New Book: Newspaper Confessions

Author: Julie Golia

Newspaper Confessions

A History of Advice Columns in a Pre-Internet Age

Oxford University Press, 2021

What can century-old advice columns tell us about the Internet today? This book reveals the little-known history of advice columns in American newspapers and the virtual communities they created among their readers.

Imagine a community of people who had never met writing into a media outlet, day after day, to reveal intimate details about their lives, anxieties, and hopes. The original “virtual communities” were born not on the Internet in chat rooms but a century earlier in one of America’s most ubiquitous news features: the advice column.

Newspaper Confessions is the first history of the newspaper advice column, a genre that has shaped Americans’ relationships with media, their experiences with popular therapy, and their virtual interactions across generations. Emerging in the 1890s, advice columns became unprecedented virtual forums where readers could debate the most resonant cultural crises of the day with strangers in an anonymous, yet strikingly public, forum. Early advice columns are essential–and overlooked–precursors to today’s digital culture: forums, social media groups, chat rooms, and other online communities that define how present-day American communicate with each other.

By charting the economic and cultural motivations behind the rise of this influential genre, Julie Golia offers a nuanced analysis of the advice given by a diverse sample of columns across several decades, emphasizing the ways that advice columnists framed their counsel as modern, yet upheld the racial and gendered status quo of the day. She offers lively, surprising, and poignant case studies, demonstrating how columnists and everyday newspaper readers transformed advice columns into active and participatory virtual communities of confession, advice, debate, and empathy. (Description c/o Oxford University Press)

This book is available for purchase from the Oxford University Press website. Use code AAFLYG6 for 30% off at global.oup.com/academic

You can also hear a conversation with the author and Daniel Lavery, Slate’s current Dear Prudence and the author of Something that May Shock and Discredit You, recorded here:
https://www.crowdcast.io/e/confessions

You can hear a conversation with her and Daniel Lavery, Slate’s current Dear Prudence and the author of Something that May Shock and Discredit You, recorded here:
https://www.crowdcast.io/e/confessions