Skip to main content

Distributed for University of Wales Press

Minerva’s Gothics

The Politics and Poetics of Romantic Exchange, 1780-1820

Distributed for University of Wales Press

Minerva’s Gothics

The Politics and Poetics of Romantic Exchange, 1780-1820

Between 1790 and 1820, William Lane’s Minerva Press published an unprecedented number of new novels by female authors. Reading these novels for their shared popular conventions demonstrates that circulating-library novelists collectively recirculate, engage and modify commonplaces about women’s nature, the social order and, most importantly, the very same Romantic redefinitions of literature that still render their novels not worth reading. Elizabeth Neiman’s analysis shows that Minerva novelists write and authorize a collaborative authorial model, and that this model reverberates in Romantic poetics—most notably, Percy Shelley’s portrayal of the idealized poet in A Defence of Poetry.

304 pages | 16 illustrations | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2018

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory

University of Wales Press image

View all books from University of Wales Press


"Nieman makes a unique, thoughtful, and convincing argument for renewed study of the Minerva novels, their writers, and their impact on socio-political structures of thought in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It is rare that an academic book is both informative and entertaining, but Neiman’s tone throughout her monograph strikes that balance with the extensive information on reading culture, book history, literary analysis, and socio-political explanation. She not only contributes valuable scholarship to the movement to elevate 'lower' forms of literature, but she also provides a model for how literary studies can utilize and articulate data-driven research."

Eighteenth-Century Fiction

“Insightfully tracing the commercial commodification of both reading material and the reading activity itself among Romantic-era women readers and writers, Minerva’s Gothics will make an immediate difference to the ways in which we think about Romantic-era fiction, and indeed about Romantic-era reading practices generally.”


Stephen C. Behrendt, University of Nebraska

Minerva’s Gothics offers a meticulously detailed and methodologically ambitious reassessment of the Minerva imprint, its authors, and its impact. Combining close readings and distant reading strategies, Neiman’s eminently readable and important book exposes the spurious Romantic prejudices that have unfairly pushed Minerva to the margins of literary history.”


Jennie Batchelor, University of Kent

Minerva’s Gothics offers a much-needed and utterly compelling reappraisal of the oft-derided publications of the Minerva Press. Through its combination of exemplary statistical analysis and more traditional qualitative methods, the study presents a persuasive counter-narrative to conventional accounts of Minerva works as sordidly unoriginal, detailing as it does so a new and richly rewarding interpretive lens through which to view Romantic-era popular fiction.”


Christina Morin, University of Limerick

“In Minerva’s Gothics, Elizabeth Neiman offers a revisionary account of Romantic circulating-library fiction, exposing its savvy, self-aware use of narrative formulas and tracing its contribution to the major intellectual debates of the day. Expansive, spirited, and lucid, this book is a vital resource for anyone interested in the history of popular fiction.”

Yael Shapira, Bar-Ilan University

Minerva’s Gothics combines deeply-researched publication data and other modes of distant reading with elegant close reading both of some fifty largely forgotten novels (most by women) published by the Minerva Press and of some of the most canonical works of British Romanticism. By doing so, Neiman makes clear that the Romantic period was centred in an exchange and dynamic interrelationship between the popular collective (or ‘generic’) model of authorship fostered by the Minerva Press and canonical Romantic writing and theories of individual genius. Minerva’s Gothics is a major advancement both in substance and methodology, and it will henceforth be a de rigueur point of departure for the study of British Romanticism as a period.”


Edward Jacobs, Old Dominion University

Minerva’s Gothics is the first monograph study in eighty years of one of the most influential yet nearly forgotten publishers of fiction during the Romantic period. In an engaging and timely intervention, Elizabeth Neiman establishes that the true of the Minerva Press during its fifty-year history lay in its unique employment of numerous women authors of purposefully formulaic works, creating a rich and enduring literary network. Nuanced close readings of under-examined Minerva novels against the works of canonical writers (Wordsworth, Wollstonecraft, Shelley) anchor the wider analysis of the Georgian literary marketplace in a compelling and original way. This book will introduce readers who know little about the Minerva Press to vital information regarding its role and significance within Romantic literary culture, while serving those already familiar with the Press with original arguments and fresh analysis that break important new ground.”

Anthony Mandal, Cardiff University

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press