The Connected Condition
Romanticism and the Dream of Communication
Yohei Igarashi

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INTRODUCTION

THE DREAM OF COMMUNICATION

The Age of Romanticism, on the verge of the electronic age.

Walter J. Ong, Orality and Literacy

The Connected Condition

How can Romantic poetry, motivated by the poet’s intense yearning to impart his thoughts and feelings, be so often obscure and the cause of readerly misunderstanding? Can a poet compose a verbal artwork, carefully and lovingly put together, and send it out into the world at the same time that he is adopting a stance against communication? And if a poet both does and does not want to “reach out and touch someone”—as the song in old AT&T television commercials went—how might that influence the language of her poem, and account for the form it takes . . . or its deformity? Perhaps we are accustomed to all this. Poetry gets a pass: it is exempt from the obligation to get something across, at least in the usual manner. Even so, is there not a flickering expectation every time we begin reading a new work that it might “speak” to us? And if it is the case that certain rules of communication are suspended for poetry, when and how did this kind of understanding of poetry come about? The Connected Condition addresses such paradoxes and questions, and others besides, by suggesting that major Romantic poets and hallmarks of Romantic poetic style respond to the advent of a modern culture of communication. There are other ways to take on the questions above—other ways to look at any single one of them or at the whole set as a general problem—and the approach this book takes is just one. But it has come to seem to me that it is one worth sharing, and one that might resonate, especially nowadays.

For much of this book derives from a certain feeling, or in Keats’s phrase, “the feel of”: the feel of being a slow reader and writer on Romantic poetry while inhabiting a time when most other forms of communication are designed to be faster than ever.1 Connectedness is a given. But just as constant as “always on” connection is the feeling that constant connection should maybe not be a given—and that the connected condition is also maybe the connected syndrome. One senses that the idea of communication itself is synonymous with conveying information, and conveying it as quickly as possible to as many people as possible. Scholars of media studies consider the workings and effects of the viral, “spreadable” content that reaches us through the digital networks that mediate and pervade our lives.2 But this view of communication—the “spreading” of “content” of whatever sort in the most efficient, effective manner—has an even more fundamental hold on our everyday lives, so thoroughly commonsensical as to be nearly invisible, and therefore all the more powerful. I conform to it in writing these sentences: I am trying to get something across clearly (and I have just mentioned “sharing” and hoping that my claims will “resonate”) and without detaining you unduly—without being like Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner. You too conform to it, in large measure, every time you talk and write. But communication seems to, and can, involve so much more: it is endlessly complex, diversely and unpredictably instantiated, often frustrated and frustrating, and yet successful enough, enough of the time. One can communicate an ambivalent wanting and not wanting to communicate effectively, and poetry can be very good at that. There is the feel of a gross reduction when communication is imagined only as the transfer of information, the shorter and swifter the better.

Romantic poets felt this condition too. But they felt an early version of it: I mean that they early on or presciently felt something emerging, but also that what they were registering—though it will evolve into our world of communication—was very different too. Thomas De Quincey’s essay “The English Mail-Coach, or the Glory of Motion” (1849) is a good case in point. De Quincey looks back at the establishment of a national mail coach system in Great Britain in 1784, of delivering mail by this infrastructure rather than by couriers on foot or individual horseback riders. And although he is writing during the time of railways, it seemed to him that the advent of the mail coach during the time we call Romanticism was when a new world was first coming into being. News and correspondence were “running day and night” and at a “velocity, at that time unprecedented.”3 With the “rapid transmission of intelligence” coordinated by the mail coach system—an echo of the “rapid communication of intelligence” that Wordsworth refers to more fretfully in his “Preface” to Lyrical Ballads (1800)—information could now flow across “all nations and languages.”4 The system is so innovative in its organization and efficiency that De Quincey almost cannot describe it other than by recourse to a series of metaphors likening the infrastructure to an orchestra, a nervous system, and a circulatory system. The constant, wide flow of information between capitals and provinces is like the “flowing and ebbing of the sea.”5 De Quincey’s world sounds like a preview of our own interconnected planet. Still, it is only a preview: he marvels that the quickest mail coach, charging ahead on recently improved roads, could cover in “fifty minutes . . . eleven miles”—so, about thirteen miles per hour.6 Historians guess a slightly slower rate, estimating that mail coaches, and thus the information carried by them, traveled at around six miles per hour in the 1780s, going up to ten miles per hour by around 1830.7 In any case, what the Romantic poets sensed as under way has striking similarities to our own connected condition and equally striking differences. One of the aims of this book is to maintain a balance between historical resonances with explanatory value and historical remoteness, between sympathetic identification across the span of time and the strange specificity of the past.

