Monday, August 31, 2015

How Literary Fame Happens

The Chronicle of Higher Education
August 24th, 2015

The pros and cons of literary fame date back to antiquity. Cicero thought superior writers, or their souls, would survive death and enter an eternal realm "where eminent and excellent men find their true reward." Ovid assured his wife that she would "live for all time in my song." Horace, proud of his reputation as a lyric poet, bragged that he was "pointed out by passers-by." His friend Virgil, however — if we trust Suetonius — ducked into buildings to avoid fans.
Despite Virgil’s presumed ambivalence, the notion that all literary writers crave fame — the contemporary kind, the immortal kind, or both — remains a cultural cliché. It’s one that H.J. Jackson, professor emerita at the University of Toronto and distinguished scholar of 18th-century and Romantic British literature, places at the heart of Those Who Write for Immortality, her spirited and always enlightening meditation on literary fame that cites the pros and cons above.

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