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Cohering knowledge in the Nineteenth Century: form, genre and periodical studies

Mussell, James (2009) Cohering knowledge in the Nineteenth Century: form, genre and periodical studies. Victorian Periodicals Review, 41 (1). pp. 93-103. ISSN 0709-4698

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URL of Published Version: http://muse.jhu.edu/content/crossref/journals/victorian_periodicals_review/v042/42.1.mussell01.html

Identification Number/DOI: 10.1353/vpr.0.0064

This paper argues that as we reimagine nineteenth-century periodicals and newspapers as digital objects we should pay particular attention to how we model their forms. As something that is repeated with each issue, form is both a key component of a particular publication’s identity and the mechanism through which it accommodates the events that it reports. Through a reading of John Tyndall’s “Discourse on the Scientific Use of the Imagination,” I argue that form is the means through which scientists imagined what they did not know, substituting system and structure for the unordered abundance of the natural world. Journalism, oriented towards an equally complex and changing world, similarly attempts to represent it as ordered and knowable. The orientation of titles towards particularly newsworthy institutions acts as a filter, identifying certain types of information at the expense of countless others, and the organization of publications into sections allocates space for events to be reported even before they occur. In this way the forms of the press operate in a similar fashion to the scientific imagination, displacing the new with the familiar, the unknown with the yet-to-be-known, and chaos with system.

Type of Work:Article
Date:2009 (Publication)
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
Department:English
Keywords:journalism, print culture, victorian, time, rhythm
Subjects:Z004 Books. Writing. Paleography
PE English
DA Great Britain
Institution:University of Birmingham
Copyright Holders:Research Society for Victorian Periodicals
ID Code:744
Refereed:YES
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