This book is a history and theory of British poetry between 1760 and 1830, focussing on the relationship between Romantic poetry and the production, circulation and textuality of ballads. By discussing the ways in which eighteenth-century cultural and literary researches flowed into and shaped key canonical works, Maureen McLane argues that romantic poetry's influences went far beyond the merely literary. Breathing life into the work of eighteenth-century balladeers and antiquarians, she addresses the revival of the ballad, the figure of the minstrel, and the prevalence of a 'minstrelsy complex' in romanticism. Furthermore, she envisages a new way of engaging with romantic poetics, encompassing both 'oral' and 'literary' modes of poetic construction, and anticipates the role that technology might play in a media-driven twenty-first century. The study will be of great interest to scholars and students of Romantic poetry, literature and culture.
Introduction; 1. Dating orality, thinking balladry: of minstrels and milkmaids in 1771; 2. How to do things with ballads: fieldwork and the archive in late-eighteenth-century Britain; 3. Tuning the multi-media nation: minstrelsy of the Afro-Scottish border; 4. How to do things with minstrels: poetry and historicity; 5. Minstrelsy, or, Romantic poetry; 6. Seven types of poetic authority circa 1800; 7. British Romantic mediality and beyond: reflections on the fate of 'orality'; Conclusion. Thirteen (or more) ways of looking at a black bird: or, poiesis unbound.
"From beginning to end, Balladeering, Minstrelsy, and the Making of British Romantic Poetry offers pithy, witty, and productively thought-provoking formulations, along with novel perspectives and unexpected conjunctions of material."
- Angela Esterhammer, The Review of English Studies
"Meeting a book to think with is not an everyday occurrence: Maureen N. McLane's Balladeering, Minstrelsy, and the Making of British Romantic Poetry is definitely one. I recommend it to folklorists who find disciplinary history intriguing or who have ever been smitten with the ballad or pondered the oral/written literary divide."
-Mary Ellen Brown, Journal of Folklore Research
"[A] major book on poetry is Maureen N. McLane's Balladeering, Minstrelsy, and the Making of British Romantic Poetry. A deeply theoretical book, it is still accessible and even lighthearted. . . . [T]his book . . . has transformed the field and should be required reading....
Aware that poets, antiquarians, ethnographers, linguists, folklorists, and more consider ballads their property, she draws upon all and does an admirable job of sorting among them. Her mastery of her subject and method surface time after time, as when she repeatedly shows how editors produce ballads and yet demonstrates that with ballads "the radical authority of deep, extended, 'authentic' subjectivity" and "the elaborated authority of editorial objectivity" must always be considered together....
She brings to life literary rivalries, such as that between Scott and Hogg, and just to be sure this book cannot be mistaken for an old-fashioned ballad study, she gives in-depth treatment to Mungo Park's "Negro Song," styled an Afro-Scottish border ballad, and to "Cherokee Death Song." The paths she traces with them are too good to spoil by telling you; read the book."
-Paula R. Backscheider, Recent Studies In The Restoration And Eighteenth Century:SEL
"McLane has not only reimagined the study of both ballads and romanticism but has also set a high standard for balancing theoretical sophistication with writerly lucidity."
18th Century Scotland, Jeff Strabone, University of South Florida