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Original scientific paper
The Novel-Reading Panic in 18th-Century in England: An Outline of an Early Moral Media Panic
; University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts, Depart¬ment of Sociology, Slovenia
Fulltext: pdf (225 KB),
Pages 103 - 124
The article explores the unfavourable reaction to the popularisation of novel-reading in 18th-century England in order to show that the outraged opposition to this leisure praxis could be understood in terms of the contemporary socio¬logical concept – ‘moral panic’ – thereby revealing novel-reading as an early version of popular media culture. After outlining the cultural context of 18th-century England as well as the main characteristics of its novels, the paper discerns the anxieties, arising from the passion for fiction, and lays out the ar¬gumentation supporting the fear of reading as was advocated by the moral heralds of the time. The analysis reveals that the oppositional reaction to novel-reading indeed encompassed all the key constitutive elements of the proper moral panic phenomenon. Maintaining a dialogue between 18th-cen¬tury and the present, the essay concludes by drawing analogies with contem¬porary reactions to television viewing, linking the worried response to the spread of novels with another related notion, the media panic, thus showing that what came to be seen as a feature of the modern (20th and 21st century) mass media culture has in fact a much longer history.
moral panic; novels; female readers; 18th-century England; media panic