What America Read: Taste, Class, and the Novel, 1920-1960

By Gordon Hutner | Go to book overview

NOTES

INTRODUCTION

1 See Tompkins, Sensational Designs. This study is surely one of the key analyses of the last twenty-five years, and its influence has been decisive insofar as so many Americanists have followed its basic wisdom of testing how novels register, codify, and negotiate cultural meanings and values, what Tompkins calls “cultural work.” Other books key to my study are Janice Radway’s A Feeling for Books, which takes up some similar subjects but which develops a very different value for reading, one closer to absorption rather than re-creation or civic activity. I have also learned from Joan Rubin’s The Making of Middlebrow Culture, which to my mind misses the class interests of her subject. I am grateful for David Minter’s A Cultural History of the American Novel, which in a sense provided an outline of what I then no longer needed to do in my study. Much later did I find Rita Barnard’s useful, evocative essay, “Modern American Fiction,” and, even later, Peter Stonely and Cindy Weinstein’s A Concise Companion to American Fiction.

2 Along with the Oxford Companion to Women’s Writing in the United States, I have benefited from several important recovery efforts that have been concluded during the course of writing this book, especially Deborah Lindsay Williams’s Not in Sisterhood and, more recently, Jamie Harker’s America the Middlebrow, which relates modern American women writers to their nineteenth-century counterparts instead of the Howellsian tradition in which, I argue, they participate.

3 On the historical question of reading, there were a plethora of periodical articles on the changing importance and function of reading in the era following World War I, some of which related the changes to the rise of college-educated readers. See, e.g., Maurice, “A New Golden Age in American Reading,” and Dana, “Changes in Reading.” My discussion of middle-class culture is indebted to Pierre Bourdieu’s works of social analysis, esp. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, esp. 292 94, and The Field of Cultural Production, esp. 161–75, though I have tried to be mindful that few analogies to the twentieth-century shaping of the American mid-

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What America Read: Taste, Class, and the Novel, 1920-1960
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • One - The 1920s 37
  • Two - The 1930s 117
  • Three - The1940s 194
  • Four - The 1950s 269
  • Conclusion 329
  • Postscript 337
  • Notes 347
  • Bibliography 365
  • Index 425
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