The Juvenile Tradition

Laurie Langbauer

Published in print March 2016 | ISBN: 9780198739203
Published online May 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780191802348 | DOI:
The Juvenile Tradition

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A juvenile tradition of young writers flourished in Britain between 1750 and 1835. Canonical Romantic poets as well as now-unknown youthful writers published as teenagers. These writers reflected on their literary juvenilia by using the trope of prolepsis to assert their writing as a literary tradition. Precocious writing, child prodigies, and early genius had been topics of interest since the eighteenth century. Child authors found new publication opportunities because of major shifts in the periodical press, publishing, and education. School magazines and popular juvenile magazines that awarded prizes to child writers made youthful authorship more visible. Modern interest in Romanticism and the self-taught and women writers’ traditions have occluded the tradition of juvenile writing. This study recovers the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century juvenile tradition by drawing on the history of childhood and child studies, along with reception study and scholarship on audience history. It considers the literary juvenilia of Thomas Chatterton, Henry Kirke White, Robert Southey, Leigh Hunt, Jane Austen, and Felicia Hemans. along with the childhood writing of Byron, Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, and John Keats, and a score of other young poets no longer familiar today. The role of prolepsis in young people’s writing underscores how recovering juvenility recasts literary history. The peculiarly performative vantage point of juvenility, which writes by projecting itself into a future as if already realized, unsettles the assumptions of childhood development and the linearity of literary history.

Keywords: juvenilia, literary juvenilia, juvenile, child author, child writer, child poet, literary tradition, Romanticism, prolepsis

Book.  336 pages. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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Table of Contents

Conclusion in The Juvenile Tradition


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