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Regionalism and the Reading Class

Globalization and the Internet are smothering cultural regionalism, that sense of place that flourished in simpler times. These two villains are also prime suspects in the death of reading. Or so alarming reports about our homogenous and dumbed-down culture would have it, but as Regionalism and the Reading Class shows, neither of these claims stands up under scrutiny—quite the contrary.

Wendy Griswold draws on cases from Italy, Norway, and the United States to show that fans of books form their own reading class, with a distinctive demographic profile separate from the general public. This reading class is modest in size but intense in its literary practices. Paradoxically these educated and mobile elites work hard to put down local roots by, among other strategies, exploring regional writing. Ultimately, due to the technological, economic, and political advantages they wield, cosmopolitan readers are able to celebrate, perpetuate, and reinvigorate local culture.

Griswold’s study will appeal to students of cultural sociology and the history of the book—and her findings will be welcome news to anyone worried about the future of reading or the eclipse of place.

208 pages | 7 halftones, 3 line drawings, 7 tables | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2007

History: General History

Library Science and Publishing: Publishing

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory

Sociology: Sociology of Arts--Leisure, Sports


“This is a bold, multi-textured, and extremely interesting book that combines fascinating theoretical points with empirically supported case studies. Griswold explores new territory and underscores its significance cogently and incisively.”

Elizabeth Long, author of Book Clubs

“Received wisdom has it that globalization and the Web are killing local culture and regional identities. Add in a decline in reading among young adults and teens in the United States and an explosion in digital tools and games, and the future looks ever more homogenous. But Wendy Griswold argues the opposite, and she backs it up with a trove of evidence ranging from population studies to literary analysis to sociological research to the history of publishing. In truth, she says, regionalism is holding steady against the tide, and its strongest supporters lie among the people who do more than read for information and work. This group is not suppressed or discouraged by globalization and digital media. Contrary to pulling them away from books, the Web supports their habit, for through it they hear about books to buy, comment about books they’ve read, join discussion groups, participate in literary blogs, and check library holdings. The reading class is cosmopolitan and mobile, but it wants local connections. As Griswold concludes, the future of regionalism looks bright.”--Mark Bauerlein, Emory University

Mark Bauerlein

Regionalism and the Reading Class takes on a question at the very center of the ongoing conversation about culture and globalization—where and why do local cultures flourish despite the deluge of words, images, and products from around the world—and pursues it from the shores of Maine to the fjords of Norway, from Tennessee to Sicily, at each point keeping in simultaneous focus the literary work, the audience, and the institutional structure (distribution plans, government subsidies, and so on) linking author to reader. Griswold answers a series of tantalizing puzzles and, by the end, provides a perspective on culture in an age of globalization that is novel, sound, and satisfying. A brilliant example of how the sociology of culture, masterfully applied, can illuminate the most complex and challenging debates in the study of culture.”

Paul DiMaggio, Princeton University

“Certain books deserve a wide audience and a deep impact on scholarship. They offer an argument that challenges and connects seemingly disparate disciplines. Wendy Griswold’s Regionalism and the Reading Class is a monograph of this quality. . . . Regionalism and the Reading Class deserves the influence and impact of Anderson’s Imagined Communities. It should transform geography, media studies, library and information management, internet studies, history and popular cultural studies. It is a reminder of the need to make connections and remember the particular, the different and the regional."

Times Higher Education

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. Place, Regional Culture, and Literary Regionalism
2. The Reading Class
3. Cowbirds in America
4. Paradox in Italy
5. State Patronage in Norway and the U. S.
Conclusion: The Reading Class and Regionalism
Appendix A. Authors from Survey2000
Appendix B. Most Popular Authors Overall and in Nine Regions

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