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The Dynamics of Genre

Journalism and the Practice of Literature in Mid-Victorian Britain
Dallas Liddle

BUY Cloth · 248 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813927831 · $43.50 · Feb 2009
BUY Ebook · 248 pp. · ISBN 9780813930428 · $43.50 · Feb 2009

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.


"Liddle's clear, easy-to-read, and notably original study makes a major contribution to the study of Victorian periodicals. In chapters that deftly illustrate their point through close readings, Liddle demonstrates that attending to the genres of periodical writing illuminates their protocols and achievements and enables scholars to overcome the limitations of sociological generalizations about the cultural effects of journalism. Liddle sets periodical scholarship on a new course and persuasively forecasts the riches to be gained."

Robert L. Patten, Rice University, author of George Cruikshank's Life, Times, and Art

"Using Mikhail Bakhtin's work to formulate a theory of the interactions of literary and journalistic genres, Dallas Liddle takes important steps toward mapping the variety of genres employed by Victorian journalists. In The Dynamics of Genre, Liddle ably demonstrates that although most scholars read periodicals as a simple single genre, periodical writing consists of a series of related genre templates that evolved with and against each other. Throughout this interesting, clearly argued book, Liddle addresses the question of how periodical genres interact with and affect the literary genres that exist alongside them."

Victorian Periodicals Review

"This is an ambitious book, and most of it is characterized by the sort of precise close reading and analysis valued in literary studies...Liddle offers a compelling argument in a clear and engaging scholarly voice."


"The Dynamics of Genre is a critical narrative with a voice. The shaping intelligence of Liddle's schema is everywhere evident in its argument, and he regularly explains why he excludes and rejects other approaches. Moreover, some of the newspaper and periodical material is fresh, and Liddle's close readings of exemplary case studies--even when problematic--are always interesting."


About the Author(s): 

Dallas Liddle is Associate Professor of English at Augsburg College. His articles have appeared in Victorians Institute Journal and Victorian Studies.

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