The Romantic connected condition has the feel of familiarity and unfamiliarity at once. There was the practice of swiftly taking handwritten notes in shorthand, the period’s imperfect but primary technology for recording spoken language in real time. Stenography was the era’s audio recording equipment, its speech recognition software for converting talk into text. The Romantic poets saw the rise of sophisticated systems for collecting and processing information. In the age of Wordsworth, the streamlined, large-scale management of data (or, as data were then described, “particulars”) relied on standardized blank paper forms, that much abused documentary subgenre of bureaucracy, itself too unthinkingly abused by both sides. This is before Big Data (prior to) and also Before Big Data (a precursor to)—alternatively, Big Particulars, a term that better draws out the element of oxymoron, and the thorny problems introduced when aggregating, scaling up. The Romantic poets knew well the early expectations surrounding quick telegraphic communication across previously unthinkable distances, and they pondered the ramifications: what is the fate of dense literary language, and the slow reading that usually goes with it, in an era of instantaneous communication? They also felt, before us, a familiar facet of networked life: being extremely and always connected and yet somehow alone. And as this problem became a foundational problem for the emerging discourse of sociology, they reacted to these debates with their own poetic insights.

This book suggests that Romantic poets responded to their connected condition by engaging the dream of communication. The dream of communication is the powerful fantasy that has driven the modern communications order, as well as its norms, practices, and infrastructures. The fantasy is of a transfer of thoughts, feelings, and information between individuals made as efficient as possible, and of perfectible media that could facilitate the quickest and clearest communication. This desire leads to certain norms of communication (for example, “perspicuity” of writing); but these norms, being also ideals, have a way of going unmet, further intensifying the wish for perfectible communication and the perceived necessity of the norm—and so on.8 Norms of communication serve as the basis for communications practices, media, and infrastructures, which take the form they do in significant part because of the ideals they presuppose and the tenacious wish at their root; in turn, communications practices, media, and infrastructures continually reinforce and reproduce certain norms and the underlying desire. In the context of this book’s primary concerns and texts, I am imagining something along the lines of the accompanying diagram (allowing for further refinement), going from the ground up.

The Dream of Communication

Practices, media, and infrastructures of communication

(e.g., shorthand practices, bureaucracy, telegraphy)

Norms and standards of communication

(e.g., “perspicuity,” “precision”; shorthand characters; standardized questions on paper forms)

The fantasy of perfectible contact

(the desire for it and its frustration)

The dream of communication was an area of particular expertise and concern for Romantic poets: after all, these poets were first and foremost literary writers and members of “the dreamer tribe,” not technologists, even though many of them gave considerable thought to non-literary technologies like shorthand scripts, optical and perhaps electric telegraphy, and administrative forms, and knew more about them than one might at first expect from their literary writings.9 The chapters that follow do not link poets directly to technical media but to broader social fantasies and anxieties about communication—that is, my analyses relate writers to technologies only through the mediation of the dream of communication—because their poetry met medial and communicative issues most intensely and intricately at the registers of desires about communication and the norms that gave social expression to them.10 The poets featured in this book—Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, Percy Shelley, and John Keats—share a great attraction and skepticism toward the wish for mediated forms of communication made more effective so as to feel like unmediated contact. Imagining their own artistic medium of poetic language in relation to this dream, these writers internalized fantasies and norms about speedy, transparent communication even as they tried out contrarian literary strategies: darkening the poetic medium, prolonging literary reading, being cryptic, and ironizing information-centric views of communication. The Romantic writers bent to social desiderata about communication as much as, and at the same time that, they tried to bend them.

