Chapter

‘The appearance is an added incentive’: national trends in literature popularity

Robert James

in Popular Culture and Working-Class Taste in Britain, 1930-39

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780719080258
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781702444 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7228/manchester/9780719080258.003.0006
‘The appearance is an added incentive’: national trends in literature popularity

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This chapter explores national trends in literature popularity in 1930s Britain. Bearing in mind the popularity of film comedy, it is surprising that the least-populated category in literature is ‘Humorous’. Unlike the romance genre, which did well in both written and visual form, comedy fared much better in the latter. The trends reveal a gender imbalance in working-class reading habits and point towards conservatism in the reading habits of working-class men. Whereas working-class women tended to cast the net widely and read fiction from a range of authors, men appeared to stick to a relatively small number of their favorite writers, with evidence of the ebb and flow of author popularity among them. A large number of new magazines were introduced during the 1930s, reflecting the growing demand among readers for a type of reading material that did not distract from the many requirements of the day. This increased the trend towards ‘scattered’ reading, answering and responding to working-class cultural competences identified by mass-observers. They were far from being slaves to highbrow literary tastes.

Keywords: literature popularity; national trends; gender imbalance; conservatism; cultural competences

Chapter.  7515 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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