Academic journal article Journalism History

Nineteenth-Century Media and the Construction of Identities

Academic journal article Journalism History

Nineteenth-Century Media and the Construction of Identities

Article excerpt

Brake, Laurel, Bill Bell, and David Finkelstein, eds. Nineteenth-Century Media and the Construction of Identities. New York: Palgrave, 2000. 387 pp. $59.95.

"Everything is there, and everything is disconnected," Walter Bagehot famously complained about the late-Victorian media. In time, he conceded the validity of those "graphic scraps" for an increasingly complex readership, but he drew an absolute line between high and low knowledge.

In fact, the line was not all that absolute, theorizes Kate Campbell in a collection of important new media research from the United Kingdom. In Nineteenth-Century Media and the Construction of Identities, Campbell and other scholars of international repute present recent studies in media history, theory, and analytical methods. Specialists from other disciplines such as cultural theory also will find gems here. Editors Laurel Brake, Bill Bell, and David Finkelstein have organized the twenty-two essays into five categories of media identity (national, professional, ethnic, gender, and textual), but many of the essays intersect and all can be appreciated on their own (five of the contributions have appeared earlier in Victorian Periodals Review and elsewhere). The collection has remarkable breadth: from dailies to learned journals and from broadsides to ladies' gift books. Here is a small sampling:

In a textual study of a ground-breaking weekly, Tit-Bits, Kate Jackson illustrates how the folksy, self-referential persona of editor George Newnes constructed a mediated community of shared values and experiences that may have mitigated the loss of traditional communities among his half-million readers. The tendency of popular writing to become more personalized fueled a long-running debate with supporters of author anonymity. This familiar battleground is revisited by Richard Salmon who analyzes the ideological biases and cultural anxieties underlying the two points of view. …

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