First-Person Anonymous: Women Writers and Victorian Print Media, 1830–1870, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

First-Person Anonymous

Women Writers and Victorian Print Media, 1830–1870, 1st Edition

By Alexis Easley


224 pages

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Hardback: 9780754630562
pub: 2004-02-20
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First-Person Anonymous revises previous histories of Victorian women's writing by examining the importance of both anonymous periodical journalism and signed book authorship in women’s literary careers. Alexis Easley demonstrates how women writers capitalized on the publishing conventions associated with signed and unsigned print media in order to create their own spaces of agency and meaning within a male-dominated publishing industry. She highlights the importance of journalism in the fashioning of women's complex identities, thus providing a counterpoint to conventional critical accounts of the period that reduce periodical journalism to a monolithically oppressive domain of power relations. Instead, she demonstrates how anonymous publication enabled women to participate in important social and political debates without compromising their middle-class respectability.  Through extensive analysis of literary and journalistic texts, Easley demonstrates how the narrative strategies and political concerns associated with women's journalism carried over into their signed books of poetry and prose. Women faced a variety of obstacles and opportunities as they negotiated the demands of signed and unsigned print media.  In investigating women's engagement with these media, Easley focuses specifically on the work of Christian Johnstone (1781-1857), Harriet Martineau (1802-76), Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-65), George Eliot (1819-80) , and Christina Rossetti (1830-94).  She provides new insight into the careers of these authors and recovers a large, anonymous body of periodical writing through which their better known careers emerged into public visibility. Since her work touches on two issues central to the study of literary history - the construction of the author and changes in media technology - it will appeal to an audience of scholars and general readers in the fields of Victorian literature, media studies, periodicals research, gender studies, and nineteenth-century


'… a welcome addition to nineteenth-century literary history… It is a short but dense book, efficiently organized, concisely-written and always thought-provoking, even more interesting as an historical account than a literary study.' Rare Books Newsletter ’Alexis Easley's First-Person Anonymous enhances our understanding of the history of gender and authourship by focusing on anonymous periodical journalism written by nineteenth century women.’ Times Literary Supplement 'Lucid, insightful, and timely, First-Person Anonymous offers much to the reader in both its individual discussions of authors and in its larger project: to increase our understanding of the ways in which women's unsigned writing enabled, rather than hindered, the construction of the Victorian author and women's literary authority.' Victorian Periodicals Review 'This readable and lucid study broadens the horizon of Victorian studies. In contrast to many other publications, it pays attention to different and hitherto neglected genres, in particular the Victorian periodical, and works out the relationship between now canonised novels and poems and rarely read journal articles.' IASL Online '… Alexis Easley's well-researched account of the Victorian woman writer as journalist, makes an important contribution to the history of gender and authorship… this is a well-researched […] book […] which will be of interest to students and researchers of Victorian Studies and the history of journalism.' The Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Beginnings: the 1830s; Defining women's authorship: Harriet Martineau and the women question; Periodical journalism and the gender reform: Christian Isobel Johnstone; Elizabeth Gaskell, urban investigation, and the 'abused' woman writer; Gender and representation: George Eliot in the 1850s and 60s; Christina Rossetti and the problem of literary fame; Afterword; Works cited; Index.

About the Series

The Nineteenth Century Series

The Nineteenth Century Series

The Nineteenth Century Series aims to develop and promote new approaches and fresh directions in scholarship and criticism on nineteenth-century literature and culture. The series encourages work which erodes the traditional boundary between Romantic and Victorian studies and welcomes interdisciplinary approaches to the literary, religious, scientific and visual cultures of the period. While British literature and culture are the core subject matter of monographs and collections in the series,  the editors encourage proposals which explore the wider, international contexts of nineteenth-century literature – transatlantic, European and global.  Print culture, including studies in the newspaper and periodical press, book history, life writing and gender studies are particular strengths of this established series as are high quality single author studies.  The series also embraces research in the field of digital humanities. The editors invite proposals from both younger and established scholars in all areas of nineteenth-century literary studies. 

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / Comparative Literature