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date: 18 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter demonstrates that the readership for American literary realism during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was much more heterogeneous and extensive than previously believed. Works of realism were not read only in high-priced magazines and books by genteel audiences living in urban areas, but they were also available in a wide variety of lower-priced books and periodicals—including newspapers—that reached people from various socioeconomic classes in small towns and rural areas as well as in cities. This chapter also provides an analysis of the limitations of previous research on readers’ reception of realist fiction, as well as a detailed explanation of the new approaches that literary scholars need to adopt in order to understand the cultural labor that realist texts performed among its various audiences.

Keywords: readers, circulation, newspaper, newspaper syndicate, public library, reception, interpretive community, regionalism

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