400 pp., 6 x 9
A volume in the series:
Studies in Print Culture and the History of the Book
"Uncle Tom's Cabin" and the Reading Revolution
Race, Literacy, Childhood, and Fiction, 1851–1911
A probing look at the “afterlife” of a classic American novel
"Uncle Tom's Cabin" and the Reading Revolution explores a transformation in the cultural meaning of Stowe’s influential book by addressing changes in reading practices and a shift in widely shared cultural assumptions. These changes reshaped interpretive conventions and generated new meanings for Stowe’s text in the wake of the Civil War.
During the 1850s, men, women, and children avidly devoured Stowe’s novel. White adults wept and could not put the book down, neglecting work and other obligations to complete it. African Americans both celebrated and denounced the book. By the 1890s, readers understood Uncle Tom’s Cabin in new ways. Prefaces and retrospectives celebrated Stowe’s novel as a historical event that led directly to emancipation and national unity. Commentaries played down the evangelical and polemical messages of the book.
Illustrations and children’s editions projected images of entertaining and devoted servants into an open-ended future. In the course of the 1890s, Uncle Tom’s Cabin became both a more viciously racialized book than it had been and a less compelling one. White readers no longer consumed the book at one sitting; Uncle Tom’s Cabin was now more widely known than read. However, in the growing silence surrounding slavery at the turn of the century, Stowe’s book became an increasingly important source of ideas, facts, and images that the children of ex-slaves and other free-black readers could use to make sense of their position in U.S. culture.
"Always lucidly written, original, and deeply and broadly researched. . . . Anyone who teaches Uncle Tom’s Cabin will be grateful for Hochman’s contextualization of the variety of possible responses to the text"—Patricia Crain, New York University
"An impressive book. . . . Hochman situates herself very effectively within the current debates surrounding the fields of ‘the history of the book’ and of reading."—Christopher Wilson, Boston College
"Using an impressively wide array of resources, [Hochman] documents and analyzes how the meaning of Uncle Tom's Cabin changed--for both adult and child readers, black and white--over the course of time. Clearly and concisely charting the interplay of the text of the novel itself, its societal and print contexts, and readers' responses, this volume will undoubtedly serve as a model for future scholars."—Choice
"For anyone who loves literature, Hochman's book illuminates the fluidity of attitudes toward seminal fictional work, literacy, and the very act of reading fiction itself."—Portland Press Herald
"Hochman's strength is in her self-recognized 'eclectic sources' that include published and unpublished reader accounts from whites, blacks, and children; scrapbooks; illustrations; forewords; and reviews. These sources offer new and interesting ways to view the novel and remind historians that Uncle Tom's Cabin functioned as a cultural symbol for decades after the Civil War."—Journal of American History
"[A] fascinating book . . . ."—H-Net
"One of the major accomplishments of Barbara Hochman's latest work,'Uncle Tom's Cabin' and the Reading Revolution, is that her painstaking visual and textual analysis demonstrates beyond a doubt that the form and meaning of a classic novel change over time, very often though deliberate decisions on the part of publishers, illustrators, and other cultural arbiters. By examining multiple editions of Uncle Tom's Cabin over sixty years of its publishing history, Hochman shows that alterations in format and illustration, abridgements of the novel for children, and historical changes in the social attitudes toward African Americans profoundly changed readers' perceptions about messages of social justice contained in Stowe's novel."—Kritikon Litterarum
"A thought-provoking, meticulously researched, elegantly written account of the changes in the reception--the transformation in 'the cultural meaning'--of Uncle Tom's Cabin over six decades."—Journal of American Studies
"By working through the ways Stowe depicts readers and was in turn read by them, Hochman gives us layered insight into the history of reading as well as the history of reading this book."—Register of Kentucky Historical Society
"...a major contribution to our understanding of reading practices in the nineteenth century—and to the ongoing debate about the place of Stowe's famous novel in American literary history."—Legacy
". . . wholly original. . . . this is an excellent study overall, and I hope its approach and methodology will inspire a great number of future scholars to investigate the rich 'afterlives' of other texts."—Reception: Texts, Readers, Audiences, History
". . . offers convincing accounts of readers' lived experiences of Stowe's novel."—Nineteenth-Century Literature
"Early in the book, Hochman argues 'Stowe's novel altered the horizon of expectations for sentimental tales' (31). With a keen eye for analyzing visual culture and paratexts, Hochman has altered expectations for new histories of reading, demonstrating the possibilities for deep study of the range of cultural meanings ascribed to one book and its change over time. In recognition of its scholarly contribution to the history of reading, 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' and the Reading Revolution was the recipient of SHARP's 2012 DeLong Book History Book Prize, and deservedly so. Hochman's study will be of interest to scholars of nineteenth-century U.S. history and literature, and should have a long life in the classroom, where Uncle Tom’s Cabin is still required reading for countless undergraduate students."—SHARP News