Academic journal article Nineteenth-Century Prose

Reintroducing Fuller: Periodical, Transatlantic, Urban

Academic journal article Nineteenth-Century Prose

Reintroducing Fuller: Periodical, Transatlantic, Urban

Article excerpt

The current strong interest in Margaret Fuller focuses not only on her identities as a Transcendentalist and feminist but also on her writings as a transatlantic urban intellectual publishing in popular print media. This emphasis, aided by scholarly editions of her journalism for the New-York Tribune, highlights Fuller's presence in the transformative decade of the 1840s, which saw an acceleration in periodical publishing, an intensified exchange of texts across the Atlantic, and an increasingly urban location of writing. Most of the essays in the present issue examine the ways Fuller inhabited transatlantic literary and periodical culture. They also include incisive analyses of her writing in other genres--such as her travel book--and of her development as an urban writer. Framing this new research are retrospective essays by Charles Capper and Bell Gale Chevigny, whose biographical and textual work were major forces in recovering Fuller and, therefore, enabling the ongoing scholarship represented in this special issue.

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This collection of new work on Margaret Fuller was prompted by the JL 200th anniversary, in 2010, of her birth. The level of interest in Fuller during her bicentennial year was striking. An academic conference at the Massachusetts Historical Society was well attended and attracted a high level of scholarly participation. The many public events sponsored by the Margaret Fuller Bicentennial Committee, (1) itself organized by Unitarian Universalist women, historical societies, scholars, and others, attracted strong attendances, an enthusiasm I also witnessed as part of a panel on Fuller at the First Parish Church in Concord, Massachusetts. The surge of interest in Fuller in 2010 signaled to me--in addition to interest in Fuller the Transcendentalist and the feminist--that this antebellum figure spoke to our current experience of living in a global, transnational world, a world increasingly routed through cities, and a world whose modes and technologies of communication are rapidly changing.

The efflorescence of Fuller scholarship surrounding her bicentennial caps a sustained period of serious critical and biographical work that has recovered her as one of the most important public intellectuals of the pre-Civil War era. It has also broadened both the scope of research and the methods of interpretation critics have engaged, an interpretive expansion that keeps pace with widening understandings of the scope of Fuller's own critical engagements. Bell Chevigny observes in her contribution to this issue that during the forty-year history of the Fuller revival readers have often found in Fuller an anticipation of their own concerns--about gender, sexuality, social justice, literary theory, and political representation. What the following essays confirm is the emphasis, in much of this new scholarship, on Fuller's participation in a transatlantic and often urban discursive world whose communications issued from the characteristic media of journalism and other periodical publications. This direction of Fuller criticism was not altogether new but received a strong new impetus from the publication, in 1991 and 2000, of scholarly editions of her journalism for the New-York Tribune? Indeed, Fuller's position as a front-page columnist writing on literary, political, and cultural books and events issuing from cities on both sides of the Atlantic highlights the important conjunction of, especially, reform periodicals and public intellectuals in the 1840s. Fuller's journalism may be read together with Lydia Maria Child's writings for the National Anti-Slavery Standard in New York or Heinrich Bornstein's work in Paris for the Vorwarts (2), as authors in this issue demonstrate, or with William and Mary Howitt's work for the People's Journal and Howitt's Journal in London, as Charles Capper has done in his biography (11:296-97, 324).

The critics contributing to this special issue elaborate on the above emphasis--especially Fuller's circulation in a transatlantic world whose lines of communication often ran through periodicals. …

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