What America Read
Taste, Class, and the Novel, 1920@-1960
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: The University of North Carolina Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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I received a great deal of help in writing this book. The first person to thankis Dale Bauer, my most favorite colleague, who read every line on every pagein several drafts for more than a decade. Her patience was extraordinary, herinstruction luminous, her queries acute and resonant, her corrections insis-tent and, of course, right. She saved me from a million missteps. No scholar...
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Why are so few novels remembered while so many thousands are forgotten?Is our literary history incomplete without accounting for these books? Thesequestions, and others like them, have stimulated this study of ‘‘better fiction’’—novels that were better than formula fiction but not as good as high art. Intheir time, these novels were within educated readers’ reference and mem-...
ONE: The 1920s
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In this chapter, I examine the history of the 1920s as it unfolded rather thanthe anxious study of its self-consciously modernist literature. I begin withthe momentous occasion of William Dean Howells’s death to suggest howmuch the realist tradition survived him. That leads me to survey the middle-class realism that was praised throughout the decade for its e√orts to con-...
TWO: The 1930s
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This chapter provides an alternative way of reading the fiction of this de-cade. I begin by restating the special circumstances under which ’30s histo-riography has been written and then turn to mainstream critical opinion andits sense of the decade’s achievements and challenges, pausing to examinethe adjudicating of taste that book reviewing played at the time. From that...
THREE: The 1940s
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I begin this chapter by studying early ’40s critical values, first by readingsuch key cultural texts as Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book and ReinholdNiebuhr’s Faith for Living, among other important works of the first two yearsof the decade, to help recuperate the kind of fiction that educated Americanswere reading before Pearl Harbor and to trace the continuities in their taste...
FOUR: The 1950s
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This last chapter observes the waning of the middle-class novel in the twen-tieth century before its revival in the 1980s. I begin by assessing the culturalopinion of the early fifties, first by looking at the kind of documents, like thefamous colloquium, ‘‘Our Country and Our Culture,’’ that usually mark thisdiscussion, along with less heralded but no less revealing essays and lectures...
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For some readers, the history of the American novel will always be one of itsformal changes—from Cooper, through Hawthorne and Melville, to Jamesand onward through Hemingway and Faulkner, on through the early post-modernists, culminating in Pynchon or DeLillo or Morrison. At variouspoints, for these readers, lesser lights will have something to add. The...
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In writing a book devoted to the middle-class realism of mid-twentieth-century American fiction, three concerns of method and scope persisted.Since I was describing a subject of previously unregistered proportions, Ifirst had to determine what kind of literary history I was writing: my re-search entailed a host of social, cultural, often political, sometimes material,...
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...1 See Tompkins, Sensational Designs. This study is surely one of the key analyses of thelast twenty-five years, and its influence has been decisive insofar as so many Ameri-canists have followed its basic wisdom of testing how novels register, codify, andnegotiate cultural meanings and values, what Tompkins calls ‘‘cultural work.’’ Otherbooks key to my study are Janice Radway’s A Feeling for Books, which takes up some...
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Aaron, Daniel. Writers on the Left. 1965. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.Aaron, Daniel, and Robert Bendiner, eds. The Strenuous Decade: A Social and IntellectualAbbott, Wilbur. The New Barbarians. Boston: Little, Brown, 1925.Adamic, Louis. My America, 1928–1938. 1938. New York: Da Capo Press, 1976.Adams, James Truslow. The Epic of America. Boston: Little, Brown, 1931....
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...—works of: ‘‘The All-Star Literary Vaudeville,’’ 53–...
Page Count: 464
Publication Year: 2009