The communications practices taken up in this book are not registered exclusively by poetic genres. It is well known, for example, that Charles Dickens was trained and interested in shorthand (a technology taken up in Chapter 1), a topic that appears in his novels.11 And writing in the personal essay genre, Charles Lamb recounts his fiscal-bureaucratic work (the kind of work examined in Chapter 2), whether it is his feeling that he “had grown to [his] desk . . . and the wood had entered into [his] soul” or his anxiety dreams about “imaginary false entries, errors in my accounts.”12 Yet The Connected Condition chooses to focus on poets and poetry for several reasons. I have already brought up one reason above: poetry, and particularly Romantic poetry, is an especially good place to study the contradictory wish both to communicate and not to communicate—to adhere to then recently installed norms like clarity and brevity in communication, and yet to be obscure, perplexing, and overlong.13 Furthermore, as Celeste Langan and Maureen N. McLane suggest in their pioneering essay “The Medium of Romantic poetry,” poets of the period composed their works with a heightened awareness of poetry as a communicative medium, along with attendant “phantasies of media transparency and immediacy.”14 Consider this anecdote about Wordsworth’s reaction upon learning of Coleridge’s death, in 1834:

Wordsworth, as a poet, regretted that German metaphysics had so much captivated the taste of Coleridge, for he was frequently not intelligible on the subject; whereas, if his energy and his originality had been more exerted in the channel of poetry, an instrument of which he had so perfect a mastery, Wordsworth thought he might have done more permanently to enrich the literature, and to influence the thought of the nation, than any man of the age.15 (Emphasis mine)

This is the kind of “self-consciousness about the problem of poetry’s medium and the status of its mediation” noticed by Langan and McLane, a self-consciousness appearing here under the signature of “channel”—a “Romantic Poetry Channel,” as it were, through which the poets tried to communicate, and of which some of them gained “mastery.” At the conclusion of “The Medium of Romantic Poetry,” Langan and McLane ask what lies on the other side of such fantasies of immediacy, and this book offers one answer: the poets’ desire to controvert while adhering to the immediacy and transparency fantasies driving communication and information systems of their time, including poetry itself. A final reason for this book’s decision to focus on poetry is that there exist good studies of the novel in the context of information technologies. These studies tend to examine the novel for the very reason that novelistic prose, unlike poetry, is closer to referential, informational language. Richard Menke explains this rationale well: “in contrast to the era’s poetry, fiction minimizes the formal markers that might separate it from a larger world of everyday printed information,” thus inviting an examination of how novelistic prose compares to other, kindred information systems.16 In contrast to such work, and hoping to offer a complementary account, this book seeks precisely to relate the intensified literary qualities for which Romantic poetry is known—from Coleridgean symbols to Shelleyan difficulty—to the seemingly quite different communicative ideals of contemporaneous information practices. Then it becomes possible to reimagine Romantic poeticity as shaped not only by, say, the stylistic tendencies of earlier literary historical periods or by other kinds of contemporaneous pressures, but also by the modern world of communication—a world we have inherited from them.

To view Romanticism in this way is to propose a series of different timelines and thence to see both Romanticism and the history of communication in a new light. It means locating the origins of modern communication fantasies before the emergence of electronic media technologies in the later nineteenth century. In Speaking into the Air: A History of the Idea of Communication, John Durham Peters argues that although our communication problems may be a timeless aspect of the human condition, there is, with communication as with many other ideas, “something historical and contingent about . . . something transhistorical and given.”17 For Peters, our yearnings for contact, particularly co-present contact, were given their now familiar articulations in large part by the mediated interactions offered by modern electrical technologies like the electrical telegraph, telephone, and radio: “interpersonal relations gradually became redescribed in the technical terms of transmission at a distance” associated with later nineteenth-century technical media.18 We might still say, “It was all perfectly friendly, but there just wasn’t a connection.” Yet before these Victorian inventions, and beginning in the later seventeenth century, the dream of communication centered on language as a medium, and then increasingly also on the medium that would give inventions like the telegraph and phonograph their “-graph” s and their logics: writing.19 During the eighteenth century, according to Clifford Siskin, the long-standing technology of writing gained renewed conspicuousness as a technology because of an increased volume of printed matter and writing’s function in the modern specialization of work.20 In the context of the history of communication, writing in this epoch was also the epicenter of the dream of communication in the way that later media—say, the telephone or social media—would also come to be. Inscription was the multi-medial hub where speech, handwriting, and print, but also language, poetic language, and the like all interacted, where hopes and anxieties about communication were directed, and where these longings were worked through and sometimes implemented as societal norms.

