For well over one hundred years, libraries open to the public have played a crucial part in fostering in Americans the skills and habits of reading and writing, by routinely providing access to standard forms of print: informational genres such as newspapers, pamphlets, textbooks, and other reference books, and literary genres including poetry, plays, and novels. Public libraries continue to have an extraordinary impact; in the early twenty-first century, the American Library Association reports that there are more public library branches than McDonald's restaurants in the United States. Much has been written about libraries from professional and managerial points of view, but less so from the perspectives of those most intimately involved—patrons and librarians.
Drawing on circulation records, patron reviews, and other archived materials, Libraries and the Reading Public in Twentieth-Century America underscores the evolving roles that libraries have played in the lives of American readers. Each essay in this collection examines a historical circumstance related to reading in libraries. The essays are organized in sections on methods of researching the history of reading in libraries; immigrants and localities; censorship issues; and the role of libraries in providing access to alternative, nonmainstream publications. The volume shows public libraries as living spaces where individuals and groups with diverse backgrounds, needs, and desires encountered and used a great variety of texts, images, and other media throughout the twentieth century.
In Literate Zeal, Janet Carey Eldred examines the rise of women magazine editors during the mid-twentieth century and reveals their unheralded role in creating a literary aesthetic for the American public. Between the sheets of popular magazines, editors offered belles-lettres to the masses and, in particular, middle-class women. Magazines became a place to find culture, humor, and intellectual affirmation alongside haute couture.
Eldred mines a variety of literary archives, notably the correspondence of Katharine Sargeant White of the New Yorker, to provide an insider’s view of the publisher-editor-author dynamic. Here, among White’s letters, memos, and markups, we see the deliberate shaping of literature to create a New Yorker ethos. Through her discrete phrasing, authors are coaxed by White to correct or wholly revise their work. Stories or poems by famous writers are rejected for being “dizzying” or “too literate.” With a surgeon’s skill, “disturbing” issues such as sexuality and race are extracted from manuscripts.
Eldred chronicles the work of women (and a few men) editors at the major women’s magazines of the day. Ladies’ Home Journal, Mademoiselle, Vogue, and others enacted an editorial style similar to that of the New Yorker by offering literature, values, and culture to an educated and aspiring middle class. Publishers effectively convinced readers that middlebrow stories (and by association their audience) had much loftier pursuits. And they were right. These publications created and sustained a mass literacy never before seen in American publishing.
The Romantic myth of childhood as a transhistorical holy time of innocence and spirituality, uncorrupted by the adult world, has been subjected in recent years to increasingly serious interrogation. Was there ever really a time when mythic ideals were simple, pure, and uncomplicated? The contributors to this book contend—although in widely differing ways and not always approvingly—that our culture is indeed still pervaded, in this postmodern moment of the very late twentieth century, by the Romantic conception of childhood which first emerged two hundred years ago.
In the wake of the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution, western Europe experienced another fin de siècle characterized by overwhelming material and institutional change and instability. By historicizing the specific political, social, and economic conflicts at work within the notion of Romantic childhood, the essayists in Literature and the Child show us how little these forces have changed over time and how enriching and empowering they can still be for children and their parents.
In the first section, “Romanticism Continued and Contested,” Alan Richardson and Mitzi Myers question the origins and ends of Romantic childhood. In “Romantic Ironies, Postmodern Texts,” Dieter Petzold, Richard Flynn, and James McGavran argue that postmodern texts for both children and adults perpetuate the Romantic complexities of childhood. Next, in “The Commerce of Children's Books,” Anne Lundin and Paula Connolly study the production and marketing of children's classics. Finally, in “Romantic Ideas in Cultural Confrontations,” William Scheick and Teya Rosenberg investigate interactions of Romantic myths with those of other cultural systems.
Over one hundred twenty formula romance novels are churned out every month. These romantic fantasies for women are big business and earn huge profits for the companies that publish them. Love’s $weet Return examines the phenomenon of romance fiction, focusing specifically on one of the most successful book publishers in the world, the Canadian-based Harlequin Enterprises. Margaret Jensen details the rise of the company, examines the Harlequin formula, and evaluates the growth and impact of both Harlequin and its competition. She also assesses recent shifts in the content of Harlequins, particularly as they pertain to women's changing roles in society.