Kent State English Professor Reflects on Authoring New Book

For scholarly authors, the journey of publishing a book is more than just the actual writing.

Jennifer MacLure

For Jennifer MacLure, Ph.D., an assistant professor in Kent State University’s English Department since 2017, writing a book is more like an ongoing conversation. 

Of course, the process involves a lot of reading and analysis of others’ work, comparing theories and examining Victorian history to gain context. It’s also deciding your fundamental argument and which supporting content to include. It’s waiting for the helpful, yet stressful peer reviews. It’s revisions upon revisions. It can take years, even over a decade! And then, it’s working with the publishers. Even deciding on the look and feel of a book cover takes time.

MacLure has been writing about Victorian (1837-1901) authors since she started writing her doctoral dissertation. Her focus has been on British literature and culture from the 19th century, along with history of science and medicine, and the medical humanities. She received her BA from The College of William & Mary, and then received her MA and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She currently teaches several English classes at multiple levels, including British Literature.

New Book Examines the Work of Victorian Authors
Her book, The Feeling of Letting Die: Necroeconomics and Victorian Fiction, was released in hardcover and digital on Nov. 2. In this book, MacLure examines the works of authors George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Harriet Martineau, Charles Dickens and William Morris through the lens of necroeconomics. This book examines, in MacLure's words, how Victorian authors "depict the feelings that circulate around capitalism's death function." 

Book Cover of Jennifer MacLure's book "The Feeling of Letting Die: Necroeconomics and Victorian Fiction" published by Ohio State University Press (2023)

MacLure originally started the project in 2014, but a final draft of this book wasn’t completed until 2021. She found that the anonymous peer reviewers’ advice was very insightful when it came to revision.

“Scholarly publishing tends to be very specific and there aren't that many people who are experts on it,” MacLure said. “It's stressful to get those reports because it's always scary to get criticism. But it ends up being very helpful because you're able to revise based on input from an expert in the field.”

The book is split into four chapters and starts chronologically with Harriet Martineau (1802-1876), who is a lesser-known Victorian author. Her writing includes “Illustrations of Political Economy”, which are stories meant to explain economic concepts published from 1832-1834. There are 28 tales in total, but only four have ever been scholarly edited and published.

“They’re somewhere between a short story and novel length. She writes these tales that are designed to illustrate economic concepts,” MacLure said.

The next two chapters in MacLure's book are more figurative and focus on Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865) and Charles Dickens (1812-1870), who is probably the most well-known Victorian author in the book. Gaskell novels focus on the problems of industrialization, poverty and unemployment in cities.

The last chapter is a combination of two authors, George Eliot (1819-1880) and William Morris (1834-1896). Eliot was a popular Victorian author as her book Middlemarch is still widely discussed today. Morris was much more forward with his desire for social and political change, which raises questions as to why he was paired with Eliot. According to MacLure, she did this to draw the economic critiques out of Eliot’s works.

“They don't seem like an obvious pairing because they're not very similar writers,” MacLure said. “But what I'm trying to do is draw out the economic content of Eliot’s novels that maybe doesn't seem as on the surface, whereas Morris's work is much more deliberately about economics. 

The Process of Editing and the Excitement of Publishing
MacLure found that the older chapters were harder to edit than the newer ones.

“Trying to revise my ideas and rethink something, not just on editing and detail level, but fundamentally the argument, trying to rethink that was probably the hardest part,” MacLure said. 

She is continually adapting her work and learning new things in her field and is thrilled about her book finally reaching her audience.

“Writing a book is a very individual feeling process," MacLure said. "It can feel a little isolating. It's exciting to remember that there are people out there who will actually read it.” MacLure said.

The Feeling of Letting Die: Necroeconomics and Victorian Fiction can be purchased through several retailers, including Ohio State University Press, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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POSTED: Monday, November 20, 2023 01:28 PM
Updated: Friday, December 8, 2023 11:59 AM
Paige Schindler