Proposed Collection on Walter Besant

full name / name of organization: 
Kevin A. Morrison, Syracuse University
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I am interested in receiving expressions of interest or an abstract from potential contributors to a proposed collection on Walter Besant. Several presses have indicated interest.

At the center of debates about the professionalization of authorship, the "art of fiction," and social reform efforts in London's East End during the last quarter of the nineteenth century stands Besant. A philanthropist, popular writer, and founding member of the Society of Authors, Besant has only recently begun to receive critical attention with several scholarly editions of his work, essays on his novels, and one biography appearing in recent years. The neglect of Besant for so many years is striking because he played a central role in consolidating a notion of literary property as the exclusive possession of the individuated intellect by advocating copyright reform, and in fabricating an image of the East End that galvanized philanthropic activities in the closing decades of the nineteenth century. Critics interested in Besant's activities as a social reformer have tended to bracket his efforts to professionalize authorship; conversely, those interested in his work as a founding member of the Society of Authors have tended to relegate to footnotes his campaign for a culturally vitalized East End. Analyzing the mutually constitutive interplay in Besant's career between philanthropy and the professionalization of authorship, this collection would demonstrate that the domains of authorship and activism in his life were not so conceptually distinct. It would appeal to a wide-range of readers, especially those interested in late nineteenth-century London, publishing and copyright law, social reform, and popular fiction.

Expressions of interest or an abstract (250-500) words due by April 15. Essays would be due January 15, 2017.