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Storytelling in the Spectators / Storytelling dans les spectateurs

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Edited By Klaus-Dieter Ertler, Yvonne Völkl, Elisabeth Hobisch, Alexandra Fuchs and Hans Fernández

The Spectators, also known as Moral Weeklies, were an important magazine genre which came into being in the early 18th century and which shaped European identity by developing the strategies of critical journalism and by popularizing the ideas and values of the Age of Enlightenment. Investigating modes of storytelling in the Spectators is an important starting point for a paradigmatic investigation of our historical, cultural and philosophical evolution since the Enlightenment and the impact of these magazines on issues of identity in today’s Europe. In this collection on ‹Storytelling in the Spectators›, we present a series of contributions which study English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Dutch, Czech, Polish and Danish-Norwegian periodicals.

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From Telling Stories to Storytelling: Orality, Fiction and Politics in the Spectator (1711–1714) and the Female Spectator (1744–1746)

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Richard Steele and Joseph Addison claimed that it was their intention to reform their readers in the daily essay periodical the Spectator. So did Eliza Haywood in her monthly magazine The Female Spectator thirty years later. Both periodicals published essays which were intermixed with numerous narratives (several hundreds for the Spectator, forty-six short fictions for The Female Spectator) whose aim was to “instruct and please”1. As historians have proved, they also passed a political message to their audience. Indeed the Spectator had a Whig agenda while The Female Spectator had a Tory flavour2. This seems enough to suggest that the two periodicals were early examples of storytelling, a phenomenon which Christian Salmon described as “the subversion of the narrative powers to control the audience” (Salmon 2012, avertissement, my translation). Salmon claims that in its most elaborate form, storytelling is a means of aestheticizing politics so as to control opinion by offering people attractive and sometimes mendacious models to imitate3. Incidentally, Salmon recalls that storytelling is no new phenomenon: it became popular when the capitalist system emerged in the late 17th century. Its popularity only spread tremendously again with the development of new media and notably with the development of the web in the last decades of the 20th century.

With this definition of storytelling in mind, I would like to examine how Steele, Addison and Haywood turned the inclusion of narratives in their journals ←17 | 18→into storytelling. I will first show that both journals...

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