In the Company of Books: Literature and Its Classes in Nineteenth-Century America

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Editorial Reviews

Wadsworth's background in the book trade serves her well. Her study demonstrates how market-conscious strategies of publishers, authors, and editors targeted specific audiences, created new specialized audiences, and anticipated existing audiences' tastes and expectations.
H-Net Reviews
[Wadsworth's] book is a key addition to the studies in Print Culture and the History of the Book series." -
—Donald K. Pickens, University of North Texas
The Journal of American History
. . . by reminding critics who are apt to ignore market considerations to bear in mind the machinations of book selling, In the Company of Books enriches the subfield of publishing history. Wdasworth's attention to readerships is not only fresh and provocative, but singularly well placed to nudge inquiry that has long been top-down toward vibrant research on meaning, value, and use.
The New England Quarterly
The analysis of methods of distribution and the packaging of texts for different economic and cultural classes is rich, substantial, and very useful in expanding our understanding of the ways in which texts found their ways into readers' lives.
Library Journal
Readers who still believe cheap paperbacks weren't born until the aftermath of World War II should disabuse themselves of that notion by reading this vastly informative story of how American publishing found ways to target individual reading publics as early as shortly after the Civil War. Wadsworth (English, Marquette Univ.) sums up the purpose of her book as "revis[ing] conventional narratives of literary history by revealing that a vital, even transformative, feature of American culture in the nineteenth century was the 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." The 19th-century American writers whose writing and publishing form the basis of her argument are Henry James, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain, and William Dean Howells. Individual sections focus on segmentation by age, gender, and cultural status. Wadsworth's mere 200-odd pages of text contain a densely written but amply illustrated history of American publishing during its time of maximum change. Every large public library-and certainly every academic library-should include this little gem in its collection.-Charles C. Nash, Cottey Coll., Nevada, MO Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

Table of Contents

Prologue : following the reader 1
Pt. 1 From "girls and boys" to tomboys and bad boys 15
1 Wonder books 25
2 Stories of their lives 44
3 Boy's life 70
Pt. 2 The masses and the classes 95
4 Seaside and fireside 107
5 Innocence abroad 134
6 A blue and gold mystique 161
Epilogue : the margins of the marketplace 193
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