Nineteenth Century American Periodicals, Print Cultures, and Communities
“Knowledge Networks” is an interdisciplinary research project based in the School of American and Canadian Studies at the University of Nottingham, which will run from September 2010-August 2011. It seeks to explore the social, cultural, and historical significance of nineteenth-century American periodicals, and reveal the networks of publishers, editors and contributors that brought such works into the public sphere.
Some periodicals, such as the abolitionist Freedom’s Journal (1827-29) and the Transcendentalist Dial (1840-44), were short-lived and radical in content, yet also extremely influential. Others, such as the North American Review (1821-1940) and Harper’s (1850-present), became backbones of the American literary and intellectual establishment, or, like McClure’s (1893-1929) and Munsey’s (1889-1929), shaped the tastes and reading-habits of an emerging mass audience. Across the vast and varied landscape of nineteenth-century print culture, journals and magazines offer rich seams of inquiry that enhance our understanding of the broader social, cultural, and political history of the United States and its literary movements and traditions. As one of the most popular and widely available cultural forms of the nineteenth century the periodical gathered in or imaginatively projected wider communities defined by common interests and shared self-conceptions.
Knowledge Networks engages with this source material from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, and with a view to exploring new methodological approaches. Although rooted in the arts and humanities, this project aims to explore how literary, historical, and cultural approaches to print culture can be enlivened and expanded through a consideration of methods drawn from the social sciences, such as Social Network Analysis. As a tool for mapping and visualising social, political, and cultural movements, SNA offers a suggestive means of re-conceptualising the complex webs of inter-personal and professional relationships that formed an essential component of American print culture – and the production of periodicals – in the nineteenth-century.
This research project is led by Dr John Fagg (literary studies and visual culture), Dr Matthew Pethers (intellectual history and literary studies) and Dr Robin Vandome (intellectual history and history of science), whose varied disciplinary perspectives will be focused through the common lens of the American periodical between 1800 and 1900. The project is also run by two graduate student interns, Rachel Williams and Caroline Williamson.
The “Knowledge Networks” project seeks to prompt a dialogue not only with academics who share common research interests in American print culture, but also with figures beyond the academy who work with periodicals, journals, and magazines, and form part of the social and intellectual networks that currently sustain them, either in the archive or the marketplace. The initial phase of the project will build towards a symposium on the theme of American Periodicals, Print Cultures, and Communities, to be held at the University of Nottingham, Friday May 27 2011 (CFP)
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