The Dynamics of Genre

The Dynamics of Genre: Journalism and the Practice of Literature in Mid-Victorian Britain

Dallas Liddle
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 248
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    The Dynamics of Genre
    Book Description:

    Newspapers, magazines, and other periodicals reached a peak of cultural influence and financial success in Britain in the 1850s and 1860s, out-publishing and out-selling books as much as one hundred to one. But although scholars have long known that writing for the vast periodical marketplace provided many Victorian authors with needed income-and sometimes even with full second careers as editors and journalists-little has been done to trace how the midcentury ascendancy of periodical discourses might have influenced Victorian literary discourse.

    In The Dynamics of Genre, Dallas Liddle innovatively combines Mikhail Bakhtin's dialogic approach to genre with methodological tools from periodicals studies, literary criticism, and the history of the book to offer the first rigorous study of the relationship between mid-Victorian journalistic genres and contemporary poetry, the novel, and serious expository prose. Liddle shows that periodical genres competed both ideologically and economically with literary genres, and he studies how this competition influenced the midcentury writings and careers of authors including Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Harriet Martineau, Anthony Trollope, George Eliot, and the sensation novelists of the 1860s. Some Victorian writers directly adopted the successful genre forms and worldview of journalism, but others such as Eliot strongly rejected them, while Trollope launched his successful career partly by using fiction to analyze journalism's growing influence in British society. Liddle argues that successful interpretation of the works of these and many other authors will be fully possible only when scholars learn to understand the journalistic genre forms with which mid-Victorian literary forms interacted and competed.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3042-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. 1-12)

    In the past twenty years it has become conventional wisdom among literary historians and scholars that magazines, reviews, and newspapers were the discursive context and physical medium of most important British literature in the nineteenth century. Agreement on this intimate relationship between periodicals and literary texts has become widely shared without also developing into a tool for critical interpretation, however, so perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it has become conventional without yet becoming wisdom. To claim that one discourse was the context or medium for another is more a premise for research than a conclusion, since...

  5. 1 THE Poet’s TALE Literature, Journalism, and Genre in 1855
    (pp. 13-45)

    As book 3 of elizabeth barrett browning’s verse novelAurora Leigh(1856) opens, its poet-protagonist is a moderately successful woman of letters in mid-nineteenth-century London. Aurora Leigh’s reflections on her early professional career are often celebrated as among the first artistic portrayals of a British woman writer, but one passage in particular is remarkable for the way Barrett Browning paints the problems of the mid-Victorian author. Her protagonist’s dilemma at this point is not between action in the world and poetic discourse, though that might have been expected after theagonbetween Aurora and her cousin Romney in book 2....

  6. 2 THE Authoress’s TALE The Triumph of Journalism in Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography
    (pp. 46-72)

    In her recent review essay on new books about Harriet Martineau, scholar Deirdre David is positive, but pensive. Something is missing in the available accounts of this remarkable Victorian woman of letters, she writes; of the four books she reviews, “none deals quite fully enough with that aspect of her work for which the definitive reading of Martineau would need to account: she was first, last, and always a writer, regardless of what she was writing about” (“George Eliot’s ‘Trump’ ” 88). David is surely right that Harriet Martineau was “first, last and always” a writer, and that a definitive...

  7. 3 THE Editor’s TALE Anthony Trollope and the Historiography of the Mid-Victorian Press
    (pp. 73-97)

    In the last chapter I called attention to the desirability of a map of Victorian genres, which would show their relative positions and competitive relationships at different points during the century. It is easy to foresee the value this kind of “Galilean” map of genre interactions could have for literary and historical scholarship, but less easy to see how data for such a map could ever be collected and assembled into readable shape, whether narrative, expository, or graphic.¹ Though no defeatist about the possibility of ultimately achieving a usefully historicist genre criticism, Alastair Fowler points out the limits any modern...

  8. 4 THE Reviewer’s TALE George Eliot and the End(s) of Journalistic Apprenticeship
    (pp. 98-121)

    If the relationship between journalistic forms and the major works of Anthony Trollope and Harriet Martineau is only now and gradually being recognized, the same can certainly not be said for George Eliot. The first useful handlist of Trollope’s journalism did not appear until 1983, and a selected edition of Martineau’sDaily Newsarticles first saw print in 1994, but an edition of the essays written by Marian Evans Lewes for theWestminster Reviewwas proposed in 1860, and an authorized edition including a selection of them was already out in 1884, just a few years aft er her death....

  9. 5 THE Clergyman’s TALE Sensation Fiction and the Anatomy of a “Nine Days’ Wonder”
    (pp. 122-140)

    The three major genres of writing called “sensational” in Great Britain in the 1860s—the sensation novel, the sensation drama, and sensational newspaper journalism—are now usually considered parallel and complementary projects, even as variations on the same cultural theme. Documenting a “direct relationship between the sensation novel and sensational journalism, from the extensive crime reporting in theTimesand theDaily Telegraphto such early crime tabloids as theIllustrated Police News”(9), Patrick Brantlinger, for example, has shown how novelists including Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, and Charles Reade based characters, incidents, and whole plots on contemporary newspaper accounts...

  10. 6 THE Scholars’ TALES Theories of Journalism and the Practice of Literary History
    (pp. 141-160)

    This book has studied specific relationships between Victorian writers and the forms of mid-Victorian journalism, but has also tried to suggest more broadly how book history and the study of print culture might benefit from Mikhail Bakhtin’s insight that the dynamic interactions between genres are a powerful engine of literary history. It has tried to move this idea from a vague formulation that would probably be accepted by many (though not all¹) scholars to a specific and useful critical praxis. To borrow a term from the social sciences, the secondary goal of this book has been to “operationalize” this insight...

  11. EPILOGUE The Tale of the “Owls”: Literature, Journalism, and Genre after 1865
    (pp. 161-176)

    This project has focused on a dozen years of British book history after 1855, studying relationships between journalistic and literary discourses in just that era. I have kept within those bounds, though the rest of the nineteenth century presents many equally significant interactions between literature and the press, because (as I will discuss below) Bakhtin’s formalist ideas about genre also have strong historicist implications. In this short epilogue I want to look slightly beyond this mid-century period, however, and sketch future directions I believe a Bakhtinian inquiry into Victorian book history could take.

    We have seen how change in the...

  12. Appendix A Correspondence Sections of the Monthly Repository, vol. 17, nos. 201–3, September–November 1822
    (pp. 177-178)
  13. Appendix B Representations of the Periodical Press in Anthony Trollope’s Works
    (pp. 179-186)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 187-212)
  15. Works Cited
    (pp. 213-224)
  16. Index
    (pp. 225-234)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 235-236)