in the university to receive his with surety. The other two of us were ranked just above the cut off (me) and way, way beyond the cut off (the other person). All 3 applications were stellar, but this is shared governance. Success depends on the egos in the room sometimes.
In my original sabbatical proposal, I focused on my traditional print monograph, a literary history of the annuals. In August, I submitted that full manuscript to Wayne Storey, editor of the Textual Cultures series at Indiana UP. By January, it should be back from the readers and ready for revision, which I anticipate will take up that sabbatical time along with 3 other proposed articles that follow on the thread of the book. But, let’s see. Another book just came out that covers the literary history of annuals 1835-1900. Luckily, or fortuitously, my scholarship on the annuals goes up through 1835 (!) only. They make a nice pairing, our work.
In any event, here’s what I proposed to work on during the Spring semester:
Sabbatical Leave Proposal: Katherine D. Harris
I propose to complete, and submit to a university press, a book-length study about nineteenth-century British literary annuals, a much-maligned but vitally important form that defined beauty, femininity and the “poetess” for massive reading audiences 1823-1860: “The Poetess and the Literary Annual in Nineteenth-Century British Print Culture.”
Description of Project & Preparatory Work
Despite critical claims that the 1820s in England were a dormant and unproductive decade in literary production, the landscape was fairly bursting with the “poetess” and her primary publishing venue, the literary annual. Two myths pervade the study of this immensely important and influential body of writing. One is that canonical writers shunned this work, refusing to publish in well-paying annuals and choosing instead to create great, high art; the other is that poetess poetry is “bad” writing. Working in a vital transatlantic poetic tradition, the poetess wrote according to conventions collectively forming a “bourgeois” and “feminine” aesthetic. This poetry has been rejected by the literary establishment until recently precisely because of its main strength: its intense popularity. Only the literary annual, a yearly publication form that was wildly popular 1820-1860 in both England and America, carried so many poetess writings. Consequently, critical reception of the annuals has suffered the same fate as the poetess aesthetic: continuously qualified as the “cakes of literature” but wildly popular with British and American Romantic-era audiences.
No comprehensive literary history of the annuals and their publishers, editors and authors exists due in part to a significant lack of accessible archival materials, especially of the most popular literary annual titles: Forget Me Not (1822-1847), Friendship’s Offering (1824-1844), The Literary Souvenir (1825-1835) and The Keepsake (1828-1861). With research already completed at the Pforzheimer Collection NYPL, based on my personal collection of annuals of all of the above annual volumes and in consultation with Miami University of Ohio and University of South Carolina’s collections of annuals, my book project links this literary form with its poetess tradition. Already-completed archival research into the publishers’ and editors’ correspondence has revealed a nineteenth-century consumer sponsorship of popular poetry that has not been previously discussed in scholarly work. As a member of the competitively-selected National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar on Romanticism in June 2010, I worked with Professor Stephen Behrendt, a senior colleague in British Romanticism, to clarify this project’s purpose and create a reasonable completion strategy as outlined below.
Applicant’s Ability to Complete Project
As is evidenced on my curriculum vitae, I have presented portions of most chapters at national and international conferences, including most recently at the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism International Conference and the upcoming Modern Language Association Annual Convention – both organizations representing the top in literary and Romantic-era studies. SJSU and scholarly organizations have awarded grants for the drafting of particular chapters and travel to London archives in association with this project. Versions of two chapters have been published as articles, and a version of another chapter will be published as the introduction to a scholarly edition of gothic short stories from the annuals. My biography of a prominent literary annual publisher is forthcoming with Blackwell Encyclopedia of Romanticism. Indiana University Press editor Wayne Storey has requested the full manuscript for review once it is complete [and now has it]. The sixty images of engravings, bindings, covers and handwritten annotations have been acquired and digitized for final publication. In turn, this literary history will contribute to further scholarly use of my existing digital archive, a scholarly edition of the text from literary annuals – a project that has also been funded by grants from SJSU. This is all to say that I have completed interim goals for this project and demonstrated my ability to complete other larger digital projects.
Benefits to the Profession & the University
Armed with basic information regarding the construction and evolution of the literary annual, this book will interest readers studying women authors, women readers, canonical authors, ekphrasis, art history, literary movements, economic and sociological shifts, and editorial and publishing innovations. The project will also encourage further research into the literary annuals and the poetess, most predominantly by using the digital archive that I have created as well as the Poetess Archive Database, which is an international peer-reviewed, freely available digital project working to provide full text of all nineteenth-century poetess writings in connection with several other prominent digital archives such as Brown Women Writers Project. As a member of the editorial board for the Poetess Archive Database and the sole editor of the Forget Me Not Hypertextual Archive, my work on this book project will point scholars towards the digital work, which will in turn attract interest from an international audience ready to associate my comprehensive literary history with SJSU’s efforts to forward the open-access scholarship movement.
