This essay offers a new reading of John Clare's "Don Juan," a hard-hitting and deliberately vulgar denunciation of English society and letters. In his extended Byronic performance, Clare harnesses Byron's famed sexual appetite and strong Romantic irony to dramatic effect, defiantly redeploying the machinery of literary celebrity that had produced him as "The Northamptonshire Peasant Poet." Tracing Clare's imaginative and textual investments in prostitutes and boxers, figures located at the margins of London's criminal underworld, I show how the compulsive misogyny of "Don Juan" and its obscene sexual punning form part of a concerted, if not entirely coherent, response to a culture increasingly organized by the spectacle of celebrity.
Copyright ©; 2006 The Johns Hopkins University Press. This article first appeared in Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, Volume 46, Issue 4, Autumn, 2006, pages 803-832.
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