On the Coevolution of Periodical Press and the Modern Novel
Dr. Daniela Gretz und Prof. Dr. Nicolas Pethes | Institute for German Language and Literature I
Subproject of the DFG-Research Group FOR 2288 on “Journal Literature” (Bochum/Cologne/Marburg)
In as early as the nineteenth century, mass media began to emerge. The most important ones were periodical journals that included both ‘high brow’ literary magazines and popular formats such as penny magazines or family magazines. Most of these periodicals published contemporary novels in instalments – novels that were only later republished in the book format familiar to us. It is therefore not surprising that recent periodical studies have been focussing on the interrelation between nineteenth century novels and journals with respect to the serial structure they share.
However, our research project on the poetics of miscellaneity poses a more fundamental question: It pursues the formal and aesthetic implications of the journal – considered as a textual form in its own right – for the genre of the novel which had only just begun its success story at the end of the eighteenth century.
After seriality, a further significant feature of the textual form of periodicals is their miscellaneity, i.e. the juxtaposition of completely heterogeneous topics, genres, and styles: literary fiction can be found next to reviews, travel reports, biographical anecdotes, news of the world etc. Much as each journal tries to subsume these heterogeneous genres under general categories, each individual issue presents them without further mitigation back to back or next to each other within a multi-column layout.
Within the general context of this periodical miscellaneity, our project in Cologne is analyzing how the miscellaneous structures of the periodical press resulted in new reading techniques and expectations to which nineteenth century novelists reacted by creating new narrative techniques such as discursive hybridity (as in the case of Jean Paul who published his short novel “Dr. Katzenberger’s Journey to the Bath” alongside a selection of revised minor works that he had previously published in journals), “juxtaposition” (as Karl Gutzkow characterized the broad scope of his novel The Knights of Spirit), or genre combinations (as in Wilhelm Raabe’s “tale of the sea and of murder” Stopfkuchen). By revealing the miscellaneity of these novels within the context of the journals they were first published in, we also hope to be able to rediscover other novels that have been forgotten but at the time were published alongside the canonical works.
Text: Nicolas Pethes