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About the Book

Beyond the Book

464 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, appends., notes, bibl., index

Paper
ISBN  978-0-8078-7212-3
Published: September 2011

What America Read

Taste, Class, and the Novel, 1920-1960

By Gordon Hutner


Awards & Distinctions

A Choice Outstanding Academic Title

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.

About 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. He is author or editor of five books, on Hawthorne, American cultural criticism, Jewish American writing, and immigration, among other topics.


Reviews

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

"No one who studies or teaches U.S. fiction should overlook this sharp, luminous book. . . . Hutner's brilliance as synthesizer, theorizer, and literary historian makes this study shine, as both a straight read and a reference tool."
--Choice

"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

"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

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

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