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The Juvenile TraditionYoung Writers and Prolepsis, 1750–1835$
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Laurie Langbauer

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198739203

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198739203.001.0001

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Introduction: “To foretell our literature would be to create it”

Introduction: “To foretell our literature would be to create it”

(p.1) Introduction: “To foretell our literature would be to create it”
The Juvenile Tradition

Laurie Langbauer

Oxford University Press

Beginning with Chatterton’s birth in the 1750s and ending with Hemans’s death in 1835, juvenile writers in Britain addressed each other and an imagined posterity through the trope of prolepsis. Often reviewed more generously than once thought, even when their juvenile writing met adult scorn, that hostility created a sense of shared tradition. Along with emerging traditions consisting of self-taught writers, women writers, or writers of color, juvenile writing helps displace Romanticism as the only significant literary movement of this time, in part because young writers remained explicitly interested in and influenced by Augustan predecessors. Young writers wrote proleptically to question developmental models of individual and cultural history that dismissed their writing as immature, mere apprentice work; so too recovering the juvenile tradition allows modern critics to reconsider assumptions of literary history. Percy Shelley’s Adonais, and Mary Shelley’s and Keats’s writing about youth—along with the early writing of Thomas Moore (under his pseudonym Thomas Little), Kirke White, Byron, and Tennyson—exemplify contemporary understandings of prolepsis and juvenile writing, and open up alternative traditions and literary histories.

Keywords:   Adonais, Frankenstein, Shelley, Byron, Keats, juvenilia, juvenile, prolepsis

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