Keynote Speaker: Joanne Shattock, Emeritus Professor, Department of English, University of Leicester: “Journalism and Literature: Contested Professions”

Professor Joanne Shattock presents a detailed historical account of the spurt of
professionalization that became imbued in the field of journalism, in nineteenth-
century England. Essentially tracing the trajectory that moves from the era of the
‘grub-street’ and penny-a- line to the commercialization of journalism, Shattock
starts from the roots.
Gibbons Merle refers to the word journalism in 1833, within his periodical
Westminster Review. His main context: the lamentable lack of journalism’s
respectability in England, whereas other European countries (France, in
particular) had latched on to its diversifying abilities. It takes almost 20 years for
the British Empire to recognize journalism as a veritable profession, with G.H.
Lewes finally asserting that literature had started gaining renewed status as a
profession- as lucrative as “the bar, or the church” because of the popularity and
support provided by reviews, magazines and journals. Moreover, the advent of
periodical literature enables the author to remove the shackles of servility;
literature no longer remains a “trade”, but witnesses its own simultaneous
professionalization.
Within a short time-span, the reflexive as well as reflective nature of journalism
becomes a space for presenting constructive opinions and analyses, instead of
merely providing/recording facts. While E.W. Greg brings this into our notice, E.S.
Dallas broadens the horizons of journalism: in ‘The Newspaper Press’ (Edinburgh
Review), he notices the pervasiveness of journalism in the British way of life,
which started affecting the psyche of various socio-economic classes by the
1850’s. Unlike some critics, in whose opinion journalism ought to serve the
public, as it were, Dallas believed the newspaper to be an elemental form of
modern literature.

The phenomenon of journalism spreads like wildfire: by the next decade, the
publication and circulation of newspapers spreads from the Empire to its colonies.
Alexander Andrews, who recognizes the Repeal of the Stamp Act (1855) as a
salient historical point in the commercialization of journalism, exalts the resultant
lucidity in the flow of information within various branches of the British Empire. In
his opinion, journalism’s utility gains from the values of egalitarianism and social
justice that it, in turn, upholds- it serves as “a shelter to the weary, and a
protection to the oppressed”.
In July 1862, James Fitzjames Stephen writes “Journalism” in Cornhill Magazine,
broaching further into the possible reasons of journalism’s growing socio-
economic popularity. He avers that increasing attraction towards journalism arose
from lack of job opportunities in other ‘established’ occupational fields, or lack of
enthusiasm for the same- barristers, clergymen, government officials or men with
a penchant for writing found ease of socio-economic sustainability in writing for
newspapers or the periodical press.
Since the 1870’s journalism only expands and consolidates itself as a major source
of economic sustenance, a medium for disseminating literary creations and as a
profession seeking to protect the European perceptions of human rights. H.R, Fox
Browne notices the reason: socio-economically diverse paths end up converging
in journalism and editing, since anyone with solid knowledge of a particular
language can try their hands at it.
Exploring the gendered nature of journalism as a profession, Professor Shattock
ends her paper by probing into the politics of patriarchy that denigrated women
throughout the nineteenth century, by publicly deriding them as unfit for a
profession (that, by then, had become an established and largely male-
dominated). The critic E.A. Benett serves up a distasteful example- in “Journalism
for Women: A Practical Guide”, he refers to stereotypical notions of women not
being adequately “staunch” or skilled enough to practice this hefty profession.
Through her research, Shattock finds evidence of the opposite: women, in the
contemporaneous times, used to write journal articles independently, as well as
through small groups of periodicals.

Comments

  1. Concise and clear, thanks professors. Women's periodicals were really valued with the repeal of taxes on knowledge, what played an earness role in their aknowledgement.

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