Walter J. Ong’s understanding of “the Age of Romanticism” as “on the verge of the electronic age” is therefore worth underscoring.21 His deliberately anachronistic definition, describing one epoch by way of the one typically thought to succeed it, reveals something important about how the “Age of Romanticism” is not quite, and yet on many counts anticipates, the “electronic age.” Significant pre-electric expressions of the dream of communication suffused the British social and literary imagination beginning in the mid- and later eighteenth century: the New Rhetoric’s codification and teaching of stylistic standards like clarity, brevity, precision, and “purity” in written communications; the promise of pre-electric telegraphy, of instantaneous contact at a distance; the pursuit of a transcription method that could keep up with speech and thereby save the human voice for transmission through time and space; the proliferation of utilitarian written subgenres, like the printed blank form, aimed at the efficient recording, processing, and communication of information; and the possibility of connection via the poetic medium in increasingly differentiated, anomic societies. The Connected Condition suggests that within the domain of writing practices and text technologies, poets were especially sensitive to the dream of communication. This was also their turf, their business. They kept returning to the problem of how, in Wordsworth’s words, feelings and pleasure might or might not be “forcibly communicated” through poetry, how thoughts and feelings might or might not be expressed to that unknowable “being to whom we address ourselves.”22 It is very true that we oftentimes speak about personal relations in terms of later nineteenth-century technologies. But it is also true that, in Andrew Piper’s words, Romantic-era communications “offer insights into where and when some of the most salient issues surrounding communication today emerged.”23 Notions like “TL;DR”—contemporary internet speak, probably already passé, both for the complaint “too long; didn’t read” and for its cure in the form of the briefest summary—and “instant messages” and “direct messages” are arguably outgrowths of Romantic-era communication premises, promises, and practices.

The Romantics also lived in—perhaps better to say, lived with and lived through—an information society or an information state.24 According to James R. Beniger’s influential account, the “Information Society”—our information society—came about in the middle of the nineteenth century in response to the need created by the industrial revolution for rationalized feedback systems. “Means of bureaucratic organization, the new infrastructures of transportation and telecommunications, and system-wide communication via the new mass media” amounted to the “control revolution” that ushered in the information age.25 Yet one of the more unexpected things I found in writing this book was the degree to which bureaucratic organization, systems for amassing and processing information, and infrastructural connectedness—in short, something approaching, but not entirely, an information society—were being put into place, and were in fact quite developed, in the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Whenever Romantic literature comes up—in scholarship, course descriptions, anthologies, the odd conversation—the same few revolutions are always invoked (for example, the French Revolution, Burke’s “revolution in sentiments, manners, and moral opinions,” a revolution in poetic language), but one almost never hears mention of the control revolution.26 This should not be the case. We have previously seen De Quincey portraying something like a modern information network. Wordsworth too witnessed the establishment of “easier links connecting place with place” (like Beniger’s “new infrastructures of transportation”), the workings of the British fiscal-bureaucratic system from his position within the government Stamp Office, and the “systematizations” occurring across all sectors of society.27

Closely related to the above, the Romantic movement is also the first efficiency movement. I mean partly that Romantic-era developments seem to presage the better known “efficiency movement” or “efficiency craze” that ensued from Frederick Winslow Taylor’s The Principles of Scientific Management (1911) and its revolutionizing of labor in the twentieth century. Toward a science by which enterprises could achieve a “state of maximum efficiency,” Taylor conducted meticulous studies of, for example, the labor of pig iron handlers and managers at the Bethlehem Steel Company in the 1890s.28 Yet there are precedents around the time of Romanticism: Josiah Wedgwood’s “clocking-in system” and other rationalizing methods of factory and time discipline in his potteries (this being the Wedgwood dynasty that would go on to patronize Coleridge), the Bentham brothers’ utilitarian schemes for streamlined organizations, and arguably even Wordsworth’s description in his “Preface” of the “uniformity of . . . occupations” of factory laborers.29 But beyond these Romantic-era forebodings of scientific management, I mean that “the first efficiency movement” is also a very good way to understand the norms and practices entailed by the dream of communication: first, efficiency (as in, our first priority is efficiency). A calculation close to Jeremy Bentham’s motto for efficient administration, “official aptitude maximized, expense minimized”—that is, something close to the formula of big output and frugal input—came stubbornly to shape communications practices too.30 Manifestations of this spirit in the realm of communication have impacted the forms, genres, and media of contact ever since, including those of poetry. The formula of efficient communication tacitly works on the narrator of Wordsworth’s “Michael,” who is anxious about being long-winded, about engaging in “a waste of words.” But we recall too that the narrator of “Michael” heedlessly goes on with his digression, describing “minutely” the significance of the lamp in Michael’s cottage.31 As Wordsworth and his poetic peers accommodated the rule of efficiency in communication, they also knew better than most that the efficiency obsession inevitably breeds—is inextricable from—inefficiency, repetition and tautology, and information overload.32

