Jerome McGann

Jerome McGann is the author of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the Game that Must Be Lost.

Fundamental Brainwork

Jerome McGann, 30 March 2000

‘Your fame is the colour of grass, which comes and goes, faded by the sun that drew it from the unripe earth’ (Purgatorio XI, 115-117). Dante Gabriel Rossetti did not translate that particular text, but he might have; perhaps he should have, given his cultural history.‘

Infatuated Worlds

Jerome McGann, 22 September 1994

The legend named Thomas Chatterton is less marvellous than the boy it glorified, and far less rich or strange than the cultural history that includes the history of the legend itself. Chatterton committed suicide in August 1770. He was not yet 18 years old. With little formal education – seven years in a provincial school, followed by less than three years as a lawyer’s apprentice – he left his native Bristol to make his way as a writer in London, where he died only four months later. For at least three and possibly even six years before leaving Bristol, Chatterton was constructing the Rowley materials – creating what purported to be 15th-century vellum documents, and writing out texts that he represented as copies made from 15th-century documents. According to Chatterton, the originals came from a chest found in St Mary Redcliff.’


Jerome McGann, 22 June 1989

Around 529 BC the armies of the Persian Empire tried to conquer a mysterious and reclusive people who lived somewhere to the east of the Caspian Sea – to this day we do not know exactly where. The Persians acted simply because of Cyrus the Great’s overweening ambition. As it turned out, Cyrus’s armies were defeated and he was killed in the battle. The Massagetae, left once again to themselves, slipped back out of monumental history: back to their unusual customs of sex and death, to the horses for which they were famous, to their sun worship.’

George Crabbe: Poetry and Truth

Jerome McGann, 16 March 1989

No one who has read Crabbe’s poetry has ever denied the power of his portraits or his stories. ‘Peter Grimes’, one of the embedded sections of his great work The Borough (1810), is justly famous, and, were it better known, the story ‘Delay has danger’, part of the very uneven Tales of the Hall (1819), would be known for what it is, a masterpiece. But Crabbe’s work, like that of the contemporary Austrian master Thomas Bernard, is still not widely read.

Ezra Pound and Evil

Jerome McGann, 7 July 1988

No English-speaking poet of this century has been the subject of as much biographical scrutiny as Ezra Pound. As in the case of Byron, Pound’s literary works and his personal life were deeply entwined from the first, and this condition of his poetry’s existence raises – as Byron’s work has always raised – serious problems for our ordinary understanding of what poems do and how they are to be read.’

His Own Dark Mind: Rescuing Lord Byron

Clare Bucknell, 30 November 2023

Byron took from Milton the idea that the mind, being ‘its own place and time’, could be its own hell. Torment in the tales and other ‘dark’ poems may be both a physical space – a dungeon, a set...

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Hail, Muse! Byron v. Shelley

Seamus Perry, 6 February 2003

Ian Gilmour’s deft and learned book is concerned with the lives of Byron and Shelley up to the morning on which Byron woke up and found himself famous. The poets weren’t to meet for...

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Why edit socially?

Marilyn Butler, 20 October 1994

Jerome McGann’s seven-volume edition of Byron’s Poems has concluded with a magnificent index compiled by Carol Pearson. As columns to browse in, these are in the same league as the

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Character Building

Peter Campbell, 9 June 1994

Books, too, have a body language. But does the way they are physically presented impinge in any significant way on the texts they contain? Jerome McGann reckons that the private press movement...

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Talk about doing

Frank Kermode, 26 October 1989

Anyone presuming to review works of modern literary theory must expect to be depressed by an encounter with large quantities of deformed prose. The great ones began it, and aspiring theorists...

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An Epiphany of Footnotes

Claude Rawson, 16 March 1989

According to Jerome McGann, poetry became desocialised as a result of Kant’s definition of the aesthetic experience as wholly and essentially subjective. A consequence for criticism ever...

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Outside the text

Marilyn Butler, 19 December 1985

In the autumn of every year schoolchildren and university students buckle down to read imaginative books by dead authors. Undergraduates reading English at Cambridge may begin with an essay on

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Death in Greece

Marilyn Butler, 17 September 1981

We can know Byron better than anyone has ever known him. Leslie Marchand’s edition of the Letters and Journals, which is far more extensive than any previous collection, has now covered...

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