Byron?s Don Juan: Forms of Publication, Meanings, and Money



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This dissertation examines Byron's Don Juan and his attitude towards profits from the copyright money for publishing his poems. Recent studies on Don Juan and Byron have paid great attention to the poem especially in terms of the author's status as an unprecedented noble literary celebrity. Thus the hermeneutics of the poem has very often had a tendency to bind itself within the biographical understanding of the poet's socio-political practices. It is true that these studies are meaningful in that they highlighted and reconsidered the significance of the author's unique life so as to illustrate biographical and historical contexts of this Romantic text. Admitting the significance of the biographical approach, however, the current dissertation also argues that an interpretation of a literary work should consider a number of outside influences that affect the meaning of a text, which is in and of itself a creation of historical, political, economic, and material aspects of a specific time and place, not merely of an individual author.

After the theoretical background suggested in Chapter I, Chapter II emphasizes the history of the publication of the first two cantos and investigates John Murray's publishing practices. Chapter III addresses some of the external influences on the reading of Don Juan to show that non-political content of the early five cantos came to be treated as politically radical by the voluntary and involuntary association of Byron and his work with radical publishers such as Leigh Hunt and William Hone. Chapter IV is a study of the new cantos of Don Juan (from the sixth canto). Focusing on Byron's political stance which gradually developed from his early liberalism into a more radical activism, this chapter explores Percy Shelley's influence on Byron's political ideas, the new cantos of Don Juan, and Byron's use of radical satire to instigate the fight against tyranny. Chapter V investigates Byron's attitude towards the profits he earned from the copyright of his poems to argue that Byron?s attitude towards his brain-money gradually changed from an ambiguous position to a strong insistence on obtaining what he perceived to be fair payments for his poems.