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Literature > Book History and Print Culture

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In the Company of Books Cover

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In the Company of Books

Literature and Its "Classes" in Nineteenth-Century America

Sarah Wadsworth

A vital feature of American culture in the nineteenth century was the growing awareness that the literary marketplace consisted not of a single, unified, relatively homogeneous reading public but rather of many disparate, overlapping reading communities differentiated by interests, class, and level of education as well as by gender and stage of life. Tracing the segmentation of the literary marketplace in nineteenth-century America, this book analyzes the implications of the subdivided literary field for readers, writers, and literature itself. With sections focusing on segmentation by age, gender, and cultural status, In the Company of Books analyzes the ways authors and publishers carved up the field of literary production into a multitude of distinct submarkets, differentiated their products, and targeted specific groups of readers in order to guide their book-buying decisions. Combining innovative approaches to canonical authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain, and Henry James with engaging investigations into the careers of many lesser-known literary figures, Sarah Wadsworth reveals how American writers responded to—and contributed to—this diverse, and diversified, market. In the Company of Books contends that specialized editorial and marketing tactics, in concert with the narrative strategies of authors and the reading practices of the book-buying public, transformed the literary landscape, leading to new roles for the book in American culture, the innovation of literary genres, and new relationships between books and readers. Both an exploration of a fragmented print culture through the lens of nineteenth-century American literature and an analysis of nineteenth-century American literature from the perspective of this subdivided marketplace, this wide-ranging study offers fresh insight into the impact of market forces on the development of American literature.

Invisible Conversations Cover

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Invisible Conversations

Religion in the Literature of America

Rober Lundin, editor

American literature offers exceptional resources for understanding the complex role religion has played in the life of the culture and in the experience of its people. In recent decades, however, the academic study of that literature has largely treated religion, in the words of a noted scholar, as an"invisible domain."In joining the rich conversations that have enlivened American culture for centuries, Invisible Conversations seeks to bring to light the vital role that religion has played in the literature of the United States.

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The Journal of Modern Periodical Studies

Vol. 1 (2010) through current issue

The Journal of Modern Periodical Studies will be a peer-reviewed scholarly online journal devoted to the academic study of “little magazines” of the modern period. Contributions will investigate from a wide variety of angles daily newspapers, weeklies, monthlies, quarterlies, and irregularly published small magazines published from 1880 to 1950 in the English-speaking world. A section will discuss the latest literature and resources (Web, etc.) in the field and related disciplines. Selected book reviews will be included.

Knowing Books Cover

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Knowing Books

The Consciousness of Mediation in Eighteenth-Century Britain

By Christina Lupton

The eighteenth century has long been associated with realism and objective description, modes of representation that deemphasize writing. But in the middle decades of the century, Christina Lupton observes, authors described with surprising candor the material and economic facets of their own texts' production. In Knowing Books Lupton examines a variety of eighteenth-century sources, including sermons, graffiti, philosophical texts, and magazines, which illustrate the range and character of mid-century experiments with words announcing their status as physical objects. Books that "know" their own presence on the page and in the reader's hand become, in Lupton's account, tantalizing objects whose entertainment value competes with that of realist narrative.

Knowing Books introduces these mid-eighteenth-century works as part of a long history of self-conscious texts being greeted as fashionable objects. Poststructuralist and Marxist approaches to literature celebrate the consciousness of writing and economic production as belonging to revolutionary understandings of the world, but authors of the period under Lupton's gaze expose the facts of mediation without being revolutionary. On the contrary, their explication of economic and material processes shores up their claim to material autonomy and economic success. Lupton uses media theory and close reading to suggest the desire of eighteenth-century readers to attribute sentience to technologies and objects that entertain them.

Rather than a historical study of print technology, Knowing Books offers a humanist interpretation of the will to cede agency to media. This horizon of theoretical engagement makes Knowing Books at once an account of the least studied decades of the eighteenth century and a work of relevance for those interested in new attitudes toward media in the twenty-first.

