Coleridge, Lamb, Hazlitt, and the Reader of Drama is a re‑evaluation of British drama criticism of the nineteenth century. I demonstrate that the British Romantics' bias against the staging of Shakespearean tragedy is rooted in an established and intellectually justifiable tradition in Western drama criticism. I also focus on the misconception that the Romantics were not interested in their readers. In fact, S. T. Coleridge, Charles Lamb, and William Hazlitt view the reader as an active participant in the process of interpreting literature, and they compare the reader's imaginative powers to those of great writers. They feel that performance frustrates the audience by making it passive. Detailed analyses of selected texts illustrate the Romantics' interest in their own reading public and their attempts to broaden the reader's imaginative and analytic powers. Coleridge, especially, sees himself as an educator, and his essays about education are closely related to his lectures on Shakespeare. The Romantics design their poems, essays and books to change readers and students by activating their minds. Coleridge, Lamb, Hazlitt, and the Reader of Drama demonstrates that the Romantics and other writers such as G. B. Shaw, Oscar Wilde, G. H. Lewes, John Ruskin, Matthew Arnold, and W. B. Yeats anticipate twentieth‑century reader‑response criticism, educational theory, and film criticism.
Janet gives an overview of the book:
Janet Ruth Heller is a poet, literary critic, college professor, essayist, playwright, and fiction writer. I am a past president of the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature, and I am currently president of the Michigan College English Association. I have a Ph.D. in...