Toward a Cultural Critique of Victorian Periodicals
Mark W. Turner
Over the past several years in studying the serialization of novels in the 1860s, I have continually been aware of the need to provide a methodological framework for my study of periodical literature. In trying to formulate a theoretical model for reading Victorian magazines, I have been building on work that has been ongoing for several decades in a developing interdisciplinary field. In 1971, Michael Wolff "charted the golden stream" of Victorian periodicals and argued that the usefulness of magazines and newspapers is in the ways nineteenth-century society is reflected, 1 but over the past twenty years, scholarship has gradually refined this early conceptualization of the field. A number of scholars of the newspaper and periodical press have brought to the field theoretical questions about the archive and our methodologies in studying it. The ways we work with the archive no longer necessarily mean that we regard periodical literature as merely reflecting society. For example, studying Victorian periodicals helps bring into focus the ways cultural products circulate and accumulate meanings within a social system, and it is within such studies of material culture and the nineteenth-century media that I locate my own interests in the field. Here, I wish to indicate some of the ways that thinking about and applying critical theory has helped to open up the study of Victorian periodical literature.
While ambitious archival research has enormously enriched and grounded the study of Victorian periodicals -- the Wellesley Index and