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The Discipline of Sympathy and the Limits of Omniscience in Nineteenth-Century Journalism

Hazel Mackenzie

Nineteenth-century literary journalism is often read in the light of Michel Foucault's disciplinary paradigm as articulated in his seminal work Discipline and Punish: The Birth of a Prison (1975). Contextualising the growth of literary journalism within the evolution of the modern, urban society, this article explores the ways in which journalists in this period manipulated generic conventions to both enact and resist their role in creating a more transparent, disciplined society. Looking at the journalism of Charles Lamb, William Hazlitt, Charles Dickens, Charles Collins, John Hollingshead and William Makepeace Thackeray, this article will argue that their use of a limited, first-person perspective and their emphasis on feeling and sympathy attempts to resist a passive and disciplinary spectatorship and yet paradoxically it is the most significantly disciplinary aspect of their texts.

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