A Transatlantic 'Field of Stars'

Redrawing the Borders of English Literature in the Late Nineteenth Century

in Critical Survey

This article examines a map of the English coast surrounding Romney Marsh in 1895, hand-drawn by Ford Madox Ford for his memoir, Return to Yesterday (1931). The map is read as a cultural reconstruction of the shifting terrain of fin-de-siècle literary reputation, representing late-Victorian English letters as a distinctly transatlantic realm. Ford's illustration is analysed as an early incarnation of the celebrity 'star map': it positions authors in specific locations, while also tracing constellations of developing alliances, dividing the aesthetically minded foreigners from a defensive grouping of British institutional icons. Ford redraws the centre and the boundaries of English literature through his act of map-making, positioning his 'alien' literary celebrities – including transatlantic icons of the late nineteenth century, like Henry James, Stephen Crane, and W.H. Hudson – along the Romney coast, a site associated with invasion, fluid boundaries, and shifting coastlines.

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