The Muse in Mourning: Or Why the Author Mopes and Starves in a Garret

By Kenneth DiMaggio.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

When did the author starve for art? Or starve because of it? We often think of such a romantic notion stemming from a poet like Keats or Baudelaire; a poet coughing up blood in a garret, or a writer crying out against the book-hating bourgeoisie in a tavern. Yet this romantic rebel has roots in the renaissance scholar as depicted in a chapter of Robert Burton’s 17th century “loose and baggy monster” of a book, The Anatomy of Melancholy. The dislocation that many modern authors feel from the market place is not a recent phenomenon. As Burton outlines in the section titled “Miseries of Scholars”, “Most other trades and professions, after some seven years’ apprenticeship, are enabled by their craft to live of themselves”--but not the author, who according to Burton, “toil and moil, but what reap they?” With a keen, almost prophetic eye, Burton captures the dilemma of the literary artist trying to survive in the commercial marketplace, and what that dilemma often holds for the writer trying to survive in that marketplace while trying to serve the muse.

Keywords: Author, Art, Anatomy of Melancholy, Muse

International Journal of the Book, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp.127-138. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.180MB).

Kenneth DiMaggio

Associate Professor of Humanities, Humanities, Capital Community College, Hartford, Connecticut, USA

I am an Associate Professor of Humanities at Capital Community College in Hartford, Connecticut. CCC is an urban community college where students are often reading at a level that is below traditional college course work. I recently completed a fellowship for Connecticut community college teachers to do research at Yale University to help expand student literarcy and to help instructors internationalize their curriculums. I have continued to work with non-traditional student populations, which was the theme behind a paper and presentation for the 2008 Conference of the Book, “Through the Bricks and into a Book”, a paper that explored my experience teaching creative writing in a Veterans hospital from which a small publication was produced.


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