Promoting, supporting and encouraging the study of the United States since 1955

British Association for American Studies


Report from Rachael Alexander, Eccles Centre Postgraduate Fellowship recipient 2016


Report from Rachael Alexander, Eccles Centre Postgraduate Fellowship recipient 2016

[vc_row margin_bottom=”15″][vc_column][dt_banner image_id=”14004″ bg_color=”rgba(0,0,0,0.11)” min_height=”270″][/dt_banner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][dt_quote]The Eccles Centre Postgraduate Fellowship enabled me to access the library’s extensive collection of U.S. women’s magazines vital to my project, writes Rachael Alexander. The British Library’s well-preserved copies of Ladies’ Home Journal has undoubtedly facilitated the completion of my PhD project on consumerism, nationalism, and gender in 1920s periodicals.[/dt_quote][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]Enabled by an Eccles Centre Postgraduate Fellowship, I completed a research trip to the British Library in May 2016. The main purpose of this visit was to gain access to the library’s extensive collection of U.S. women’s magazines, particularly the Ladies’ Home Journal, which are crucial to the completion of my PhD project, “Imagined Women: Consumerism, Nationalism, and Gender in the Ladies’ Home Journal and Canadian Home Journal of the 1920s”.

My research is situated firmly within American Studies, and forms part of a larger AHRC-funded research project,[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]“Magazines, Travel and Middlebrow Culture in Canada, 1925-1960”. My comparative study of magazines from the U.S. and Canada—considering these periodicals as collaborative literary texts, cultural artefacts, and commercial products—offers an original contribution to the fields of American Studies and Periodical Studies. An increased scholarly focus on print culture and the increasing availability of magazines and newspapers in digital form has led to an expansion of periodical studies within a North American context.

However, the specific titles I focus on have not, as of yet, been digitised. Accordingly, the material which informs my research was collected through an extensive research trip in January 2014 from the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, the Toronto Reference Library, Library and Archives Canada, and the New York Public Library. Given the ephemeral nature of magazines, in that they were created to be read then disposed of, the collections available in these libraries were often lacking. This was particularly true of the Ladies’ Home Journal, where many pages and even full issues were damaged or missing. Of course, this is to be expected with early-twentieth-century magazines, in that relatively cheap paper and imaginative readers are often both causes of incomplete issues.

As my project requires the consideration of these magazines as complete literary texts, it is vital that I am able to minimise the amount of missing material. The growing field of periodical studies has been characterised as inherently interdisciplinary. With this in mind, a vital part of my methodology lies in bringing together literary perspectives with aspects of consumer culture theory – namely content analysis. This method will ensure the consideration of all elements of the magazines, including those often overlooked in other studies such as recipes, advertisements, advice columns, and fashion editorials. This is of vital importance in considering these magazines as collaborative texts in which the seemingly disparate, and at times contradictory, features influence and shape each other.

It was with great relief, then, that I discovered the British Library’s copies of this magazine following my far-flung research trip. Perhaps surprisingly, the British Library’s versions of the magazine are far better preserved and more complete than those available at the New York Public Library. Being a monthly publication, and considering my research period of a decade, this amounts to a substantial archive of one hundred and twenty issues each averaging around two hundred pages. The fellowship allowed extended access to this vast quantity of material, and has been of tremendous benefit to my project, which relies on the reading of magazines as complete texts, as opposed to containers of discrete elements. The Eccles Centre Postgraduate fellowship has undoubtedly facilitated the completion of my PhD project, for which I am incredibly grateful.

Rachael Alexander is a PhD candidate at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]