Benjamin franklin and transatlantic literary journalism

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Literary journalism in the early modern era was typically found in newspapers and magazines, the daily or weekly serialized print media that served up what passed for news alongside more or less self-consciously “literary” materials, such as poetry and prose essays, generally on matters related to the social formation (particularly, character and manners) and government (often the critique of policy). Literary journalism appeared in learned journals, but was more common in serial publications that were intended for amusement and/or edification. Literary journalism here can be taken to mean periodical or serialized fictional writings of a self-consciously “literary” style, fictional rather than mere factual reporting. Its common fare included “letters” to the editor or between persons known to the editor, as if in a club; single or serialized pieces that elucidated aspects of the “character” of the “writer”; little pieces of ribaldry or burlesque news and mock advertisements; literary allegories on social and/or political matters; essays linking contemporary to classical life; and items of this kind. In London during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, literary journals revealed the gossip and interests of tavern and coffeehouse culture, and after the Spectator, consolidated the cultural values of the era's middling-level people. This chapter will focus on the transatlantic literary journalism available in newspapers and magazines rather than that found in pamphlets, such as Daniel Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year (1722) or Benjamin Franklin's Narrative of the Late Massacres (1764), which today might fall into the category of “literary journalism.” After briefly considering the formative contexts of literary journalism, the chapter will discuss perhaps the best-known transatlantic practitioner of literary journalism in the eighteenth century, Benjamin Franklin, whose writings appeared in North America, Britain, and Europe in his lifetime and in many countries around the globe (and on the internet) since. The chapter will conclude with suggestions for future work in the field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTransatlantic Literary Studies, 1660-1830
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780511736155
ISBN (Print)9781107001572
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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