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Kundera and Modernity

by Liisa Steinby

While a large amount of scholarship about Milan Kundera's work exists, in Liisa Steinby's opinion his work has not been studied within the context of (European) modernity as a sociohistorical and a cultural concept. Of course, he is considered to be a modernist writer (some call him even a postmodernist), but what the broader concept of modernity intellectually, historically, socially, and culturally means for him and how this is expressed in his texts has not been thoroughly examined. Steinby's book fills this vacuum by analyzing Kundera's novels from the viewpoint of his understanding of the existential problems in the culture of modernity. In addition, his relation to those modernist novelists from the first half of the twentieth century who are most important for him is scrutinized in detail. Steinby’s Kundera and Modernity is intended for students of modernism in literary and (comparative) cultural studies, as well as those interested in European and Central European studies. Key Points: • Offers new insights into the work of the popular modern writer Milan Kundera. • Expands the reader’s understanding of the meaning of the concept of “modernity.” • Widens the literature available in English about Central European culture. Quote: “This work is superb. By examining the works and traditions that Kundera claims to have influenced him, Steinby demonstrates how Kundera’s misreading of previous novelists as well as his own desire to be taken out of the Czech or Central European context has informed his own work. This book is the result of many years of painstaking research.” Craig Cravens, Indiana University

Learning to Read and Write in Colonial America Cover

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Learning to Read and Write in Colonial America

Literacy Instruction and Acquisition in a Cultural Context

E Jennifer Monaghan

An experienced teacher of reading and writing and an award-winning historian, E. Jennifer Monaghan brings to vibrant life the process of learning to read and write in colonial America. Ranging throughout the colonies from New Hampshire to Georgia, she examines the instruction of girls and boys, Native Americans and enslaved Africans, the privileged and the poor, revealing the sometimes wrenching impact of literacy acquisition on the lives of learners. For the most part, religious motives underlay reading instruction in colonial America, while secular motives led to writing instruction. Monaghan illuminates the history of these activities through a series of deeply researched and readable case studies. An Anglican missionary battles mosquitoes and loneliness to teach the New York Mohawks to write in their own tongue. Puritan fathers model scriptural reading for their children as they struggle with bereavement. Boys in writing schools, preparing for careers in counting houses, wield their quill pens in the difficult task of mastering a "good hand." Benjamin Franklin learns how to compose essays with no teacher but himself. Young orphans in Georgia write precocious letters to their benefactor, George Whitefield, while schools in South Carolina teach enslaved black children to read but never to write. As she tells these stories, Monaghan clears new pathways in the analysis of colonial literacy. She pioneers in exploring the implications of the separation of reading and writing instruction, a topic that still resonates in today's classrooms. Monaghan argues that major improvements occurred in literacy instruction and acquisition after about 1750, visible in rising rates of signature literacy. Spelling books were widely adopted as they key text for teaching young children to read; prosperity, commercialism, and a parental urge for gentility aided writing instruction, benefiting girls in particular. And a gentler vision of childhood arose, portraying children as more malleable than sinful. It promoted and even commercialized a new kind of children's book designed to amuse instead of convert, laying the groundwork for the "reading revolution" of the new republic.

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The Library: The Transactions of the Bibliographical Society

Vol. 7 (2006) through current issue

The Library is the journal of the Bibliographical Society. For more than a hundred years it has been the pre-eminent scholarly journal for the history of books, both manuscript and printed, and the role of books in history. All aspects of descriptive and historical bibliography come within its scope, including the general and economic history of the production and distribution of books, paper, printing types, illustration, and binding, as well as the transmission of texts and their authenticity. Each issue of The Library normally contains 100-115 pages, illustrated where necessary. Also included in each issue are reviews and lists of recent books and periodicals in the field. A comprehensive index is issued annually.

