Comment on Republican Literature

I think that this was well conducted research without a particularly interesting conclusion. This hurt the article, but I still found a lot of the work done to be engaging. There were a few things I took away from this writing to apply within my own research project which I will list. There was a lot about this journal that will be helpful to keep in mind while researching and writing my paper.

1. Context matters: Perhaps the most interesting thing about this paper was the background given to the magazine– actually everything that had little to do with the findings was what I found most enjoyable to read. I think that explaining the idea of what the American republic was at the time was very important to the paper. Explaining the history of the magazine was not crucial to the conclusion, but I enjoyed learning about it regardless. Because I found nothing particularly gripping about the findings from the research, I think it only highlighted the importance of the previous information. I really got a good sense of what the magazine was like and how it came about. It’s an interesting thing to go into detail about, but the data didn’t necessarily wow me to any degree. Making the reader interested in what you are writing about and giving them a solid background on it will make them more likely to respond positively to your own findings. I think the numbers would have meant very little to me if not for the work done to introduce it.

2. Find something interesting to investigate: This is more a matter of preference, but I think that the most telling thing about the American people via information on the magazine would be why it failed. Hypothetically, let’s say The New Yorker ended up going out of print or going out of business, whatever the appropriate term is. I think that the most important thing to look at would be why such a popular magazine of multiple decades suddenly went under. Perhaps it’s easier to say simply because of that being a current thing, but if it were due to the increasing popularity of tablets and the decreasing demand for magazines, I think that would suggest a lot more about society and ideals of the people at the time rather than what was being published in it or who was reading it. But content does matter, although I don’t think a hugely popular magazine suddenly fails to sell, it’s very gradual. The fact that the New York magazine failed to established itself is something that could have been explored more, but maybe the information wasn’t available or not as crucial to the writer as it is to me.

3. Data is less important than other things: I’m having trouble finding data that pertains to my research. Because Moby Dick was a failure, the sales weren’t recorded very diligently. Similarly, it’s hard to find data that states when the book became very popular. While this is frustrating, I think things other than tangible data are more important to understanding the history of Moby Dick and how it became prominent and what effects this had on society and American literature. 

I think that if you approach a journal entry with the intent to entertain as much as inform, the study becomes much better. It’s hard to make someone interested in a magazine published right after the American Revolution, but I think Nord did a good job of this. It was when I was reminded it was a research paper that my attention began to fade.



2 thoughts on “Comment on Republican Literature

  1. I really appreciate your comments on Nord’s work here. I also enjoy the story–the context–around the data. It is, indeed, what gives meaning to the data. Yet, without the data, I think we wouldn’t know as much about whether the story is true. After all, Nord’s interpretation of the importance of the New-York Magazine hinges on his documentation of the readers’ occupations. Unless you have a broad swath of the population reading it, you cannot claim it’s “republican literature,” which is his central argument. Still, your point is well-taken: the data, in and of itself, is not that interesting. It’s the surrounding story that makes it compelling!

    I am intrigued about your point regarding failure. The failure of magazines and newspapers, especially during this time, was more common than their success, unfortunately. That the New-York Magazine lasted for eight years is kind of miraculous. There were numerous reasons for such failures, usually financial ones. Sometimes, people wouldn’t pay their subscriptions. It was hard to get material (even though they often just copied articles from other publications), and printing and paper was expensive. A lot of writers at the time also speculated that magazines failed because Americans were “do-ers” not readers–to busy expanding into the frontier and developing commerce to read much. The history of American magazines is pretty interested. The standard work is Frank Luther Mott, A History of American Magazines. He has a section on the New York Magazine.

    Melville is another story, which we can talk about!

  2. I really like how you outlined the key points to keep in mind for the upcoming paper. Even though you didn’t find the article’s conclusion interesting, at least you were able to take something away from it. I also found it really important that Nord focused so much on context, as it’s essential to understanding his argument. You can have the data and the argument, but without any explanation or context it becomes difficult, as you say, for a reader to engage with the argument.

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