Staging Instruction: The Romantic Public Lecture on Literature


ACLS Fellowship Program




The Romantic public lecture on literature was a vital critical, performative, and pedagogical arena in which speakers pitched critical arguments to live audiences. I chart the form’s decisive emergence in the lecturing careers of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Hazlitt, John Thelwall, and Thomas Campbell. The genre developed out of and against a tradition of Radical speaking and alongside the increasing commercialization of the literary marketplace. The lectures comprised an animated, contested forum for debates on the period’s literary culture. Points of contention included the relationship between the political, the commercial, and the aesthetic.