Victorian Literature The Periodical Press
by
Deborah Wynne
  • LAST REVIEWED: 09 June 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 02 March 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199799558-0052

Introduction

The Victorian periodical press offers a rich archive for scholars of Victorian culture, yet it is only in recent decades that periodical studies has emerged as an important area of research. New work has offered increasingly sophisticated readings of periodicals, with books and edited collections dealing with particular titles, genres, readership groups, or themes. Victorian periodicals are also an important tool for major scholars in Victorian studies (not just those working in periodical studies and publishing history) and most recent work on Victorian literature and culture references some primary sources accessed in Victorian periodicals. The wealth of periodicals circulating during the period can be both daunting and beneficial. As mass literacy emerged, cheap mass publishing formats were created to cater to new groups of readers, and after 1850 the periodical became one of the most popular and flexible literary forms. Although the culture of the early Victorian period was dominated by the expensive highbrow quarterlies and monthly reviews such as The Quarterly Review, The Edinburgh Review, and The Westminster Review, all aimed at educated and well-to-do readers, there also flourished a range of cheap, usually poorly printed “penny dreadfuls” and sensational magazines bought by the poor. The growth of the middle classes in the mid-Victorian period led to the creation of a wide range of periodicals aimed at a family readership, such as Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper and Charles Dickens’s Household Words. In the 1860s more stylishly printed journals appeared for middle-class readers, such as The Cornhill and Once a Week. Later in the century, the market for magazines was huge and multiform: publications such as The Strand included photographic illustrations. The ephemeral nature of the magazine form means that not all of the many titles available to Victorian readers are still accessible. However, there are important archives of most of the well-known titles in major libraries, while increasing online access to facsimile versions has considerably aided the study of Victorian periodicals. This bibliography covers periodicals other than newspapers.

General Overviews

Periodical studies is a developing field that has gained a high profile in recent years with the publication of a number of important monographs and edited volumes on the periodical press. In particular, attention has been directed at the periodicals of the Victorian period: for this was the “golden age” of the journal and magazine, a time when many of the major novels of the period, such as Dickens’s Hard Times and Great Expectations and Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South and Wives and Daughters made their first appearance as serials in periodicals. Yet, the periodical press was not solely focused on entertainment, as many general readers gained important information about politics, science, world affairs, and the arts from these periodicals. The challenge for critics has been to find ways of accounting for (and theorizing on) the wealth of diverse material available in the periodicals of the 19th century. Brake and Codell 2005 offers an excellent introduction to the most recent areas of exploration in the field. Mitchell 2009 and Rubery 2010 bring the survey up to date. Boardman 2006 reviews a number of recent works on periodicals, offering an overview of the various approaches scholars have taken. Latham and Scholes 2006 introduce the various digitization projects that enable easy access to a wide range of titles. Shattock and Wolff 1982 still remains an important collection of essays and highlights how and why the field of periodical studies emerged. Pykett 1989 shows that theorization has been an issue in the field since its emergence.

  • Boardman, Kay. “‘Charting the Golden Stream’: Recent Work on Victorian Periodicals.” Victorian Studies 48 (2006): 505–517.

    E-mail Citation »

    A useful review essay examining recent work on Victorian periodicals.

  • Brake, Laurel, and Julie Codell, eds. Encounters in the Victorian Press: Editors, Authors, Readers. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

    E-mail Citation »

    The essays in this collection provide a good overview of recent work on the Victorian periodical press and cover a wide range of periodicals, including the Illustrated London News, Westminster Review, The Yellow Book, and the Dial.

  • Latham, Sean, and Robert Scholes. “The Rise of Periodical Studies.” PMLA 121 (2006): 517–531.

    DOI: 10.1632/003081206X129693E-mail Citation »

    A useful overview of the emergence of periodical studies, highlighting the value of the new digital archives of periodical materials and calling for a more extensive scholarly engagement with periodical culture.

  • Mitchell, Sally. “Victorian Journalism in Plenty.” Victorian Literature and Culture 37 (2009): 311–321

    DOI: 10.1017/S1060150309090202E-mail Citation »

    Offers a thorough outline of the latest work in periodicals studies.

  • Pykett, Lyn. “Reading the Victorian Periodical Press: Text and Context.” Victorian Periodicals Review 22 (Fall 1989): 100–108.

    E-mail Citation »

    A short but helpful discussion that offers ways of approaching the Victorian periodical press. An early and influential attempt to apply a poststructuralist theoretical approach to the study of periodicals.

  • Rubery, Matthew. “Journalism.” In The Cambridge Companion to Victorian Culture. Edited by Francis O’Gorman, 177–194. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

    E-mail Citation »

    A good introduction to the wide range of journalism that developed during the period. Charts the development of periodical studies in recent years.

  • Shattock, Joanne, and Michael Wolff, eds. The Victorian Periodical Press: Samplings and Soundings. Leicester, UK: Leicester University Press, 1982.

    E-mail Citation »

    An important collection of essays that covers a wide range of cultural forms and issues. Many essays have influenced later work on the periodical press.

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