RAP aims to re-examine material conditions and historical views of literary authorship as cultural performance in the light of recent developments in the theory (and the historical understanding of the cultural dynamics) of authorship, authority and agency. The project's main purpose is to chart the history of concepts of authorship in British and American culture from the mid-sixteenth to the early twentieth century, taking as its point of departure the gap between a "strong" concept of authorship as agency, original creativity and intellectual ownership, and a "weak" (but historically much more prevalent) concept of authorship as a product of cultural networks. To that end we intend to develop a historically situated and flexible model in which authorship can be understood as a mode of performance in varying socio-cultural configurations, an approach informed by a history of discourse and media, the materialities of communication, and theories of performativity. In analyzing cultural formations of "authoriality" as they evolved historically, over a longer period of time, in relation to cultural networks and social change, to transformations of the media, as well as to changing perceptions of gender and personhood, we hope to develop a more refined and precise theoretical and historical understanding of the complex ideological, technological and social processes that transform a writer into an author.
RAP's research interests include: inscription and translation in the English Renaissance; the rise of the professional creative writer in the eighteenth century; forms of social authorship in manuscript and print; authorship, genre and gender; anonymity and pseudonymity; women writers and the literary canon; Victorian authorship and the expansion of media culture; co-authorship, literary collaborations and networks; editorship, authorship and authority.