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Reading Up Middle-Class Readers and the Culture of Success in the Early Twentieth-Century United States amy l. blair Temple University Press philadelphia Temple University Press Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19122 Copyright © 2012 by Temple University All rights reserved Published 2012 The paper used in this publication meets the requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48–1992 library of congress cataloging-in-publication data Blair, Amy L., 1972– Reading up : middle-class readers and the culture of success in the early twentieth-century United States / Amy L. Blair.   p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-4399-0667-5 (cloth : alk. paper) ISBN 978-1-4399-0668-2 (pbk. : alk. paper) ISBN 978-1-4399-0669-9 (e-book) 1. American literature—Appreciation—United States—History—20th century. 2. Popular literature—United States—History and criticism. 3. Books and reading—United States—History—20th century. 4. Middle class—Books and reading— United States—History—20th century. 5. Success in literature. 6. Literature and society—United States—History—20th century. 7. Mabie, Hamilton Wright, 1846– 1916—Knowledge—Literature. 8. Ladies’ home journal. I. Title. PS228.P67B63 2011 306.4'88097309041—dc22 2011015287 Printed in the United States of America 2 4 6 8 9 7 5 3 1 A book in the American Literatures Initiative (ALI), a collaborative publishing project of NYU Press, Fordham University Press, Rutgers University Press, Temple University Press, and the University of Virginia Press. The Initiative is supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. For more information, please visit Contents Acknowledgments vii Introduction: Cultivating Taste in a Mass-Market World 1 1 Mr. Mabie Tells What to Read 23 2 The Compromise of Silas Lapham 61 3 James for the General Reader 99 4 Misreading The House of Mirth 137 5 The Comforts of Romanticism 171 Epilogue: Reading Up into the Twenty-first Century 195 Appendix A: The Mabie Canon 205 Appendix B: “Novels Descriptive of American Life” (November 1908) 209 Notes 211 Bibliography 227 Index 241 Acknowledgments Now that it is my turn to try to acknowledge the profound intellectual and emotional gifts I have received during the many years of this book’s conception and production, I hardly know how to begin. At Cornell University, I had the honor of working with inspirational and generous teachers and mentors: Shirley Samuels, whose intellectual and personal generosity and unflagging faith have been a pillar of my career; Mark Seltzer , Laura Brown, and Shelley Wong, who were all inspirational teachers and constructive readers and critics of the best kind; and Lois Brown and Mark Dimunation, who introduced me to the joys of the material text and taught me how to navigate the archive. During the peripatetic stage of my academic career, many people along the way offered important advice and support that nurtured and shaped this project. Kevin Ohi has been an incisive reader and a dear friend. Natalie Friedman, Heather Dubnick, Karen Halil, and Javier Rodriguez formed an ideal writing group at Boston University. The History and Literature Program at Harvard University was a wonderful space for teaching and collegiality; Steve Biel, John O’Keefe, Megan Nelson, Katherine Howe, and Andy Muldoon were particular friends and insightful readers of my work. My student Catherine Shoichet taught me much about Edith Wharton, and I feel very fortunate to have worked with her. Colleen Lanick’s friendship has maintained me across careers and miles. Eliza Richards, Mary Loeffelholz, Melissa Homestead, Faith Barrett, and Alice Rutkowski all offered guidance and constructive criticism that have helped me focus my inquiry. ...


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