What Middletown Read: Print Culture in an American Small City

What Middletown Read: Print Culture in an American Small City

by Frank Felsenstein, James J. Connolly

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The discovery of a large cache of circulation records from the Muncie, Indiana, Public Library in 2003 offers unprecedented detail about American reading behavior at the turn of the twentieth century. Frank Felsenstein and James J. Connolly have mined these records to produce an in-depth account of print culture in Muncie, the city featured in the famed "Middletown" studies conducted by Robert and Helen Lynd almost a century ago. Using the data assembled and made public through the What Middletown Read Database (www.bsu.edu/libraries/wmr), a celebrated new resource the authors helped launch, Felsenstein and Connolly analyze the borrowing choices and reading culture of social groups and individuals.

What Middletown Read is much more than a statistical study. Felsenstein and Connolly dig into diaries, meeting minutes, newspaper reports, and local histories to trace the library's development in relation to the city's cosmopolitan aspirations, to profile individual readers, and to explore such topics as the relationship between children's reading and their schooling and what books were discussed by local women's clubs. The authors situate borrowing patterns and reading behavior within the contexts of a rapidly growing, culturally ambitious small city, an evolving public library, an expanding market for print, and the broad social changes that accompanied industrialization in the United States. The result is a rich, revealing portrait of the place of reading in an emblematic American community.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781625341419
Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press
Publication date: 06/30/2015
Series: Studies in Print Culture and the History of the Book Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 9.10(w) x 6.00(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Frank Felsenstein is Reed D. Voran Honors Distinguished Professor in Humanities and professor of English at Ball State University. He is author of English Trader, Indian Maid: Representing Gender, Race, and Slavery in the New World.

James J. Connolly is George and Frances Ball Distinguished Professor of History and director of the Center for Middletown Studies at Ball State University. He is author, most recently, of An Elusive Unity: Urban Democracy and Machine Politics in Industrializing America.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix


Part I A City and Its Library

1 "Now We Are a City": Portrait of a Boomtown 17

2 "A Magnificent Array of Books" The Origins and Development of the Muncie Public Library 37

3 Cosmopolitan Trends: Print Culture and the Public Library in 1890s Muncie 73

Part II Reading Experiences

4 Borrowing Patterns: The Muncie Public Library and Its Patrons 99

5 "Bread Sweet as Honey": Reading, Education, and the Public Library 136

6 Reading and Reform: The Role of Fiction in the Civic Imagination of Muncie's Activist Women 166

7 Schoolboys and Social Butterflies Profiling Middle-town Readers 199

Epilogue: Looking Backward, Looking Forward 249

Appendix: The What Middletown Read Database 261

Notes 269

Index 297

What People are Saying About This

Christine Pawley

This book makes an extremely important contribution to the literature on print culture history both for its methodological content and for what it has to tell us about the print culture of 'Middletown.'

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