The age of the magazine: literary consumption and metropolitan culture, 1815-1825

Stewart, David (2008) The age of the magazine: literary consumption and metropolitan culture, 1815-1825. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The years between 1815 and 1825 were a period of social and cultural flux. This thesis examines what I take to be the most significant literary genre of that period, the magazine. Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, the London Magazine and the New Monthly Magazine, along with a host of other, less commercially successful magazines, emerged as a dominant cultural force in these years. I place these magazines in a context of rapid literary and urban expansion, in which distinctions between commercial and aesthetic, literary and non-literary, and high and low cultures became newly anxious. Magazines, I suggest, illuminate a literary culture that was not as clearly divided as either traditional Romantic criticism or New Historicist cultural critiques have suggested. Rather, magazines stand at a midpoint between high and low cultures, neither of which could define itself except in relation to the other. I argue that magazines are significant precisely because their intermediate status offers the best guide to a newly confusing republic of letters.

Chapter One discusses the development of the magazine from its eighteenth-century roots, and argues that Leigh Hunt’s Examiner is the most important influence on the new magazines. In Chapter Two I challenge Jon Klancher’s influential model of magazine readerships, and argue for a model of the magazine market dependent not on exclusion, but on connections between magazines and across a culture. In Chapter Three I propose a model of metropolitan culture, defined by its indistinctness, that underlies my conception of the magazine form as a whole. Here I discuss T. G. Wainewright’s art criticism for the London Magazine, arguing that it revels in the cultural indeterminacy that magazines so adeptly theorise. Chapter Four turns from the metropolis to the print market, arguing that magazine writers recognised that it had begun to resemble the London streets. But rather than rejecting the newly expanded “reading public” like many of their contemporaries, magazine writers enjoyed a new sense of freedom, even while they sensed the limits of that freedom. Many writers in the period sought to oppose literature and commerce, and in Chapter Five I again place magazines between these two categories. Thomas De Quincey made himself into a commercial success by claiming a literary identity that was opposed to the marketplace, but Blackwood’s, in a brilliant reversal, made itself into literature by flamboyantly asserting its commercialism.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright issues the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the print version is available once any embargo periods have expired.
Keywords: Romanticism, Periodicals, Magazines, Metropolitanism, Commerce
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Supervisor's Name: Cronin, Professor Richard
Date of Award: 2008
Depositing User: Mr David Stewart
Unique ID: glathesis:2008-518
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 21 Jan 2009
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:19

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