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date: 15 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter traces the move from poetry writers who were not solely or primarily poets to poetry written by writers who earned a living through their writing. It argues that poetry as an occupation first became possible in the 1740s. A sociological account of the rise of professional writing reveals not a “strong” concept of authorship emphasizing agency, originality, and ownership, but rather a “weak” concept of authorship as a product of cultural networks in which the role of publishers and distributors is brought to the foreground. “Professional” poetry is a coalescence of “strong” and “weak” conceptions of authorship driven by writers whose names command a price having adequate institutions for publishing, distributing, and rewarding their work. We begin with a comparison of Holdsworth and Breval, and close with the more illustrious cases of Pope and Byron—charting their careers on the general map described above, not always with predictable results.

Keywords: poetry, publication, book trade, copyright, authorship, profession, patronage

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