From the perspective of “artifactual” histories of communications media and technologies, the Romantic period can be construed as a relatively tame time.33 There is no arrival of the printing press or the phonograph or television or the Internet. The approach taken by scholars interested in such matters has been to study decidedly literary media (literary books, ballads), and/or to foreground the proliferation of older media (writing, print, books), and/or to focus on the dynamic between literary writers and the radically expanded and more complex audiences with which the Romantics famously had conflicted relations.34 Together these approaches have generated a large body of excellent scholarship, without which this book would not have an understanding of the Romantic media ecology to take as a point of departure. For the last couple of decades, one useful way of organizing such concerns—literary media, proliferations, and the problem of Romantic-era audiences—has been the concept of “print culture.” But recently, there has been a welcome effort to rethink the print culture paradigm. Such efforts remind us, for example, of the persistence of manuscript culture, or that print had been around for a very long time before the later eighteenth century, or that the concepts of print and print culture are vaguer than our routine reliance on them as analytics allows us to pause and consider.35

The Connected Condition is informed by these recent responses to print culture (for example, in the treatment of handwriting in discussions of shorthand and blank forms), and it pivots from the print culture paradigm—and from studies that place at their center proliferations or Romantic audiences—for more fundamental reasons. For one thing, this book takes much inspiration from scholarship on the history of communication and from media studies, where shorthand, standardized blank forms, “alone togetherness,” and telegraphy are more significant objects of study than the literary media on which Romantic literary scholars tend to concentrate. If we begin to examine further how Romantic writing was shaped not only by the media of its own production and circulation but also by the logics of the broader scriptural economy and infrastructures of connection, then that would be all for the good.36 A useful analogy might be made with contemporary works of fiction: Elif Batuman’s The Idiot (2017), to name a recent, favorite work of mine, ruminates on the tempos and tensions associated with early university email systems and the correspondence carried out through them. The novel is not at all concerned with printed paperback books like The Idiot itself. In the same way, the Romantics dealt with text technologies as well as communications practices and infrastructures other than those captured by print culture. Second, and along the same lines, this book depends on changes in magnitude other than the proliferation of print: for example, the dramatic development of British fiscal bureaucracy and its paper- and parchment-work, or different degrees and kinds of societal connectedness (what Émile Durkheim calls “material density” and “moral density”).37 Finally, there is certainly a version of the dream of communication at work in Romantic writers’ vexed relationships with the reading public, whether those of their own time or imaginary, future publics. In the context of this book, however, the term dream of communication indicates quite precisely a different, and far less studied, set of fantasies: larger social desiderata about efficient communication that define the Romantic connected condition and which, for better or for worse, persevere into our own time.

Thus from the perspective taken by this book—which sees the period from the complex of fantasies, standards, and practices that can be grasped as the dream of communication—very different things come into view and present themselves for study: a Romanticism “on the verge of the electronic age,” contemporary with the emergence of an information society, and embodying the first efficiency movement. With this switch in perspective, Romanticism need not be a quiet moment in the history of media and communication; nor is our only recourse, given these circumstances, the study of literary media, proliferations of old media, or new kinds of audiences, each guided by the concept of print culture. Rather, a considerable epistemic stretch of the modern history of communication is premised on what can be grasped as a fundamentally Romantic-poetic dream—that, in Keats’s words, “pouring forth thy soul abroad” is maybe desirable and might be possible.

Notes

1. I am referring to Keats’s poem “Stanzas” (“In drear-nighted December”), in Keats’s Poetry and Prose, line 21.

2. See Jenkins, Ford, and Green, Spreadable Media.

3. De Quincey, “The English Mail-Coach,” 190, 183. De Quincey’s preference for the mail coach, even though trains “boast of more velocity” (193), is itself a recognizable topos from technological change, an affective attachment to the older technology.

4. De Quincey, “The English Mail-Coach,” 202, 190; Wordsworth, “Preface” to Lyrical Ballads, 294 (hereafter, “Preface”).

5. De Quincey, “The English Mail-Coach,” 183; De Quincey, Collected Writings, 270.

6. De Quincey, “The English Mail-Coach,” 191.

7. Later on, De Quincey himself describes the speed as “ten miles an hour” (“The English Mail-Coach,” 204), and this is confirmed by Headrick, When Information Came of Age, 188.

