Harper’s New Monthly Magazine: American Censorship, European Decadence, and the Periodicals Market in the 1890s

  • Laurel Brake


Startling differences between two late twentieth-century views of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, by Larzer Ziff and Barbara Perkins, suggested to me the theoretical problem of how meaning is constructed in periodical studies — from peaks in a given serial’s circulation figures (Perkins) or in comparison with figures from other adjacent serials (Ziff). Is HNMM in the 1890s at the height of its great success as Perkins implies on the basis of high circulation figures; or, as Ziff argues in a comparative study which adduces ample evidence of systematic editorial censorship in a quartet of older monthlies, is Harper’s, along with the Atlantic, Scribner’s, and the Century, on its way out, victim of of a ‘scrupulous avoidance of the startling’ (Ziff, 123)? Against Ziff’s contention may be set a facet of Harper’s November 1893 number — the publication in a family magazine of two pieces associated with European decadence by British authors. I propose to view the cultural formation of which HNMM is a part, to set the hypotheses of Perkins and Ziff against a contents analysis of this issue, and to assess the functions of British writing about European decadence in an American family periodical.


Cultural Formation British Publisher British Writing British Author Circulation Figure 
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© Laurel Brake 1994

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  • Laurel Brake

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