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Christiane Hadamitzky

Doctoral Dissertation: Competing Semantics and Modes of Presentation: The Negotiation of the Heroic in Victorian Magazines Between 1850 and 1900 (working title)

In the Victorian era, role models became paradoxically both more desirable and more disputed. The Victorian Age, with its transformations in terms of technology, science and religious orientation, was thus a period in which competing concepts of the heroic had to be negotiated, justified and defended. Periodicals, which were aimed at a broad audience and were the main source of information and knowledge for large parts of British society, were a defining medium of the time. Their heterogeneity in terms of content and form make them a rewarding source for a study of competing notions of the heroic that characterize the period. The dissertation project will focus on semantic differentiations and modes of presentation of the heroic in three major British publications from the mid- to late-nineteenth century.

The overarching question of the dissertation will be how heroes, heroines and heroic acts are constructed, designed and presented in the periodicals. Using methods from literary and cultural studies as well as book history, the project will analyse and compare concepts of the heroic between the years 1850 and 1900 as represented in Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal, a secular, non-political magazine, Leisure Hour, published by the Religious Tract Society, and Fraser’s Magazine, an intellectual, conservative publication. Furthermore, reference and other instructive books published by William and Robert Chambers will be taken into account. Thus, the pluralization of both Victorian culture as a whole as well as of the print market are taken into consideration and different semantic, medial and performative strategies and models of constituting the heroic will be collected and analysed. The readership of the material examined covers all parts of society and has, with class, religion and politics, useful axes of comparison for the analysis of the heroic in the different publications. On the whole, the dissertation will make a contribution to the study of the Victorian mentality, based on an analysis of how they select, present and admire their heroes.