Sonja Lawrenson »

Sonja Lawrenson lectures in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her research centres on women’s writing in eighteenth-century and Romantic Ireland. She has published on authors such as Frances Sheridan, Elizabeth Hamilton and Maria Edgeworth, and more broadly on Romantic Orientalism, popular fiction and the eighteenth-century Irish stage.

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This article is © 2022 The Author and is the result of the independent labour of the scholar credited with authorship. Unless otherwise noted, the material contained in this journal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND) International License.
Date of acceptance: 6 November 2019.

Referring to this Article

S. LAWRENSON. ‘Florence and the Machine: Female Authorship, Popular Culture, and Technological Modernity in Sydney Owenson, Lady Morgan’s Florence Macarthy (1818)’, Romantic Textualities: Literature and Print Culture, 1780–1840, 24 (Winter 2021)

Online: Internet (date accessed): http://www.romtext.org.uk/articles/rt24_104/
PDF DOI:10.18573/romtext.104

Florence and the Machine

Female Authorship, Popular Culture and Technological Modernity in Sydney Owenson, Lady Morgan’s Florence Macarthy (1818)

Abstract Abstract

Abstract: While the critical establishment baulked at the rapid expansion of the literary marketplace in the early nineteenth century, Lady Morgan’s Florence Macarthy boldly declared its allegiance to the precariously feminised domain of popular romance. Embracing its own synthetic and syncretic modernity, Morgan’s seventh novel revels in the spectacle, sensation and simulation so vociferously denounced by reviewers of her earlier works. Moreover, in its self-reflexive scrutiny of the material processes of Romantic literary production, Morgan’s fiction interrogates its own position within an increasingly commercialised and mechanised publishing industry. In asserting the centrality of such commercial and mechanical modernity to Morgan’s aesthetic, this article departs from previous scholarly discussions of her oeuvre. It argues that Florence Macarthy’s engagement with Irish politics is not anchored in antiquarian retrospection but instead emerges out of an effervescent literary marketplace in direct competition with new arenas of spectacular entertainment. Thus, rather than promote a supposedly atavistic and anachronistic cultural nationalism, the surface narrative’s flirtation with the romance of Irish antiquity is continually disrupted by an underlying acknowledgement of the competing literary, political and historical narratives at play within the national tale. Synchronising and synthesising these competing discourses for the popular reader, Florence Macarthy registers the hybridity of its own romance as a distinctly modern yet sophisticated form of mechanical reproduction that cannot be dismissed as the mere automatism of an antiquarian reflex.

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