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Title: Encounters in the English juvenile periodical press : the reader-responses of boys and girls, c. 1855-1900
Author: Atkins, Lee
ISNI:       0000 0004 8506 466X
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2020
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This purpose of this dissertation is to investigate the role played by the English juvenile periodical press in the socialisation of boys and girls during the second half of the nineteenth century. Although scholars have long been familiar with the idea that juvenile periodicals were agents of socialisation, there has been little critical discussion about how readers responded to their magazines. Scholars usually attempt to discern the socialising messages that juvenile periodicals transmitted to young people by examining the texts rather than the response of the reader. The problem with this approach is that there is a danger of assuming that intended messages were absorbed without question by a passive readership. The relationship between reading and socialisation has thus been misunderstood and requires reassessment. This dissertation not only broadens the scope of the field of periodical studies, but also the wider history of juvenile reading. The difficulty of locating historical evidence of reader response has frustrated researchers since the mid-twentieth century. Despite recent breakthroughs in the field of book history, the responses of young people have largely remained elusive because they were often ephemeral and have rarely been preserved in historical archives. This dissertation, however, demonstrates that a study of “encounters” in the juvenile periodical press can offer mediated glimpses into reader response. Developing the work of Laurel Brake and Julie Codell, it considers how boys and girls were invited to become active participants in periodical culture through correspondence columns, prize competitions, and club pages. In doing so, the thesis sheds important new light on the following research questions: how did readers respond to socialising messages about informal education and self-improvement; how did juvenile periodicals prepare boys and girls for employment; and how successful were the editors of juvenile periodicals in moulding their readers’ understanding of recreation from a young age? This study of encounters in the juvenile periodical press complicates our understanding of socialisation in two ways. First, it challenges the assumption that young people were passive recipients of adult teaching. Rather, it suggests that socialisation should be understood as a dialogue between editors who were eager to mould the values and behaviours of the rising generation, and readers who consulted magazines for advice and entertainment. Although the editors of juvenile periodicals often had their own agendas, boys and girls were consumers whose needs and desires were influential in shaping the content of magazines. Second, a study of encounters reveals that while some readers conformed to editorial expectations, others resisted or ignored attempts at socialisation. Thus, this dissertation argues that the relationship between reading and socialisation was more complex than scholars have traditionally assumed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral