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Dime novels and the workers who read them

Mechanic Accents: Dime Novels and Working-Class Culture in America - Michael Demming

In this book Michael Denning studies the working class of 19th and early 20th century America through an unusual medium – the books they read. He views young factory workers of both genders as the main audience of the mass-produced “dime novels” of the era, the action-adventure and rags-to-riches tales in which appealed to readers not as escapism but for the allegories they offered for their own often difficult lives. In this respect, he sees the consumption of the novels not as an act of escapism but as a way of mitigating the capitalist injustice which pervaded their readers’ lives. Though his own writing can be dense, Denning’s explanation of the production process of dime novels and his insights into their audience make this a valuable book for anyone interested in learning about the development of mass culture in Gilded Age and Progressive-era America.