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ERIC Number: EJ926299
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011-May
Pages: 7
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 15
ISSN: ISSN-0013-8274
Seriously Popular: Rethinking 19th-Century American Literature through the Teaching of Popular Fiction
Gatti, Lauren
English Journal, v100 n5 p47-53 May 2011
Curious about the connections between the author's students' reading tastes and those of 19th-century readers, the author read Nina Baym's excellent text "Novels, Readers, and Reviewers: Responses to Fiction in Antebellum America" to gain a sense of how readers in the 1800s might have thought about the texts that they read. Nineteenth-century readers wanted their novel to be a "story proper" (or a "novel proper") with a beginning, middle, and end. There could be complicated action and nonlinear events, but the events needed to cohere; plot was essential (Baym, Novels 71). To see where her urban high school students lined up with Baym's synthesis of what 19th-century readers looked for in novels, the author generated a chart outlining her findings and asked students to agree or disagree, making sure to provide reasons. The students analyze differences between their own reading tastes and those of 19th-century readers, and in the process they breathe new life into several canonical texts. The author points out that, by choosing to complicate, historicize, and reframe 19th-century American literature units through the inclusion of 19th-century popular fiction, English teachers are allowing their students to take part in important debates that English teachers and readers enjoy. As a result, all students, not just those in Advanced Placement classes, are invested in a deep and engaging exploration of the canon. (Contains 2 notes.)
National Council of Teachers of English. 1111 West Kenyon Road, Urbana, IL 61801-1096. Tel: 877-369-6283; Tel: 217-328-3870; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: High Schools
Audience: Teachers
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A