Dr Matthew Sangster

Supervised by

Research interests

I am currently completing a PhD on authors' lives in the Romantic period, focusing on literary success and failure. My thesis falls into three main parts. The first examines the financial lives of authors, looking at the ways that publishers operated, considering the ways that authors struggled to support themselves by writing, and accounting for those exceptional authors who achieved significant financial success through their literary labours. The second section examines the mechanisms of critical appreciation in the period, looking at the dominant discourses of the quarterly reviews and at the alternative methods of validation created and pursued by radical writers and female authors. Together these two sections build up a picture of the compromises and contingencies of literary life in the period, stressing the huge importance of sociability and society in constraining and constructing authorial careers. The final section examines the canonical Romantic poets in the context of this literary world and looks at how their responses to it laid the foundations for a kind of enduring success which eluded many of the authors with whom they unsuccessfully competed for popularity and plaudits during their lifetimes.

My doctoral research is supported by the Royal Literary Fund, a charitable organisation founded in 1790 to aid struggling writers (see http://www.rlf.org.uk/). Part of my project has been to make accessible the RLF’s extensive archive, an enormously rich resource for studying authors' lives. Working in the English and Drama department at the British Library, I have catalogued the Fund’s case files, minute books and annual reports, covering all groupings of material begun between 1790 and 1918. The resulting catalogue (approximately 55,000 records) is now publicly available as part of the British Library's new archives and manuscripts catalogue (http://searcharchives.bl.uk; use 'RLF' as a search term to search only the Literary Fund archive). The catalogue can be used both with the physical documents held at the BL and with the microfilmed versions held at many major research libraries. Further funding has been agreed to enable me to expand the catalogue by creating records for administrative documents and materials relating to the Fund's Anniversary Dinners.

I currently serve on the executive of the British Association for Romantic Studies (BARS; http://www.bars.ac.uk) and have co-organised three Early Career and Postgraduate conferences for the Association - Romantic Biographies: Writing Lives and Afterlives, c. 1770-1835 (Keele University, 9th May 2009), Romantic Identities: Selves in Society, 1770-1835 (Institute of English Studies, 13th May 2011) and Romantic Connections: Networks of Influence c. 1760-1835 (Newcastle University, 1st June 2012).

In addition to the areas I investigate in my thesis, I am keenly interested in contemporary fiction and in questions of genre and I participate in a number of related groups and seminars in London.  I have recently co-organised a symposium on Bad Writing with KCL's genre fiction group (http://genrefictionsymposium.co.uk/) and co-curated 'The Worlds of Mervyn Peake', a centenary exhibition which ran at the British Library from 5th July-2nd October 2011 (http://www.bl.uk/peake).

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