Grub Street and the Ivory Tower: Literary Journalism and Literary Scholarship from Fielding to the Internet

Grub Street and the Ivory Tower: Literary Journalism and Literary Scholarship from Fielding to the Internet

Grub Street and the Ivory Tower: Literary Journalism and Literary Scholarship from Fielding to the Internet

Grub Street and the Ivory Tower: Literary Journalism and Literary Scholarship from Fielding to the Internet

Synopsis

Literary criticism has been called a story of reading. In what conditions have the best critical stories been told? From Jenny Uglow's account of literary journalism in the world of Henry Fielding to Marjorie Perloff's praise for the impact of the Internet on poetry publishing and reviewing, Grub Street and the Ivory Tower gives lively case-histories of the commercial and institutional contexts of writing about writing, with an emphasis on the vexed but at best mutually beneficial relationship between journalism and literary scholarship. Topics include the traffic between universities and the wider literary world in the `long' nineteenth century; the role of Blackwood's Magazine in the First World War; Virginia Woolf's work as a literary journalist; the early days of the London Review of Books; and the contested terrain of book reviewing in contemporary Ireland. Most of the contributors are scholars who also command a non-academic readership, as reviewers and otherwise: among them Valentine Cunningham, Hermione Lee, Karl Miller, Lorna Sage, and John Sutherland.

Excerpt

'Literary journalism' has become so broad a term that it may soon have to be abandoned in its traditional sense. It's often used, now, especially in the US, to mean not journalism about books but--perhaps by analogy with the publishing concept of 'literary fiction'--any journalism which can be thought of as having lasting value. The subject of this book is arguably both. Most of the contributors treat it as defined here by Stefan Collini: journalism whose primary concern is 'those cultural and intellectual discussions that are carried on in the "literary" pages of newspapers and periodicals'--forums which Marjorie Perloff sees as being rapidly superseded (and radically transformed) by the Internet. The core is good writing about writing, with an emphasis on the vexed but at best mutually beneficial relationship between academic work on literature and a more public sphere.

The book's main argument is that there has rarely been as sharp a distinction between Grub Street and the academic Ivory Tower as has often been supposed (or wished by some people on both sides). Literary journalism and literary scholarship grew up together in the same neighbourhood and both can be found there still. Historically, the study of English literature began in Grub Street. Jenny Uglow's comparison between aspects of eighteenth-century literary culture and that of today implicitly recalls the fact that projects such as the early editorial work on Shakespeare by Nicholas Rowe, Lewis Theobald and Edward Capell, or Johnson Dictionary and his Lives of the English Poets, were undertaken outside the universities of the time, in which literary study was confined to the Bible and the ancient classics. When English literature finally began to be taught as a university subject, as John Sutherland and Valentine Cunningham show, Victorian journalists were powerful in the profession and, long before 'research assessment' was thought of, brought to it their own demanding models of productivity. Stefan Collini considers the journalistic qualities of that . . .

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