"A very poetical town": newspaper poetry and the working-class poet in Victorian Dundee

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Abstract

In the assessment of Victorian periodical poetry, newspaper verse has received comparatively little attention. As Natalie M. Houston comments in her important article on newspaper poems, this is partly due to the "privileging of individual authorship" in literary criticism, meaning that anonymous poems tend to be devalued, and due to the fact that newspaper poems often "function as topical commentary" and are thus difficult to assess once extracted from their original contexts. (1) The sheer volume of newspaper verse is daunting: recent work in the field, by Andrew Hobbs, estimates that around five million individual poems were published in the nineteenth-century provincial press. (2) Spatially, as Houston notes, poetry is easily identifiable because its layout stands out on the page; but in terms of content and form, the title of newspaper poems alone often gives little clue about their theme, and in terms of authorship, pseudonyms acquire full significance only when situated within the content of the newspaper's readerly community. James Mussell's observation that without the "shared cultural resources" which contemporary readers took for granted, "we struggle to realize the meanings and effects such texts had for their readers ... the familiarity or novelty of what was under discussion" is as true for the poetry column of the newspaper as it is for reports on contemporary events. (3)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-109
Number of pages21
JournalVictorian Poetry
Volume52
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2014

Keywords

  • poetry
  • Dundee
  • Scottish literature
  • newspaper

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