What did Wordsworth wear, and where did he walk? Who was Byron’s new mistress, and how did his marriage fare? Answers—sometimes accurate, sometimes not—were tantalizingly at the ready in the Romantic era, when confessional poetry, romans à clef, personal essays, and gossip columns offered readers exceptional access to well-known authors. But at what point did familiarity become overfamiliarity? Widely recognized as a social virtue, familiarity—a feeling of emotional closeness or comforting predictability—could also be dangerous, vulgar, or boring. In The Limits of Familiarity, Eckert persuasively argues that such concerns shaped literary production in the Romantic period. Bringing together reception studies, celebrity studies, and literary history to reveal how anxieties about familiarity shaped both Romanticism and conceptions of authorship, this book encourages us to reflect in our own fraught historical moment on the distinction between telling all and telling all too much.
About the Author
LINDSEY ECKERT is an assistant professor of English at Florida State University in Tallahassee, where her research and teaching focus on Romanticism and the history of text technologies.
"In this fascinating book, ‘familiarity’ emerges as a crucial term for understanding Romantic-period culture. Eckert shows how authors walked a tightrope between cultivating familiarity with their readers and being overfamiliar towards them. Archival research, astute historical interpretation, and insightful criticism combine to reveal a history that resonates in the present." — Tom Mole
"With a wonderful eye for detail, Eckert opens rewarding angles of view on the often-contentious back-and-forth between authors and their publics that shaped Romantic-era literary culture. This remarkably lucid study contributes valuable new understanding both of writers’ careers and of the activity of readers across multiple spheres of reception." — Eric Eisner
"In her lucid examination of relationships between authors and readers, and especially writers’ attempts to negotiate the boundaries between personal closeness and public exposure, Eckert establishes familiarity’s centrality—as both promise and problem—to Romantic authorship." — Andrew Franta