Buyer beware

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12 Scopus citations


In this essay I draw attention to a poetics of giving that runs through the body of Letitia Elizabeth Landon's work. Landon (or "L.E.L.") has most frequently interested scholars either as a poet of tragic love or as evidence that early-nineteenth-century women writers could support themselves in a commercial market. But this dual focus remains problematic. Not only have critics generally oversimplified Landon's relationship to love, commodification, and sales, but also-and more important for my discussion-their fixation on her role in the capitalist marketplace has made us less ready to analyze her relationship to the gift, her other strategy of exchange. Through her publishing strategies, as well as through the very language of her poetic work, Landon's simultaneous reliance on both gift and sale models complicates the process of exchange. When Landon claims to give instead of sell, her reader's role is undefined, and the obligations that the gift entails put Landon in a position of power. In this essay I explore the marketing strategy, thematic approach, formal style, and legacy of reception that comprise Landon's "gift poetics," and I show how this poetics is significant both for reading her work and for reconsidering a line of women's poetry neglected by Romantic and Victorian scholarship alike. I argue that L.E.L. does not deal in beauty, love, or self, but in power-and that what we see in her art is, finally, a deceptively strong poetics of giving mediated by marketing strategy that treated her poetry as "gifts" in order to sell them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-473
Number of pages33
JournalNineteenth-Century Literature
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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