Thomas Hood and nineteenth-century poetry

Work, play and politics

This book is about Thomas Hood, a nineteenth-century writer and illustrator whose work is characterized by play. It argues that looking closely at Hood illuminates three areas of nineteenth-century cultural production that modern scholarship has yet fully to explore: the output of the years 1824-40; comic poetry; and the grotesque. These three areas of discomfort are linked, each of them threatens boundaries that are convenient for literary criticism. The book explores Hood's early career at the London Magazine, restoring the dynamic context in which he began experimenting with voice and genre. It examines the connection between the London's liberal politics and its culture of play. The book concerns with the effects of Hood's remarkably pluralistic approach to words, texts, and readers, both as material entities and as imaginative projections. It considers Hood's puns, their effects, their detractors, and the cultural politics of punning in the nineteenth century. The book examines the politics of Hood's play in relation to nineteenth-century debate about labour and leisure. Hood's work in relationship to the so-called 'minor' or 'illegitimate' theatre of the 1820s and 1830s is analyzed. Hood's work plays out the possibilities of an emergent cultural democracy: his poetry is practically and ideologically allied with the forms, subjects, and modes of illegitimate theatre. Hood's upbringing in a changing print culture makes him unsually alert to and appreciative of the play of language, the serendipitous intertextuality of the street where signs are in constant dialogue with one another.

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