Book Reviews -- Subjugated Knowledges: Journalism, Gender and Literature in the Nineteenth Century by Laurel Brake

Article excerpt

Recent news events in the United States have renewed the debate about tabloid journalism: Is the "journalism" that appears in tabloids worthy of intelligent, educated people? Can readers believe what is published in these newspapers?

As Laurel Brake illustrates in her book, Subjugated Knowledges: Journalism, Gender and Literature in the Nineteenth Century, the debate is not new. In fact, readers in Victorian England asked themselves the same questions about newspapers in the nineteenth century. This new form of periodical--like tabloid newspapers today--was scorned by educated citizens, who found it intellectually lacking. These readers considered poetry and criticism true literature, while newspapers provided "an alternative kind of writing for the common readers," as Brake notes.

Her account of the growth of new types of publications in Victorian England is meticulously researched, well-documented, and complete. That is both a blessing and a curse: she may have taken on too much in this book. Subjugated Knowledges goes into too much detail about too many subjects rather than slowing down to is focus on a few interesting, particularly significant topics. Her method, too, is questionable. Her work is part historical study and part loosely constructed content analysis and can be confusing at times.

Brake, a lecturer in literature at Birkbeck College at the University of London, is a co-editor of two books and author of numerous articles about Victorian journalism. In the introduction to Subjugated Knowledges, she says the book "examines the relations of print and culture in the nineteenth century and establishes a high level of interdependence between literature, journalism and gender." That's quite a task and her book doesn't quite deliver.

The most interesting part is the book's discussion of the role of women in these new forms of literature and the treatment of homosexuality. …