Periodical Writing

I have been interested in periodical writing of the early nineteenth century since I read Byron’s earliest reviews while working on my PhD.

This interest bore fruit when I edited a selection of reviews from Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine for one volume in a six-volume set of selections from Blackwood’s (2006). You can read a magazine article I wrote about that project here. More recently, I’ve become interested in the periodical writers’ rhetorical ambition to pronounce authoritative judgements. Commentating on the world around them was not enough for the most ambitious periodical writers of the early nineteenth century.

Not content with describing the world, they agreed with Karl Marx (a periodical writer and editor himself) that the point was to change it. Employing a range of rhetorical strategies to shape the culture they inhabited, they evolved a style of writing with activist aspirations that aimed not simply to encourage or persuade people to do things, but actually to do things itself. I’m now researching this rhetoric in an effort to uncover the role of performative discourse in constructing what Arthur Henry Hallam called the periodicals’ ‘undoubted privileges and hereditary charter of oppression’.