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The Rise and Fall of Early American Magazine Culture

The Rise and Fall of Early American Magazine Culture

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 224
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    The Rise and Fall of Early American Magazine Culture
    Book Description:

    Between the newly canonized novels of the 1790s and the long-familiar novels of the 1820s, early American literary magazines figured themselves as museums, bringing together a multitude of notable content and enabling readers to choose what to consume. A transatlantic literary form that refused to break with British cultural models and genealogy, the early American magazine had at its center the anonymous authority of the editor and a porous distinction between reader and author. Esteemed subscribers were treated as magnets to attract other subscribers, and subscribers were prompted to become contributors, giving these early American publications the appearance of public forums. The Rise and Fall of Early American Magazine Culture reexamines these publications and their reach to show how magazine culture was multivocal, as opposed to novel culture, which imposed a one-sided authorial voice and restricted the agency of the reader._x000B__x000B_In this first book-length study of the history of American magazine culture in the colonial and early national period, Jared Gardner describes how those who invested considerable energies in this form--including some of the period's most important political and literary figures such as Charles Brockden Brown and Washington Irving--sought to establish a very different model of literary culture than what came to define American literary history and its scholarship. He cautions against privileging novels or authors as the essential touchstones of American literary history and instead encourages an understanding of how the "editorial function" favored by magazine culture shaped reading and writing practices._x000B__x000B_Countering assumptions about early American print culture and challenging our scholarly fixation on the novel, Gardner reimagines the early American magazine as a rich literary culture that operated as a model for nation-building by celebrating editorship over authorship and serving as a virtual salon in which citizens were invited to share their different perspectives. This important work revisits largely lost interventions in the forms and politics of literature and sounds a vibrant call to radically revise early American literary history.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09381-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. INTRODUCTION: The Literary Museum and the Unsettling of the Early American Novel
    (pp. 1-30)

    In 1799 the Monthly Magazine published a sketch entitled “Portrait of an Emigrant” that recounts a conversation between the author and a Mrs. K, introduced as a woman who “never reads, not even a newspaper.” The description continues, “She is equally a stranger to the events that are passing in distant nations, and to those which ingross the attention and shake the passions of the … politicians of her own country; but her mind … is far from torpid or inactive. She speculates curiously and even justly on objects that occur within her narrow sphere.”¹ Evidence of this mental agility...

  5. CHAPTER ONE American Spectators, Tatlers, and Guardians: Transatlantic Periodical Culture in the Eighteenth Century
    (pp. 31-68)

    In its April issue for 1776, the Pennsylvania Magazine, which had been founded the previous year by Scottish-born printer Robert Aitken, published “A Reverie.” Aitken’s anonymous correspondent, after declaring himself a “great admirer of the Spectators, Tatlers, and Guardians,” goes on to describe the effect of a recent encounter with issue no. 35 of Richard Steele’s Guardian from 1713: “After having read the paper, I closed the book; and reflecting on the oddity of the thought, fell into one of those deep reveries, whereby the mind is entirely absorbed, and rendered, for a while, totally inattentive to the objects of...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The American Magazine in the Early National Period: Publishers, Printers, and Editors
    (pp. 69-102)

    The pioneering historian of the American magazine, Frank Luther Mott, described the obstacles facing the earliest magazine as “(1) Indifference, (a) of readers, and (b) of writers; (2) lack of adequate means of distribution; (3) losses in the collection of subscription accounts; and (4) manufacturing embarrassments.”¹ To these we might add a host of attendant risks of magazine publishing in eighteenth-century America, including physical and mental stress, and the loss of profitable business while the press is tied up in a decidedly unprofitable periodical. Almost a half century after the first colonial magazines, essentially quoting in his own periodical the...

  7. CHAPTER THREE The American Magazine in the Early National Period: Readers, Correspondents, and Contributors
    (pp. 103-133)

    One of the central ideals governing the early magazine, as we saw in chapter 2, was that the magazine should create a space whereby readers could themselves participate as writers. The “Retailer” opens up shop in the Columbian Magazine and within a couple of installments, one of his readers joins as a correspondent and collaborator. And the Retailer, or so went the conceit, was himself just another reader until he answered the call found in almost every inaugural issue of an early magazine to become himself a contributor. It is important to recognize how deeply collaborative and interactive the periodical...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR The Early American Magazine in the Nineteenth Century: Brown, Rowson, and Irving
    (pp. 134-168)

    The parallels between Susanna Rowson’s and Charles Brockden Brown’s careers are worth considering. Before 1800, Rowson and Brown had secured their places as the two leading novelists of the early national period; after 1800 they both moved away from the novel and from their own literary fame. And for all the differences between their early novels, there are some notable similarities: Both were interested in transatlantic themes, and both saw their writings as serving a pedagogical function. They also shared concerns about the novel form itself, an ambivalence that is lost to history when we focus exclusively on their novel...

  9. CONCLUSION: What Happened Next
    (pp. 169-176)

    If the magazine of the early republic allowed for the imagination of a virtual salon, of the ongoing, serial conversations of Jürgen Habermas’s ideal public sphere, several factors in the early decades of the nineteenth century contributed to make the early American magazine and its model of periodical citizenship seem increasingly antiquated. If the tumultuous birth of the nation was the most tremendous force shaping the first generations of the early republic, by the antebellum period, and especially after the Crash of 1837, the dramatically changing urban landscape was the engine transforming everyday life for millions of Americans. It is...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 177-198)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 199-204)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 205-211)