Advertising authorship: Writers, publicity, and American literary culture, 1720-1830

Patricia F Tarantello, Fordham University


This dissertation argues that as a commercial print culture developed in America between 1720 and 1830, authors became not just writers but publicists, self-fashioners who sought to create and maintain positive reputations for themselves and their works and to persuade audiences of the merits of their authorship. I analyze the techniques that Benjamin Franklin, Joel Barlow, Charles Brockden Brown, Jedidiah Morse, Phillis Wheatley, Mercy Otis Warren, Susanna Rowson, and Washington Irving developed and relied upon to make themselves and their writings known to audiences in an increasingly competitive literary marketplace, to convince readers that their works were valuable, informative, or entertaining enough to be supported by the public, and to navigate the ideological conflicts and tensions that arose as the genteel and republican models of literary culture were gradually displaced by a commercial model. By considering a range of promotional strategies such as pseudonymous persona, subscription sales, book prefaces and advertisements, literary criticism, author tours, stage oratory, and publishing innovations, my project resituates the history of early American authorship in the neglected contexts of market relations and ambition. It also relocates the origins of literary celebrity and authorial publicity, or the public performance of authorship meant to draw attention to authors, their works, and their terms of authorship, from the mid-nineteenth century to the eighteenth century. Furthermore, it revises the Habermasian model of publicity that has dominated early American literary criticism for the last twenty years by revealing a literary culture defined less by writers' rational-critical engagement in an impersonal public sphere than by their private interests, commercial motivations, and public performances of personal identity.^

Subject Area

Literature, American

Recommended Citation

Tarantello, Patricia F, "Advertising authorship: Writers, publicity, and American literary culture, 1720-1830" (2013). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3685480.