Guest Lecture with

Professor Dr. Ryan Cordell (Northeastern University)

“Vignettes: Micro-Fictions in Nineteenth-Century Newspapers”

February 2, 2016; 6 pm (18 Uhr c.t.)
Philosophicum P12
Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

Drawing from the findings of the Viral Text Project at Northeastern University (, this talk describes and theorizes a prototypical but largely unstudied newspaper genre, the vignette. These are very short prose pieces, typically a few paragraphs, that mark themselves simultaneously as fact and fiction and embody a complicated negotiation between objective truth and subjective fiction that underlay much of the period’s literature.

This talk situates the vignette as an essential genre in antebellum American letters, both influential in the development of sentimental fiction and a precursor to the prose writing later styled „literary journalism.“ The vignette in many ways encapsulates the medium of the nineteenth-century newspaper: it is both fact and fiction, operating in the gray space produced by a medium through which news, poetry, fiction, and countless other genres jostled for readers’ attention on the same pages. Through its form and situation, vignettes demonstrate similarly deep entanglements between the newspaper’s informational mode and the emotional mode of contemporaneous fiction.

Download the poster here.