Trading in Death: Periodicals, Seriality, Ephemerality
›Trading in Death‹ was an article published by Charles Dickens in Household Words in which he complains about those profitting from the recent death of Wellington. The article deplores the ›system of barbarous show and expense‹ that ›erected itself above the grave‹, not because of the disrepect shown to the dead but what it brought out in the living. However, what interests me about the article is not Dickens’s attack on the transformation of memorial into marketplace but his decision to reprint specimens of such profiteering in Household Words. Linked to the moment, these advertisements were themselves ephemeral but printed in daily and weekly newspapers they were also part of publications that were ephemeral too. By reprinting them in Household Words, however, Dickens both reconstituted them as a genre – they became instances of a type – and attempted to preserve them for the future. Yet he did so reprinting them in his own weekly magazine, itself locked into serial rhythms that necessitated ephemerality.
My paper uses ›Trading in Death‹ to consider the periodical’s close relationship with the ephemeral. I examine the necessity of ephemerality: the genre’s connection with the passing moment and the way that passing is built into periodical process. I also consider the way that ephemerality is resisted, whether through repetition (keeping things present), reprinting (multiplication as memory), or rebinding and reformatting (the book as memorial). There is a clear link between the ephemeral and the market, but my argument is that there is also something pleasurable about time passing. Part of the appeal of serial media is that they document a moment even as they permit it to pass away. The methodological challenge for those working with such media is to regonise this temporal economy. Periodicals are hybrid texts that institute a technology of forgetting even as they embody an attempt to remember.
Monday, 14th June 2021 at 15.45 CEST (UTC+2)
Auf der Schwelle der Jahrhunderte. 1900 als liminaler Zeit- und Handlungsraum in der Wiener Tagespresse
On the Threshold of the Centuries. 1900 as a Liminal Temporal and Operative Space in Vienna’s Daily Newspapers
Vienna’s daily newspapers treated the turn of the year from 1899 to 1900 as an epochal event as it was happening. Although Vienna at the turn of the century is considered the crystallisation point of modernity, this genuinely contemporary perspective has largely been overlooked to date. This paper seeks show the productive tensions between poetic techniques in the daily newspapers of the age: in the media’s accompaniment and staging of the turn of the years as a turn of the century, the journalistic principle approaching simultaneous narration comes into conflict with the attempt to place one’s own present in historical context. Unlike other historical dates, 1.1.1900 does not take on significance only in retrospect; it is formally emphasised in the calendar system and is thus subject to connotations and expectations before it actually takes place. Despite the repeatedly articulated awareness that the year 1900 represents a purely arbitrary caesura, the newspapers accompany the turn of the year with a plethora of retrospectives on the outgoing century, thereby appropriating historiographical techniques. At the same time, they articulate the twentieth century with respect to hopes and fears and thus identify the century that lies ahead as a qualitatively different age. By taking what is initially considered a calendar event as an opportunity to take stock of what was while also formulating expectations for what is to come, they establish not only a temporal space of before and after, but also a threshold space of the present that lies between them. As a time between the centuries produced by the media, this third space enables the reader to experience the turn of the century as the dawn of a new epoch. This is, moreover, often connoted as a political and ethical operative space via which the malleability of the future is conveyed to the public.
From Chronopoetics to Anachronisms: Economies of Timeliness in Modern Intellectual Journals
Since the formation of the modern public sphere, periodicals are stylized and perceived as being in accordance with their time: they »mirror« and comment on their times, they »form« and influence or even »write“ time. In 1813, philosopher and journal editor Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling characterized the journal-form by a »double-sided« relation to its present, both active and passive: »inwiefern sie einerseits auf die Zeit wirkt, andererseits selbst wieder ein Bild der Zeit seyn will.«
Up until the present, journal-makers and publishing houses have used concepts and metaphors of contemporaneity and avantgardism to describe the value of their publications. More than a sales pitch however, the timeliness of journals has its own history as an object of intellectual discourse and of philosophical reflection. In my paper, I try to show that intellectuals with a strong concept of »history« also tend to discuss editorial agendas in terms of theories or philosophies of history. This holds true for the »epoch-making« journals in Weimar Classicism, for the Young Hegelian periodicals of the 1830s and 1840s as well as for the marxist tradition of the 19th and 20th centuries. While many of these publications affirm the idea of an active relation to their times, aiming at change or revolution, others can be read as examples of »a controlled praxis of anachronism« (Loraux). I will give the example of the West German New Left journal alternative (1958-1982), which, as an active part of the 1968 student movement, had lost significant numbers of readers by the late 1970s. In my paper, I will show how alternative spent its last years productively conceding to its times, analyzing and reflecting on its own obsoleteness. Thus, I will try to discuss not only the notion of timeliness as a prime mover in the economies of modern intellectual periodicals, but especially ask for productive moments of untimeliness in the history of journal-making.
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Moritz Neuffer is a research associate at the Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung in Berlin (ZfL) and a founding member of the Working Group on the Cultural Study of Periodicals (Arbeitskreis Kulturwissenschaftliche Zeitschriftenforschung).
Monday, 14th June 2021 at 15.45 CEST (UTC+2)
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