8. Here and throughout, I am inspired by Geoffrey Hartman’s discussion of “communication compulsion,” in Hartman, “I. A. Richards and the Dream of Communication,” 32–37.

9. Keats, “The Fall of Hyperion—A Dream,” in Keats’s Poetry and Prose, Canto 1, line 198.

10. While the Romantics certainly were, as scholars have rightly characterized them, “media theorists” avant la lettre, it is my sense that they congregated most around the dream of communication that was so integral to their craft and ambitions. For good examples of the argument that Romantic poets were doing media theory, see Langan and McLane, “The Medium of Romantic Poetry,” and Burkett, Romantic Mediations. In Chapter 3, I take up some of the complexities that ensue from aligning Percy Shelley’s poetics with media theory.

11. On Dickens and stenography, see, e.g., Kreilkamp, “Speech on Paper”; and Price, How to Do Things with Victorian Books, 94–100.

12. Lamb, “The Superannuated Man,” 173.

13. See Guillory, “Genesis of the Media Concept,” 339–40; and Elfenbein, Romanticism and the Rise of English, 110–11, 124–43.

14. Langan and McLane, “The Medium of Romantic Poetry,” 258.

15. Christopher Wordsworth, Memoirs of William Wordsworth, 289.

16. Menke, Telegraphic Realism, 4.

17. Peters, Speaking into the Air, 5.

18. Peters, Speaking into the Air, 5.

19. See Gitelman, Scripts, Grooves, and Writing Machines, 25. Andrew Piper makes a similar point, but with a focus on books, in Piper, Dreaming in Books, 5.

20. Siskin, The Work of Writing; and Piper, Dreaming in Books, 5–6.

21. Ong, Orality and Literacy, 161.

22. Wordsworth, “Preface,” 290, 292.

23. Piper, Dreaming in Books, 7.

24. On the information state, see Higgs, The Information State in England, 64–98.

25. Beniger, The Control Revolution, 7.

26. Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, 80.

27. Wordsworth, The Excursion, book 8, line 110. See also Wordsworth’s editorials against the Kendal and Windermere railway, in “Kendal and Windermere Railway. Two Letters Re-printed from The Morning Post.” For a terrific account of Wordsworth and “systematizations,” see Hickey, Impure Conceits, 22, inter alia.

28. Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management, 9.

29. McKendrick, “Josiah Wedgwood and Factory Discipline,” 41; on the Bentham brothers, see Chapter 2 in this volume; Wordsworth, “Preface,” 294.

30. Bentham, Official Aptitude Maximized, Expense Minimized, 6.

31. Wordsworth, “Michael,” in Wordsworth and Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads, lines 131, 134.

32. A particularly relevant example in connection with Wordsworth (and his civil service job, the subject of Chapter 2) is how the bureaucratic genre meant to be the paragon of efficiency, the standardized form, begets “a growth in information to be processed” (Beniger, The Control Revolution, 16). See also Guillory, “The Memo and Modernity,” 126n50. Wordsworth’s important statements on repetition and tautology can be found in his “Note on ‘The Thorn’” (also discussed in Chapter 2), and those on something akin to information overload in his “Preface.”

33. Marvin, When Old Technologies Were New, 4–7.

34. In place of a literature review, I name some exemplary works: Siskin, The Work of Writing; Piper, Dreaming in Books; McLane, Balladeering, Minstrelsy, and the Making of British Romantic Poetry; Newlyn, Reading, Writing, and Romanticism: The Anxiety of Reception; Klancher, The Making of English Reading Audiences, 1790–1832; Franta, Romanticism and the Rise of the Mass Public; and Altick, The English Common Reader: A Social History of the Mass Reading Public, 1800–1900.

35. For cogent arguments on manuscript culture, see Levy, “Austen’s Manuscripts and the Publicity of Print”; and Schellenberg, Literary Coteries and the Making of Modern Print Culture. A skeptical view of “proliferation” arguments can be found in Elfenbein, Romanticism and the Rise of English, 111. On some of the difficulties posed by “print” and “print culture,” see Gitelman, Paper Knowledge, 7–9.

36. Burkett’s Romantic Mediations also examines non-literary media technologies (e.g., photography, phonography, moving images). The present study quite differently has as its predominant focus communication fantasies rather than technical media, but it complements Burkett’s work for a more basic reason still: the communications media treated here are those contemporaneous with, rather than those post-dating, Romanticism.

37. For a discussion of these concepts, see Chapter 3 in this volume.