Department

English

Date

Fall 2019

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (M.A.)

Type of Paper/Work

Essay

Advisors

Alexis Easley, Young-ok An, Dallas Liddle

Abstract

This essay demonstrates how digital humanities methodologies help scholars see Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s corpus in a more comprehensive, historically contextualized way through a study of his anonymously published ballad “Shamus O’Brien”(1850). Our understanding of Le Fanu’s poetic work is limited, so an analysis of the poem’s publication history can potentially add a great deal to our understanding of his career as well as broader conceptions of authorship and textuality in a transatlantic print culture. Using digital archives, I trace how British and American newspapers assigned authorship to “Shamus O’Brien” when writing about performances of the poem between 1850 and 1873. I then analyze reprintings of “Shamus O’Brien” to show how the poem was reprinted, appropriated, and transformed throughout Le Fanu’s lifetime thanks to Victorian printing practices that provided opportunity for revision with every printing. By examining the rich reprinting and performance history of Le Fanu’s ballad, I reveal how public performances and American reprinting practices affected the transatlantic popularity of the poem. Understanding the poem’s popularity with Victorian audiences unsettles the assumption that Le Fanu was first and foremost a Gothic novelist by offering a more comprehensive consideration of his work. While this publication history increases our understanding of Le Fanu’s oeuvre and contributions to Victorian print culture, it also paradoxically undermines traditional notions of unitary authorship in favor of a more collaborative model of transnational literary creation.

Keywords

English, Victorian, Gothic, poem, Le Fanu

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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