The news at the ends of the earth: Polar periodicals

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The mutually constitutive relationship between an association and its newspaper, as Tocqueville describes it in Democracy in America,1 takes many forms throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, perhaps most influentially in the imagined community of the nation theorized by Benedict Anderson. Tocqueville’s claims are derived from the smaller, voluntary associations he observed in the U.S. in the 1830s, what Anthony Ashley Cooper, third Earl of Shaftesbury, identified in the previous century as forms of “private society,”2 an oxymoron whose axes of meaning have subsequently converged. The elements Anderson stipulates as essential to the literary genre of the national newspaper are also found in smaller collectives on a local or private scale-for instance, the assembly of seemingly unrelated parts into a fictive whole conjoined only by their “calendrical coincidence,” their temporal or spatial proximity.3 For Anderson the newspaper and the book are necessarily “mass-produced industrial commodit[ies]” that can reach a large and dispersed population seemingly simultaneously; he finds “community in anonymity.”4 Shaftesbury’s coteries, on the other hand, along with Tocqueville’s voluntary associations, are characterized instead by their intimacy, their ephemerality, rather than by their vast scale or their facelessness.5 To what extent, then, can the national and the anonymous attributes of the newspaper themselves be imagined, even when the circulation of the newspaper is restricted? I am interested, in other words, in how the genre of the newspaper is itself imagined by communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationUnsettled States
Subtitle of host publicationNineteenth-Century American Literary Studies
PublisherNew York University Press
Number of pages31
ISBN (Electronic)9781479818334
ISBN (Print)9781479857722
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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