The Author’s Effects: On the Writer’s House Museum

Watson, N. J. (2020). The Author’s Effects: On the Writer’s House Museum. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198847571.001.0001

URL: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-author...

Abstract

The Author's Effects: On the Writer's House Museum is the first book to describe how the writer's house museum came into being as a widespread cultural phenomenon across Britain, Europe, and North America. Exploring the ways that authorship has been mythologised through the conventions of the writer's house museum, The Author's Effects anatomises the how and why of the emergence, establishment, and endurance of popular notions of authorship in relation to creativity. It traces how and why the writer's bodily remains, possessions, and spaces came to be treasured in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as a prelude to the appearance of formal writer's house museums. It ransacks more than 100 museums and archives to tell the stories of celebrated and paradigmatic relics—Burns' skull, Keats' hair, Petrarch's cat, Poe's raven, Brontë's bonnet, Dickinson's dress, Shakespeare's chair, Austen's desk, Woolf's spectacles, Hawthorne's window, Freud's mirror, Johnson's coffee-pot and Bulgakov's stove, amongst many others. It investigates houses within which nineteenth-century writers mythologised themselves and their work—Thoreau's cabin and Dumas' tower, Scott's Abbotsford and Irving's Sunnyside. And it tracks literary tourists of the past to such long-celebrated literary homes as Petrarch's Arquà, Rousseau's Ile St Pierre, and Shakespeare's Stratford to find out what they thought and felt and did, discovering deep continuities with the redevelopment of Shakespeare's New Place for 2016.

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