Publishing the Family

Publishing the Family

New Americanists

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Book Pages: 352 Illustrations: 63 (54 b&w, 9 color) Published: October 2001

Author: June Howard

American Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

In Publishing the Family June Howard turns a study of the collaborative novel The Whole Family into a lens through which to examine American literature and culture at the beginning of the twentieth century. Striving to do equal justice to historical particulars and the broad horizons of social change, Howard reconsiders such categories of analysis as authorship, genre, and periodization. In the process, she offers a new method for cultural studies and American studies at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
Publishing the Family describes the sources and controversial outcome of a fascinating literary experiment. Howard embeds the story of The Whole Family in the story of Harper & Brothers’ powerful and pervasive presence in American cultural life, treating the publisher, in effect, as an author.
Each chapter of Publishing the Family casts light on some aspect of life in the United States at a moment that arguably marked the beginning of our own era. Howard revises common views of the turn-of-the-century literary marketplace and discusses the perceived crisis in the family as well as the popular and expert discourses that emerged to remedy it. She also demonstrates how creative women like Bazar editor Elizabeth Jordan blended their own ideas about the “New Woman” with traditional values. Howard places these analyses in the framework of far-reaching historical changes, such as the transformation of the public meaning of emotion and “sentimentality.” Taken together, the chapters in Publishing the Family show how profoundly the modern mapping of social life relies on boundaries between family and business, culture and commerce, which The Whole Family and Publishing the Family constantly unsettle.
Publishing the Family will interest students and scholars of American history, literature, and culture, as well as those studying gender, sexuality, and the family.


“[A] thoughtful study . . . Howard is a shrewd critic, and her resistance to simple conclusions is almost always salutary. . . .” — London Review of Books

“[E]xciting. . . . The book is dazzling, because it tells us that above all, interdisciplinary work is as messy as it is painstaking. . . . [C]ompelling. . . . Publishing the Family has many virtues, and not the least among them is that not only is it a great book, it’s a great read. Howard’s prose is brisk and straightforward, careful of complex ideas yet accessible to a range of readers. Publishing the Family is a book to be reckoned with. It should prove an invaluable model and resource for scholars of the nineteenth and twentieth centures, for historians and literary critics, and for scholars of print culture more generally.” — Stephanie Foote , Modern Fiction Studies

“Howard looks at this experiment as a way to examine American publishing, gender relations and narrative forms at the turn of the last century, as well as the publishing house Harper Brothers which largely defined American letters at that time.” — Michigan Alumnus

“Howard’s is the first extensive scholarly analysis of [The Whole Family], and she does an excellent job of preserving the intriguing history of its construction and interpreting its meanings. Yet this is much more than a work of literary criticism; Howard uses The Whole Family as a springboard for exploring a number of cultural issues of the time, including the effects of coeducational colleges, the crisis in the modern family structure, the ‘new woman,’ the role of sentimentality, and the relationship between literature and commerce. She intelligently avoids making sweeping generalizations as she challenges a number of scholarly assumptions. Howard’s cogent analysis of The Whole Family and of US culture at the time of its publication gives the reader many reasons to read this much-neglected work.” — C. Johanningsmeier , Choice

"Publishing the Family offers a unique perspective on family, gender, and publishing in American in the early twentieth century. . . . Publishing the Family takes literature, publishing, and literary figures at the turn of the twentieth century, and tackles many of the cultural and social issues of this period. June Howard's contributions to our understanding of family life, gender and commerce in this period are both useful and interesting." — Devon Hansen , American Studies International

"Publishing the Family is an extraordinary achievement, dense with meticulous, carefully analyzed research and buoyed by Howard’s own substantial gifts as a storyteller and wordsmith. . . . Howard’s study deserves to be a defining, foundational work in American interdisciplinary scholarship." — Claudia Stokes , American Literature

"It might seem unlikely that a book-length study of a single literary text would be of interest to many American historians. Adding to the implausibility is that the text in question is The Whole Family, a peculiar ‘composite novel’ published serially in 1907-1908 and composed of twelve chapters by twelve authors each taking the voice of a different family member. Those implausibilities make June Howard’s accomplishment in Publishing the Family all the more impressive. She has produced an exemplary study that will interest not only literary historians of the period but also teachers and students of American cultural studies looking for a sophisticated and accessible synthetic account of the field from a literary-historical perspective. . . . [Howard] tells a gripping and often amusing story of literary collaboration and conflict among writers who, according to most standard literary histories, existed in rigorously separate spheres such as women’s magazines, reformist politics, literary regionalism, James-ian modernism, and William Dean Howells’s realism. It is easy to imagine Publishing the Family and The Whole Family as central texts in a course on the cultural politics of the turn of the century, a methodologies course on literary and cultural perspectives within American studies, or a still broader course on the history of the American family."

— Glenn Hendler , Journal of American History

"June Howard's capacious study of the early-twentieth-century publishing industry combines unusually rich historical detail with a broadly informed, incisive discussion of contemporary scholarship on American fiction. This impressive book tells a finely nuanced story that includes writers both familiar and largely forgotten. Although it will be of singular interest to scholars of late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century culture, Howard's broad social and cultural analysis offers fresh insight into key issues that occupy literary and cultural historians of any era. With rigor and originality, Howard explains how culture and commerce evolved together in a formative moment of American mass culture. She finds new points of entry into a remarkable range of questions, including how changing visions of the family have structured American identity, how the publishing industry's economic imperatives have shaped the form and content of fiction, and how gender differences have been encoded in models of authorship and publicity." — Jean Marie Lutes , ANQ

"Taken together, June Howard's Publishing the Family and Duke University Press's reprint of The Whole Family constitute a provocative case history for scholars and teachers." — Gib Prettyman, Resources for American Literary Study

"The utter lucidity of Howard's argument should serve as a model for future work of interdisciplinary amplitude. . . [A] scholarly tour de force. . . . [P]robing, fearless. . . brilliant. . . . Beautifully illustrated and written with unusual grace, Publishing the Family is a book that students of U.S. domesticity, literary culture, and/or emotional life will want to put at the top of their reading lists." — Barbara Ryan, H-Amstdy, H-Net Reviews

“An engaging and ambitious work of great importance. Howard’s discussion may radically reconfigure the terms of discussion for nineteenth-century conceptions of gender roles. Valuable not only for its impressive scholarship but also for its originality and insight, Publishing the Family is sure to occupy a prominent place in American literary and cultural studies.” — Emory Elliott, author of Aesthetics in a Multicultural Age

“Howard tells an original and carefully reasoned story about the nature of American literary sentimentalism and realism and connects both to changing expectations about gendered identity and experience. In the process, she uses the phenomenon of this collaboratively authored novel to subject our commonsense assumptions about literary creativity to searching scrutiny.” — Janice Radway, author of A Feeling for Books: The Book-of-the-Month Club, Literary Taste, and Middle-Class Desire


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

June Howard is Professor of English, American Culture, and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations/ Acknowledgments xiii

1. A Strangely Exciting Story 13

2. The Hearthstone at Harper's 58

3. Making the Family Whole 106

4. The Sometimes-New Woman 158

5. What is Sentimentality 213

6. Closing the Book 257

Appendix I. Contents and Characters of the WHole Family 283

Appendix 2. The Generations of the Family 284

Notes 331
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2771-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2762-2
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