The economy of the short story in British periodicals of the 1890s

Chan, Winnie, Department of English, University of Virginia
Feldman, Jessica, Department of English, University of Virginia
Arata, Stephen, Department of English, University of Virginia
Chase Levenson, Karen, Department of English, University of Virginia
Corse, Sarah, Department of Sociology, University of Virginia

Reorienting modernism's "great divide" between high art and commercial success around the rise of the short story, this study traces the literary and cultural negotiations of writers through what might be termed "the forgotten genre." Critics tend to neglect the short story, forgetting how it dominated late nineteenth-century British literary culture and commerce. Although the short story had attracted little attention in Britain for much of the century, the genre suddenly became the subject of writing-for-profit handbooks and correspondence courses after the phenomenal success of Arthur Conan Doyle's stories of Sherlock Holmes in the Strand. At the same time, however, the short story became what Henry James called the "object of such almost extravagant dissertation" among writers who sought to reclaim it for "Art."

This materialist study of the short story's development in three diverse magazines reveals how, at the dawn of modernism, commercial pressures in fact prompted proto-modernist formal innovation in popular magazines like the Strand, while elitist, anti-commercially opaque poetics formed the basis of an effective marketing strategy, as in the case of the Yellow Book. Periodicals such as Black and White, which anachronistically avoided taking sides on this factitious divide, failed to find a coherent profile, and, despite publishing influential short story writers, did not fundamentally shape the form. Oriented around periodicals rather than authors, this cultural history maps out what Pierre Bourdieu terms a field of cultural production, which H. G. Wells, Thomas Hardy, Henry James, and dozens of mostly forgotten writers were compelled to play. Integrating such methods of cultural studies with formal analyses, this study builds upon recent revisions of modernism, such as the groundbreaking collection Marketing Modernisms, as well as the work of Lawrence Rainey, Joyce Wexler, and others challenging Andreas Huyssen's provocative formation, the "great divide" of modernism.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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