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

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Despite the vigorous study of modern American fiction, today's readers are only familiar with a partial shelf of a vast library. Gordon Hutner describes the distorted, canonized history of the twentieth-century American novel as a record of modern classics insufficiently appreciated in their day but recuperated by scholars in order to shape the grand tradition of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner. In presenting literary history this way, Hutner argues, scholars have forgotten a rich treasury of realist novels ...

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

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Overview

Despite the vigorous study of modern American fiction, today's readers are only familiar with a partial shelf of a vast library. Gordon Hutner describes the distorted, canonized history of the twentieth-century American novel as a record of modern classics insufficiently appreciated in their day but recuperated by scholars in order to shape the grand tradition of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner. In presenting literary history this way, Hutner argues, scholars have forgotten a rich treasury of realist novels that recount the story of the American middle-class's confrontation with modernity. Reading these novels now offers an extraordinary opportunity to witness debates about what kind of nation America would become and what place its newly dominant middle class would have—and, Hutner suggests, should also lead us to wonder how our own contemporary novels will be remembered.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Hutner exhibits skillful precision in advancing through this often misty and stony literary landscape. . . . [An] entertaining and comprehensive survey."
Publishing Research Quarterly

"The originality of this project and the avenues it opens for further comparative work are undeniable. Hutner's book promises to enliven work in modernist and American studies, recalibrating our sense not only of what America read but of why that reading matters."
Clio

"Hutner covers a great deal of ground with a good deal of clarity, and his book deserves to be read with close attention by anyone interested in the reading habits of the American public."
The National Review

"A legitimate corrective to the English department syllabus."
Wilson Quarterly

"Hutner surveys four decades of American fiction from the viewpoint of the reading public and the mainstream critics of the time, and reveals just how shifts in the currents of critical tastes can leave many good works stranded and quickly forgotten."
— NeglectedBooks.com

"An interesting analysis of how the literary academy decides which books will be remembered."
The Wall Street Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807832271
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/2009
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 6.60 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Gordon Hutner is professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and founding editor of the journal American Literary History.

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