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This chapter examines the rhetoric, temporality, and interactivity of relationships between writers, readers, editors, and publishers of literary magazines and miscellanies, genres that were among the most important print media of the 1820s. Forms and styles of magazine writing became increasingly performative and improvisational as authors adapted to the demands of a periodical rhythm. Especially in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, this performative quality involves the construction of pseudonymous personae and theatricalized scenes that dramatize the process of producing the magazine and parody the notion of personal identity. Two lesser-known publications extend the impact and implications of this style of journalism: Knight’s Quarterly Magazine (1823–4), a Blackwood’s imitator edited by influential publisher Charles Knight, and John Galt’s The Bachelor’s Wife (1824), a miscellany that stages the processes of editing and reading within a gendered domestic setting.
Literary magazine culture of the 1880s created a rich environment for interrogating the relationship between masculinity, fiction and seriousness. Increasing diversity and eclecticism in periodicals promoted the conditions for experiment and the development of styles of self-conscious performativity, exaggeration, and irony that we might describe as ‘camp’. Reading Oscar Wilde’s essays and dialogues alongside work by Robert Louis Stevenson, James Payn, H.H. Johnston, and Andrew Lang, this chapter explores the interest of 1880s journalism in theatricality, artifice, gender inversion, and an aesthetic of pleasurably ‘failed seriousness’. It argues that the literary magazine, where – as one contemporary critic noted – ‘the style is the essay’, offers a platform for developing notions of identity as fluid performance and all literary forms as inevitable modes of pastiche. Lang’s He, a neglected parody of H. Rider Haggard’s adventure novel She, is revealed as a text that is both fascinated by contemporary debate regarding female higher education and enjoys unpicking the self-ironising and knowingly comic aspects of Haggard’s imperial quest narrative. Like so many other works of the 1880s, it uses anthropological and literary self-awareness to bring terms once associated with masculine authority into liberating play.
By the 1830s there was a significant number of quarterly reviews, together with monthly magazines and weekly papers that offered a range of criticism on literature. Female reviewers were in a minority in the world of the quarterlies and the monthly magazines from the 1830s through to the 1850s. The distinction between reviewer and critic was one that could only have been made in the second half of the century. The gradual abandonment of anonymity in favour of signed articles in the 1860s was linked to new attitudes to criticism and to the role of the critic. The conduct of a professional literary life, the process of establishing oneself as a reviewer and earning a living by it, evolved over the period. By the end of the nineteenth century, and even more certainly by 1914, the conditions and the contexts of literary criticism had been completely transformed.
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