Title

Readers in Antebellum America and the Influence of French Novels

Subject Area

French and Francophone Studies

Abstract

This “expansion” of the print culture was also occurring a few centuries ago in Antebellum America. For example, The American Tract Society during Antebellum America was the leading publisher and distributor of cheap religious books and tracts. This society was in “awe of the power of modern printing technology” focusing on fighting “evil literature” (Nord, 246). That is, “the American Tract Company made the ‘DANGERS OF THE PRESS’ a central theme in its mass-circulation periodicals in the 1840s and 1850s…” (Nord, 247). Another society during this time consisting of Quakers was called The Religious Society of Friends. Similar to the American Tract Society, The Religious Society of Friends felt “novels ought to be rejected” (Newman, 185). The Quaker Society believed “novels readers tended to have a ‘romantic spirit, a sort of wonder-loving imagination, and a disposition towards enthusiastic fights of the fancy” (Newman, 185). These religious organizations were particular most concerned about foreign books: “Foreign novels were regarded with particular suspicion” (Newman, 185). According to David Nord, “Novels, especially French novels by such writers as Eugène Sue, were liked to invading armies, to plagues and pestilence; they were ‘mental and moral poison’; they were intoxicants, worse than rum.” (Nord, 247). Nord does not comment on the content of these novels, other than the notion that there were “bad books.” Naturally, one might compare the recent publications of EL James to these “suspicious” foreign novels. At a first glance, it would seem that certain religious groups were attempting to censure what people were reading during Antebellum America. That is, these religious organizations feared the power of the modern printing technology, especially, the publication of novels. This essay will closely examine the readership during Antebellum American while trying to determine why certain novels by French writer Eugène Sue were likened “to mental and moral poison” (Nord, 247).

Brief Bio Note

Dr. Darren Broome is a professor of Spanish and French at Gordon State College. He completed his Ph.D. in Romance Languages at The University of Alabama. His scholarly efforts are in the domain of Contemporary Latin American literature, Contemporary Peninsular literature, as well as linguistics and foreign language pedagogy

Keywords

Literacy

Location

Coastal Georgia Center

Presentation Year

2016

Start Date

4-8-2016 10:30 AM

End Date

4-8-2016 10:50 AM

Embargo

11-8-2015

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Readers in Antebellum America and the Influence of French Novels

Coastal Georgia Center

This “expansion” of the print culture was also occurring a few centuries ago in Antebellum America. For example, The American Tract Society during Antebellum America was the leading publisher and distributor of cheap religious books and tracts. This society was in “awe of the power of modern printing technology” focusing on fighting “evil literature” (Nord, 246). That is, “the American Tract Company made the ‘DANGERS OF THE PRESS’ a central theme in its mass-circulation periodicals in the 1840s and 1850s…” (Nord, 247). Another society during this time consisting of Quakers was called The Religious Society of Friends. Similar to the American Tract Society, The Religious Society of Friends felt “novels ought to be rejected” (Newman, 185). The Quaker Society believed “novels readers tended to have a ‘romantic spirit, a sort of wonder-loving imagination, and a disposition towards enthusiastic fights of the fancy” (Newman, 185). These religious organizations were particular most concerned about foreign books: “Foreign novels were regarded with particular suspicion” (Newman, 185). According to David Nord, “Novels, especially French novels by such writers as Eugène Sue, were liked to invading armies, to plagues and pestilence; they were ‘mental and moral poison’; they were intoxicants, worse than rum.” (Nord, 247). Nord does not comment on the content of these novels, other than the notion that there were “bad books.” Naturally, one might compare the recent publications of EL James to these “suspicious” foreign novels. At a first glance, it would seem that certain religious groups were attempting to censure what people were reading during Antebellum America. That is, these religious organizations feared the power of the modern printing technology, especially, the publication of novels. This essay will closely examine the readership during Antebellum American while trying to determine why certain novels by French writer Eugène Sue were likened “to mental and moral poison” (Nord, 247).