University of Sussex
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George Augustus Sala: the personal style of a public writer

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posted on 2023-06-07, 15:51 authored by Peter Blake
This thesis examines the work of the nineteenth century journalist George Augustus Sala. Previous studies of Sala have focused upon the biographical aspects of his life at the expense of critical analysis of the prolific contributions he made to newspapers and periodicals. This thesis will readdress this imbalance by a close reading of Sala's visual and textual output together with an examination of the contemporary debates and issues surrounding his work. In particular it will suggest that Sala's journalistic style was a product of the very different mediums he was working in, and how this personal style along with his innovations in form would influence the New Journalism at the end of the century. For so long a misunderstood and neglected figure, this thesis will endeavour to reposition Sala at the centre of nineteenth-century media culture rather than at its margins. My research links Sala's role as an engraver, illustrator, and scene-painter to his career as an essayist for Dickens's Household Words. It will demonstrate how this in turn influenced his experiments with the form of the novel which would impact on his work as the pre-eminent Special Correspondent of the Daily Telegraph. In an age of rapid press and cultural transformation my research will highlight Sala's engagement with theories of urban modernity and commodity culture; gambling, finance capitalism and the uncertainty of modern life; the culture of literary bohemia and the plight of the poor and the oppressed; and the role of the journalist. I will pursue Sala's commitment to sensationalism and realism in his novels, and his fluctuating opinions on race, slavery and imperialism in his travel writing. This thesis will also shed light on Sala's relationship with some of the most important journalists, authors, and artists of the nineteenth century – Charles Dickens, William Thackeray, Mary Braddon, WP Frith, Henry Vizetelly, Frederick Greenwood and W.T. Stead. Necessarily interdisciplinary in focus, my research draws on critical work by cultural historians and literary theorists like Tim Barringer, P.D. Edwards, Mary Gluck, Lynda Nead, Deborah Nord, Matthew Rubery, Richard Sennett, Ralph Straus, Catherine Waters and Ruth Yeazell, among others. By examining contemporary periodicals, newspapers and letters this thesis will contribute to the burgeoning field of nineteenth-century print culture, while adding to the knowledge and understanding of the man many considered to be the 'beau-ideal' of a journalist.


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  • eng


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