A Transatlantic ‘Field of Stars’: redrawing the borders of English literature in the late nineteenth century

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This article examines a map of the English coast surrounding Romney Marsh in 1895, hand-drawn by Ford Madox Ford for his memoir, Return to Yesterday (1931). The map is read as a cultural reconstruction of the shifting terrain of fin-de-siècle literary reputation, representing late-Victorian English letters as a distinctly transatlantic realm. Ford’s illustration is analysed as an early incarnation of the celebrity ‘star map’: it positions authors in specific locations, while also tracing constellations of developing alliances, dividing the aesthetically minded foreigners from a defensive grouping of British institutional icons. Ford redraws the centre and the boundaries of English literature through his act of map-making, positioning his ‘alien’ literary celebrities – including transatlantic icons of the late nineteenth century, like Henry James, Stephen Crane and W.H. Hudson – along the Romney coast, a site associated with invasion, fluid boundaries, and shifting coastlines.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCritical Survey
Volume27
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015

Fingerprint

Transatlantic
Coast
English Literature
Celebrity
Icon
Invasion
Late-Victorian
Letters
Constellation
Grouping
Positioning
Foreigners
Memoir
Henry James
Alliances
Incarnation

Keywords

  • Ford Madox Ford
  • Henry James
  • Joseph Conrad
  • Stephen Crane
  • W.H. Hudson
  • literary celebrity
  • Victorian literature

Cite this

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abstract = "This article examines a map of the English coast surrounding Romney Marsh in 1895, hand-drawn by Ford Madox Ford for his memoir, Return to Yesterday (1931). The map is read as a cultural reconstruction of the shifting terrain of fin-de-si{\`e}cle literary reputation, representing late-Victorian English letters as a distinctly transatlantic realm. Ford’s illustration is analysed as an early incarnation of the celebrity ‘star map’: it positions authors in specific locations, while also tracing constellations of developing alliances, dividing the aesthetically minded foreigners from a defensive grouping of British institutional icons. Ford redraws the centre and the boundaries of English literature through his act of map-making, positioning his ‘alien’ literary celebrities – including transatlantic icons of the late nineteenth century, like Henry James, Stephen Crane and W.H. Hudson – along the Romney coast, a site associated with invasion, fluid boundaries, and shifting coastlines.",
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