Students at SJSU will benefit from my continued research into publishing trends across the nineteenth century, research that will be incorporated into English Department courses that I teach regularly: Gothic Novel & Horror Fiction, British Survey 1800-Present, Romantic-Era Survey, Writing for English Majors, Graduate- level Romanticism, and Nineteenth-Century British Novel. In addition, colleagues often invite me to guest lecture in their undergraduate and graduate courses on this era of publishing history and poetic resonance.
January – February, 2011: Travel to various archives to complete the following tasks:
(1) Compare the first-established anthology (“anthologia”), published in 1750 and held at the University of Miami Ohio, to Robert Southey’s early version of a poetry anthology.
(2) Continue reading through the correspondence, ledgers and journals of London-area publishers, printers and binders to discern the trade practices of the early nineteenth-century literary annuals publishing industry and the commercialization of the poetess. Most of these documents are not collected in a single volume and require onsite visits to the British Library (London, England), University of Edinburgh Publisher’s Archives (Scotland), Rothschild’s Archive (London, England), Bryn Mawr Special Collections (Pennsylvania), Victoria and Albert Museum (London, England) and the Bodleian Library (Oxford, England);
(3) Compare the 25 volumes of The Forget Me Not annual in my collection with editions held in the Pforzheimer Collection NYPL (New York City) and the University of South Carolina Special Collections (Columbia, South Carolina) to discover if textual variants will indicate a breakdown in the publishing process. These types of variations offer insight into the piracy that so often occurred when the printing plates of British annuals were sold to American publishers.
April-May 2011: Revising Existing Chapters: At the conclusion of this archival research, the following previously-drafted chapters will be revised and completed.
(1) Introduction: Since a history of literary annuals must include the bibliographical (physical description of the object), cultural (economic and social influences), and literary (poetry, prose and engravings) to understand the success of this popular form and the poetess tradition, a theoretical and historical introduction will provide context for both textual debates and nineteenth-century publishing history;
(2) Defining What a Literary Annual is Not: The next chapter, an early version of which has been published, will define the literary annual form (a task which has never been done) with explicit textual evidence from its first publisher, Rudolf Ackermann;
(3) First-Generation Annuals, 1823-1828: By tracing both physical and literary modifications in the Forget Me Not (the first annual) and its competitors, this chapter analyzes the production and commodification of the poetess as a representation of British ingenuity;
(4) Second-Generation Annuals, Beauty and Comedy, 1828-1845: With the development of the Literary Souvenir and other less popular annuals, Ackermann’s utilitarian vision disappears and is replaced by the cult of “beauty” annuals, an incredibly competitive market from 1828 through the 1840s. This chapter assesses the alterations imposed by Heath’s Keepsake as well as Thomas Hood’s parodic, and sometimes highly political, Comic Annual
(5) The Annual’s Engraving “Copyists”: This chapter discusses the engraving process, its importance to the success of annuals and its impact on the poets who created ekphrastic renderings to accompany the images. By comparing original paintings to the well-copied, but much denigrated engravings, this chapter explores the production of portable artwork in the annual’s popularity;
(6) Printers’, Booksellers’ and Publishers’ Profits: It is a common misconception that editors and publishers of annuals earned a large profit from these sales. Using circulation and sales figures, this chapter chronicles the profits, losses and book-selling adventures of various editors, publishers, and literary annual titles;
(7) Influencing Public Response with Reviews and “Puffery”: In this chapter, I reveal the varied and complicated relationships among reviewers and literary annuals with the reviewers often situating themselves as gatekeepers of literary morality.
May-August 2011: Drafting Chapters: After defining the literary annual’s form and establishing its publishing history, I will complete three chapters that focus on critical studies:
(1) Female Readers Consuming the Literary Annual: In this chapter, the literary history relies on the previous chapters to study the literary annual’s impact on its readers. Readers and consumers of the annuals privileged its feminine aspects – not those promoted by patriarchal annual producers, but those aspects of these texts best suited to female writers and readers
(2) Subversive Feminine Voice & Authorial Identity: This chapter examines the role of women as authors, editors and contributors to literary annuals and the subsequent re-definition of femininity in the early 1830s;
(3) Gothic in the Annuals: This chapter focuses on the “new gothic” that was established with Mary Shelley’s first edition Frankenstein and solidified with the 1831 version. By surveying short stories published in the most popular annuals 1823-1831, this chapter (an early version of which will be published with a scholarly edition) provides evidence that the Gothic tradition and women’s authorship evolves as a result of the annuals’ popularity.
September – October 2011: This time will be spent compiling the full manuscript for submission to Prof. Wayne Storey at Indiana University Press by November 2011.