- Studies in Print Culture and the History of the Book
- What Middletown Read
What Middletown Read
Print Culture in an American Small City
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
What Middletown Read is much more than a statistical study. Felsenstein and Connolly dig into diaries, meeting minutes, newspaper reports, and local histories to trace the library's development in relation to the city's cosmopolitan aspirations, to profile individual readers, and to explore such topics as the relationship between children's reading and their schooling and what books were discussed by local women's clubs. The authors situate borrowing patterns and reading behavior within the contexts of a rapidly growing, culturally ambitious small city, an evolving public library, an expanding market for print, and the broad social changes that accompanied industrialization in the United States. The result is a rich, revealing portrait of the place of reading in an emblematic American community.
Frank Felsenstein is Reed D. Voran Honors Distinguished Professor in Humanities and professor of English at Ball State University. He is author of English Trader, Indian Maid: Representing Gender, Race, and Slavery in the New World. James J. Connolly is George and Frances Ball Distinguished Professor of History and director of the Center for Middletown Studies at Ball State University. He is author, most recently, of An Elusive Unity: Urban Democracy and Machine Politics in Industrializing America.
"This book makes an extremely important contribution to the literature on print culture history both for its methodological content and for what it has to tell us about the print culture of 'Middletown.'—Christine Pawley, author of Reading Places: Literacy, Democracy, and the Public Library in Cold War America
"What Middletown Read aims to inspire further research projects based on Muncie's library records, which were made available online in 2011. In their splendid and comprehensive account, Felsenstein and Connolly have arguably already made the definitive statement about the reading habits of 1890s Middletowners. Yet through the intellectual questions raised and the gaps in knowledge identified, their book will undoubtedly stimulate new thinking about the history of reading."—Times Higher Education
"Offering a good balance of statistical analysis, historiography, sociological survey, and cultural assessment, the work is a fascinating revelation about library history and book culture. Recommended."—Choice
"Of particular interest to children's literature specialists is the section on children's borrowing patterns, which include a chart listing the most frequently borrowed children's books."—Children's Literature Association Quarterly
"Compelling . . . the authors have made an important contribution to our understanding of reading in this community at the turn of the century, and they offer suggestive opportunities for further research with databases of this type."—SHARP News
"What Middletown Read provides a clear window into the socioeconomic status of Muncie. This aperture facilitates a panorama that goes well beyond the social history of reading and the importance of print in people's everyday lives."—Library & Information History
"[The authors] achieve their aim of depicting Muncie's print culture through extensive primary-source research into the city, its libraries, retailers, newspapers, stratified population, and 'cosmopolitan trends.'"—Journal of American History
"What Middletown Read provides a glimpse into the prominence of print at the turn of the twentieth century anda model for how book and library historians might utilize digital humanitiesprojects to uncover the history of books and reading. . . . Throughout the book, but especially in these final three chapters, What Middletown Read uses the statistical data on which it is based to excellent effect. Numbers are provided with consistently relevant context and meticulous analysis and interpretation – no small feat for a corpus of data that could yield endless numerical analyses."—International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics
"Through textured and wide-ranging analysis . . . What Middletown Read offers a snapshot of print culture in one community, employing a variety of historical and literary approaches to interpret and contextualize the circulation data in relation to other archival materials, including diaries and newspaper reports, as well as the Lynds' sociological studies."—Reviews in American History