Reading, Publishing and the Formation of Literary Taste in England, 1880-1914  book cover
1st Edition

Reading, Publishing and the Formation of Literary Taste in England, 1880-1914

ISBN 9780367887926
Published December 12, 2019 by Routledge
222 Pages

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Book Description

Between 1880 and 1914, England saw the emergence of an unprecedented range of new literary forms from Modernism to the popular thriller. Not coincidentally, this period also marked the first overt references to an art/market divide through which books took on new significance as markers of taste and class. Though this division has received considerable attention relative to the narrative structures of the period's texts, little attention has been paid to the institutions and ideologies that largely determined a text's accessibility and circulated format and thus its mode of address to specific readerships. Hammond addresses this gap in scholarship, asking the following key questions: How did publishing and distribution practices influence reader choice? Who decided whether or not a book was a 'classic'? In a patriarchal, class-bound literary field, how were the symbolic positions of 'author' and 'reader' affected by the increasing numbers of women who not only bought and borrowed, but also wrote novels? Using hitherto unexamined archive material and focussing in detail on the working practices of publishers and distributors such as Oxford University Press and W.H. Smith and Sons, Hammond combines the methodologies of sociology, literary studies and book history to make an original and important contribution to our understanding of the cultural dynamics and rhetorics of the fin-de-siècle literary field in England.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: Modernity and the reading public; ’The great fiction bore’: free libraries and their users; Sensation and sensibility: W.H. Smith and the railway bookstall; ’People read so much now and reflect so little’: Oxford University Press and the classics series; ’The little woman’ and ’The boomster’: Marie Corelli, Hall Caine and the literary field of the 1890s; ’Mr Bennett and Mrs Barclay’: the literary field before the First World War; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

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Mary Hammond is Lecturer in Literature and Book History at the Open University, UK.


Shortlisted for the SHARP/DeLong prize for the best book history monograph of 2006 'This splendid study recounts the ideological battleground of the fin-de-siècle when new literary tastes were being formed and the canon of modern English letters as we know it was being constructed. In this impeccably researched and exquisitely written book, Hammond shows herself to be that rare scholar, equal parts book historian, literary theorist, and critic of novelistic form. She vividly uncovers the public spheres in which the novel circulated in late Victorian England. Every study of English modernism will have to contend with Hammond's keen account that links modernism closely to its late Victorian predecessors and to the cut and thrust of a marketplace of print and prestige. Every book historian and literary scholar will have to take note of Hammond's innovations with the archive and the vistas they open.' Priya Joshi, Temple University, USA 'The book is aimed squarely at an academic market and will be required reading for those studying the publishing history of the period... The chapters on the free library system, the rise of W.H. Smith and Oxford University Press's role in popularising classic literature are particularly interesting and display a great breadth of scholarship...' Rare Books Newsletter ’... this is a valuable work whose case study examples open out our understanding of the role played by production, distribution and reception in catering for or denying general British reading public interests and tastes... It is well worth a read.’ Review of English Studies ’Hammond's study illuminates the rich world of the period's printing culture, so much of which is unseen today... this is [...] the value of Hammond's book, which both sheds new light on the dimmer reaches of that literary environment and also invites further explorations of its contours.’ English Literature in Transition