MVSA SEMINAR: Print Culture and the Mass Public: Dissemination and Democratization
Seminar Leader: Julie Codell, School of Art, Arizona State University
Midwest Victorian Studies Association (MVSA) 2016
Conference Topic: Victorian News: Print Culture & The Periodical Press
April 8-10, University of Missouri, Columbia
In the nineteenth century, artists and writers seized on the possibilities of print culture to spread social and political values to an upwardly mobile, emerging mass public that was gaining access to the franchise, to education, and to economic opportunities both in Britain and in the colonies. Among the many forms of print culture performing this function were prints of famous paintings from the past and popular paintings from the nineteenth century; cut-and-paste re-printings of items shared among periodicals, especially those aimed at groups previously not included in mainstream readership (women, children, radicals, the working class); the ubiquitous advertisements that swamped the city-dweller; illustrations in magazines designed to be removed and hung on the parlor wall; social and political tracts distributed on city streets; and serialized novels and their later incarnations as pocket books. Exemplary of print culture for the mass public were the penny libraries of John Dicks: the Penny Shakespere [sic], the penny English drama and the English novel series. Texts like these served to disseminate and democratize "high" culture. Yet, however democratic and patriarchal such intentions were, the public was outside the control of journalists, artists, writers, and politicians who contributed to this flood of print culture. Reading and spectating are largely ungovernable activities with unpredictable consequences that we can tease out in this seminar.
In this seminar popular print culture will be examined in several ways, and participants may take up any one or more of these points, or raise other questions: What in the content of print culture might have appealed to, or been intended to appeal to, the new public audience? What information do we have about the reception of popular prints, magazines (including their illustrations), tracts, advertisement, and novels? How important were the places where the public read or viewed print culture—trains, parlors, clubs, print shops, dealers’ galleries, meeting halls, mechanics’ institutes, political rallies, factories, etc. Seminar participants are invited to examine any aspect of the relationships between print culture and the growing mass public, including the intentions of those who created or disseminated print culture and its reception by members of the public. The hope is that this seminar will attract participants from several disciplines to share common issues regarding the intersections of print culture and mass culture.
Participants in MVSA seminars will write 5-7 page papers that will be pre-circulated to the other participants prior to the conference. During the seminars, the seminar leader and participants will identify important points of intersection and divergence among the papers and identify future areas of inquiry and collaboration. The seminar format allows a larger number of scholars to participate in MVSA and to seek financial support from their respective institutions to attend the conference and discuss a shared area of scholarly interest. Seminars are limited to 12 participants.
Send a 300-word abstract and 1-page CV (both as MWord documents) by October 15, 2015, to Julie Codell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, please visit www.midwestvictorian.org
The Midwest Victorian Studies Association is an interdisciplinary organization welcoming scholars from all disciplines who share an interest in nineteenth-century British history, literature, and culture.