So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don’t even know that fire is hot… George Orwell


George Orwell used to make part of his daily bread by writing book reviews and once expressed the opinion that, “Prolonged, indiscriminate reviewing of books is a quite exceptionally thankless, irritating and exhausting job. It not only involves praising trash but constantly inventing reactions towards books about which one has no spontaneous feeling whatever.”

Such might have been his reaction to this book.  I doubt he would have been able to praise the use of recent poststructural and cultural theories or the regeneration of the ideological and discursive landscape of early American literature in provocative ways regardless of the blandishments of the publisher.  He knew that,  “Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind,” and this book is political language with the originals serving the former purposes and the editorial content an attempt at the latter. The tragedy is that it is representative of the sort of intellectual dishonesty that is the staple of academic publishing in 21st century America.

Periodical literature in eighteenth-century America    Knoxville : University of Tennessee Press, c 2005    edited by Mark L. Kamrath and Sharon M. Harris Periodicals Publishing United States History 18th century Hardcover. 1st. ed. xxvii, 394 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Similar to the “digital revolution” of the last century, the colonial and early national periods were a time of improved print technologies, exploding information, faster communications, and a fundamental reinventing of publishing and media processes. Between the early 1700s, when periodical publications struggled, and the late 1790s, when print media surged ahead, print culture was radically transformed by a liberal market economy, innovative printing and papermaking techniques, improved distribution processes, and higher literacy rates, meaning that information, particularly in the form of newspapers and magazines, was available more quickly and widely to people than ever before. These changes generated new literary genres and new relationships between authors and their audiences. The study of periodical literature and print culture in the eighteenth century has provided a more intimate view into the lives and tastes of early Americans, as well as enabled researchers to further investigate a plethora of subjects and discourses having to do with the Atlantic world and the formation of an American republic.

Periodical Literature in Eighteenth-Century America is a collection of essays that delves into many of these unique magazines and newspapers and their intersections as print media, as well as into what these publications reveal about the cultural, ideological, and literary issues of the period; the resulting research is interdisciplinary, combining the fields of history, literature, and cultural studies. The essays explore many evolving issues in an emerging America: scientific inquiry, race, ethnicity, gender, and religious belief all found voice in various early periodicals. The differences between the pre- and post-Revolutionary periodicals and performativity are discussed, as are vital immigration, class, and settlement issues. Political topics, such as the emergence of democratic institutions and dissent, the formation of early parties, and the development of regional, national, and transnational cultural identities are also covered. Using digital databases and recent poststructural and cultural theories, this book returns us to the periodicals archive and regenerates the ideological and discursive landscape of early American literature in provocative ways; it will be of value to anyone interested in the crosscurrents of early American history, book history, and cultural studies.

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