The railway was one of the principal Victorian spaces of reading. This book spotlights one of the leading audience demographics in this late-Victorian market: the newly empowered readers of the expanding middle class. The transactions in which late-Victorian readers acquired the books read whilst travelling are reconstructed by exploring the leading determinants of consumers’ purchasing choices at the railway station bookstalls selling books intended for reading in this zone. This exploration concentrates on the impact of forces like the input of the staff running the bookstalls and the commercial environment in which consumers made their purchases.
At the center of this study is a leading (and still relatively under-examined) genre of Victorian print culture circulating in this reading space― the series. Rooney examines three leading examples of late-Victorian series, which sought to satisfy railway passengers’ need for literary reading matter. Many of the period’s principal authors and literary genres featured in their lists. Each venture is representative of one of the three main pricing tiers of series publishing. Employing an eclectic methodological framework combining cultural studies and book history approaches with concepts from the new humanities, the reading experiences furnished by the light fiction of these series are reconstructed. This study reflects the recent growth in scholarship on historical readership, the expansion in the canon of Victorian popular literature, and the broader material turn in nineteenth-century studies.
Introduction: Audiences and Publisher’s Series
1. Railway Readers in the Post-1870 Reading Climate
2. "Food for the Mind," Consumer Choices, and the Railway Bookstall Environment
3. Second Generation Yellowbacks: Chatto & Windus’s Cheap Editions of Popular Novels (1877-1897)
4. Transnational Crime Writing and the Cheap Series Reprint: Routledge’s Sixpenny Detective Books (1887-1888)
5. "As necessary to the traveller as a rug in winter and a dust-coat in summer": Light Reading and Arrowsmith’s Bristol Library (1884-1898)
In the past, the critics and writers who formulated the boundaries of the literary canon in British literature restricted its membership to ‘high culture’ and the ‘highbrow’. Writers whose work lies outside these selectively applied parameters of literary taste and value have been assigned to the derogatory category of ‘middlebrow’ or ‘popular’ literature. Some of these writers were rejected from the canon by their willing embrace of popular appeal, and their openness to a wide readership. Many texts were not included because they were written by women, addressed women’s concerns, or because they were concerned with middle- and working-class values and aspirations that were inimical to the literature of high culture. Other categories that have been disadvantaged by the institutional application of canonicity in British literary culture include regionality, the literature of impairment, political stance, and writers of colour.
This series offers monographs and edited collections of essays that examine the extents and effects of writing that resists the regulation of the canon. Crossing both cultural and geographic boundaries, this series brings together studies of texts, writers, readers, producers, and distributors. It will highlight current debates about the politics of mainstream readerships and media, about the designation of audiences and material methods of circulation, and will address contemporary critical concerns. By attending to how these texts resist the ‘high’ cultural imperative the works in this series make it possible to learn how culture is commodified for particular classes, and the role that gender and social class play in the production of those categories.
Manuscripts should be in the range of 80,000 to 100,000 words. Proposals should be eight to ten pages in length and should include a brief overview of the relevant scholarship in the field, the contribution which your work will make, a breakdown of the contents by chapter, an account of the number and type of illustrations, a brief survey of competing works, to whom the proposed book could be marketed, and the intended audience. Proposals should include a minimum of two sample chapters.