This book examines how the concept of the poet as a male professional emerged during the Restoration and 18th century. Analyzing works by writers from Rochester to Johnson, Linda Zionkowski argues that the opportunities for publication created by the growth of a commercial market in texts profoundly challenged aristocratic conceptions of authorship and altered the status of professional poets on the hierarchies of class and gender. The book proposes that during this period, discourse about the poet's social role both revealed and produced a crucial shift in configurations of masculinity: the belief that commodifying their mental labor undermined writers' cultural authority gave way to a celebration of the market's function as the proving ground for both literary merit and bourgeois manhood.
"Men's Work marks a significant breakthrough in gender studies as they relate to other kinds of historical investigation. By thinking about professionalization and social class in relation to gender, Zionkowski demonstrates that the old "man of letters" category is problematic in a variety of ways - and not just for women writers. The book is theoretically sophisticated and historically informed. It represents both wide and deep reading and is smart and challenging in its refusal to honor hallowed, separate categories. This is an important study that will help us rethink the interrelationship of key historical, professional, social, and gender structurings." - J. Paul Hunter, University of Chicago
"Zionkowski offers a strong and focused argument for the emergence of gendered and class-based assumptions about the nature of poetic authorship from the late 17th up through the mid 18th century. Men s Work succeeds entirely in its delineation of the historical development of the poet as a male professional, based on careful and copious readings of both poetry itself and a variety of print materials reflecting on and constituting frameworks for poetic production. This focus on the economic and ideological contexts of poetic production opens up a new field of insights into the much-considered interrelationship between gender, class, and writing during the period." - Kristina Straub, Associate Professor of Literary and Cultural Studies at Carnegie Mellon University
"Thorough, and clearly argued, the book is recommended..." - Choice