Literary Advertising and the Shaping of British Romanticism Cover

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Literary Advertising and the Shaping of British Romanticism

Nicholas Mason

Literary Advertising and the Shaping of British Romanticism investigates the entwined histories of the advertising industry and the gradual commodification of literature over the course of the Romantic Century (1750–1850). In this well-written and detailed study, Nicholas Mason argues that the seemingly antagonistic arenas of marketing and literature share a common genealogy and, in many instances, even a symbiotic relationship. Drawing from archival materials such as publisher account books, merchant trade cards, and author letters, Mason traces the beginnings of many modern advertising methods—including product placement, limited-time offers, and journalistic puffery—to the British book trade during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Until now, Romantic scholars have not fully recognized advertising’s cultural significance or the importance of this period in the origins of modern advertising. Mason explores Lord Byron’s appropriation of branding, Letitia Elizabeth Landon’s experiments in visual marketing, and late-Romantic debates over advertising's claim to be a new branch of the literary arts. Mason uses the antics of Romantic-era advertising to illustrate the profound implications of commercial modernity, both in economic practices governing the book trade and, more broadly, in the development of the modern idea of literature.

Myself and Some Other Being Cover

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Myself and Some Other Being

Wordsworth and the Life Writing

Daniel Robinson

As a young writer with neither profession nor money, William Wordsworth committed himself to a career as a poet, embracing what he believed was his destiny. But even the “giant Wordsworth,” as his friend and collaborator Samuel Taylor Coleridge called him, had his doubts. In Myself and Some Other Being, Daniel Robinson presents a young Wordsworth, as ambitious and insecure as any writer starting out, who was trying to prove to himself that he could become the great poet he desired to be and that Coleridge, equally brilliant and insecure, believed he already was.

Myself and Some Other Being is the story of Wordsworth becoming Wordsworth by writing the fragments and drafts of what would eventually become The Prelude, an autobiographical epic poem addressed to Coleridge that he hid from the public and was only published after his death in 1850. Feeling pressured to write the greatest epic poem of all time, a task set for him by Coleridge, Wordsworth feared that he was not up to the challenge and instead looked inside himself for memories and materials that he might make into poetry using the power of his imagination. What he found there was another Wordsworth—not exactly the memory of his younger self but rather “some other being” that he could adapt for an innovative kind of life-writing that he hoped would justify his writing life. By writing about himself and that other being, Wordsworth created an innovative autobiographical epic of becoming that is the masterpiece he believed he had failed to write.

In focusing on this young, ambitious, yet insecure Wordsworth struggling to find his place among other writers, Robinson ably demonstrates how The Prelude may serve as a provocative, instructive, and inspirational rumination on the writing of one’s own life. Concentrating on the process of Wordsworth’s endless revisions, the real literary business of creativity, Robinson puts Wordsworth forward as a model and inspiration for the next generation of writers.

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Necessary Luxuries

Books, Literature, and the Culture of Consumption in Germany, 1770–1815

by Matt Erlin

The consumer revolution of the eighteenth century brought new and exotic commodities to Europe from abroad—coffee, tea, spices, and new textiles to name a few. Yet one of the most widely distributed luxury commodities in the period was not new at all, and was produced locally: the book. In Necessary Luxuries, Matt Erlin considers books and the culture around books during this period, focusing specifically on Germany where literature, and the fine arts in general, were the subject of soul-searching debates over the legitimacy of luxury in the modern world.

Building on recent work done in the fields of consumption studies as well as the New Economic Criticism, Erlin combines intellectual-historical chapters (on luxury as a concept, luxury editions, and concerns about addictive reading) with contextualized close readings of novels by Campe, Wieland, Moritz, Novalis, and Goethe. As he demonstrates, artists in this period were deeply concerned with their status as luxury producers. The rhetorical strategies they developed to justify their activities evolved in dialogue with more general discussions regarding new forms of discretionary consumption. By emphasizing the fragile legitimacy of the fine arts in the period, Necessary Luxuries offers a fresh perspective on the broader trajectory of German literature in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, recasting the entire period in terms of a dynamic unity, rather than simply as a series of literary trends and countertrends.

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