Susan Ryan publishes new book with Oxford
The Moral Economies of American Authorship (Oxford UP, 2016) argues that the moral character of authors became a kind of literary property within nineteenth-century America's expanding print marketplace, shaping the construction, promotion, and reception of texts as well as of literary reputations. Using a wide range of printed materials--prefaces, dedications, and other paratexts as well as book reviews, advertisements, and editorials that appeared in the era's magazines and newspapers, the book recovers and analyzes the circulation of authors' moral currency, attending not only to the marketing of apparently ironclad status but also to the period's not-infrequent author scandals and ensuing attempts at recuperation. These preoccupations prove to be more than a historical curiosity—they prefigure the complex (if often disavowed) interdependence of authorial character and literary value in contemporary scholarship and pedagogy. In the nineteenth century's deployment of moral character as a signal element in the marketing, reception, and canonization of books and authors, we see how biography both vexed and created literary status, adumbrating our own preoccupations while demonstrating how malleable—and how recuperable—moral authority could be.