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The Oxford History of the Novel in EnglishVolume 6: The American Novel 1879-1940$
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Priscilla Wald and Michael A. Elliott

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780195385342

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780195385342.001.0001

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The American Bestseller

The American Bestseller

(p.319) 20 The American Bestseller
The Oxford History of the Novel in English

Leonard Cassuto

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on American bestsellers published in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with particular emphasis on the distinction between “bestselling novels” and novels that sell a lot of copies. It first provides a historical background on the role of the bestseller in print culture before discussing the factors that turn a novel into a bestseller, along with the blurring of the distinction between sentimentalism and historical romance. It then considers novels that embrace topical controversies, especially those involving social debates, together with two main ideologies that provided structural support for bestselling novels during the period: sentimentalism and evolution. The chapter also examines the Western as a bestselling genre. Finally, it cites some examples of bestselling novels, including James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans (1826), Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer (1876) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), Mary Johnston's To Have and to Hold (1900), Anita Loos's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1925), and Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind (1936).

Keywords:   bestsellers, bestselling novels, print culture, sentimentalism, historical romance, evolution, Western, The Last of the Mohicans, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Gone With the Wind

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