This essay collection aims to bring together and represent the growing body of research into the close ties between the modern short story and magazine culture in the period 1880-1950 in Britain and Ireland.
That the rise of the modern short story in the late-nineteenth-century was made possible by the exponential growth of the magazine market is well-known. Following the famous example of the Strand, more and more magazines made it their policy to publish only self-contained works of short fiction rather than the serialized novels which had been popular for much of the nineteenth century. As a result, the number of stories published rose dramatically and so did the diversity of the short fiction output: different magazines preferred different genres, topics, and styles; writers and agents became adept at pitching their story at the most appropriate – and best-paying – magazine. The end of this “golden age of storytellers”, as Mike Ashley has called it, is similarly bound up with the periodical market. As TV took over as the most popular form of entertainment, the number of magazines that published short fiction declined dramatically around 1950 and this had a major impact on the overall popularity, production and publication of short fiction.
If most critics accept the intertwined fate of the short story and the periodical press, the actual interaction between short stories and the magazines in which they were published has only recently become an object of sustained scholarly attention. Short fiction studies, with its longstanding emphasis on canonical authors and on the modernist short story, is only now beginning to investigate the impact of periodicals on the generic and formal development of the modern short story as well as to take into account middle- and lowbrow forms of short fiction which flourished in particular in the magazine market. Research within periodical studies, on the other hand, is typically focused on the periodical as a single if fragmented textual whole with a specific ideological, political or social dimension rather than on the status of one literary genre within that textual whole.
Situated at the crossroads of these two research domains, this essay collection aims to investigate the presence, status, and functioning of short stories within various magazines – literary, popular and mainstream – from 1880 to 1950, in both Britain and Ireland. The perspective of this investigation will be two-fold: the impact of a given magazine context and co-texts on the production, publication and reception of short stories will be considered, as well as the specific status, positioning, function and role of the short stories within the textual and ideological whole of magazine text.
Specific research questions may be (but are not limited to) the following:
- What opportunities did magazines afford short story writers? And what constraints (financial, formal, ideological) did publication in magazines place on short story writers?
- How are short stories positioned and presented within a magazine, and how does this affect their meaning?
- What is the relation between the ideological and thematic identity of the magazine and the ideological and thematic concerns of the short stories it published?
- How does the periodical context influence the reception of the story?
- How are authors presented in the magazines? How are their stories advertised? When, where and why are stories published anonymously?
- How does a given author pitch his or her stories to a particular magazine?
- How does a magazine set out markers (implicitly or explicitly) for specific genres or styles for the short fiction it publishes?
By addressing these questions, the book as a whole aims to illustrate (a) the impressive variety of short stories published in magazines in the period (from so-called literary stories in avant-garde little magazines or mainstream literary journals, the entertaining yet didactic stories published in women’s or family magazines, to the genre fiction that dominated a host of popular magazines); (b) the different methodological/theoretical concerns that are at stake in the study of periodical short fiction; and (c) the historical developments short fiction and the magazines in which they were published underwent between 1880 and 1950.
We invite chapters that address these issues through case studies and/or more general historical overviews. 500-word proposals for chapters can be sent to the editors by March 30th. Upon acceptance, the deadline for the full chapters is September 1st 2018. The editors will submit a book proposal to Edinburgh University Press