Middling Fiction: Antebellum Magazine Story Style, Substance, and Sensibility

Middling Fiction: Antebellum Magazine Story Style, Substance, and Sensibility

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I argue that short fiction written by Timothy Shay (T. S.) Arthur for the antebellum home magazine market exemplifies a discrete, understudied, and important American narrative prose formation. I examine the processes by which a resilient and accessible magazine story practice and aesthetics developed as authors, editors, and proprietors searched for crowd-pleasing subjects, manners of expression, themes, and formats. To reach middle-class readers eager to make both periodicals and literature meaningful components of their lives, ephemeral print realm participants infused a demotic literary language with relevance and interest. The name I give to this mainstream story-telling practice is qmiddling fiction.q Appearing primarily in high circulation home magazines published in Philadelphia, middling fiction manifested a characteristic substance, style, and sensibility that many antebellum readers found helpful and compelling. Synchronized with the dictates of periodical production and consumption, middling fiction helped popularize and democratize the writing and reading of fiction. The authors and texts I examine are associated with Baltimore and Philadelphia; my study asserts the importance of the mid-Atlantic publishing community in shaping and reflecting antebellum literary taste. I begin by examining early-American author John Neal's break with the periodical ethos and practice he encountered upon entering the field of letters in Baltimore between 1815 and 1823. Next, I turn to short fiction written by Edgar Allan Poe and T. S. Arthur in the 1830s and explore their nascent efforts to craft popular tales for the Baltimore periodical market. Finally, I describe the short fiction that Arthur placed in the Philadelphia-based Godey's Lady's Book in 1840 and 1841, and examine these tales' poetics in light of Poe's famous pronouncements on short story aesthetics. Thus my study describes and explores the instantiation of fiction as a popular artistically-based entertainment commodity in antebellum America.... as an illustration of the plight of early antebellum magazine author caught in the eraa#39;s confusing publishing rubrics. ... The narratora#39;s voyage toward destruction indeed was that of many magazine hopefuls who struggled to place stories intoanbsp;...

Title:Middling Fiction: Antebellum Magazine Story Style, Substance, and Sensibility
Author: Peter C. Molin
Publisher:ProQuest - 2007

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