Press Contact: Jeanne Smith (202) 707-4337
Public Contact: Clark W. Evans, (202) 707-2017
April 11, 1995
Library of Congress Announces June Symposium on Rise of Popular Fiction in America
The Library of Congress has invited librarians, scholars, authors, publishers, bibliophiles, and others interested in the history of popular fiction in America to gather in June for a look at the genre from the dime novel to today's paperback romances.
The Library's Rare Book and Special Collections Division and Center for the Book are sponsors of the symposium on "Pioneers, Passionate Ladies, and Private Eyes," set for Friday and Saturday, June 9 and 10, in the James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Avenue S.E.
Larry E. Sullivan, chief of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division, and John Y. Cole, director of the Center for the Book, said the symposium will emphasize the importance to the study of American culture of mass-produced popular fiction in America since the end of the Civil War.
"The Rare Book and Special Collections Division holds one of the largest collections of popular fiction in the country and is one of the few libraries that systematically collect original paperback fiction for research purposes," said Dr. Sullivan. The Library's Copyright Paperback Collection includes more than 1,100 books published since 1960. The Rare Book and Special Collection Division also has custody of a collection of nearly 40,000 paperback or "dime" novels published as early as 1860, approximately 1,300 paperback titles published between 1943 and 1951 for members of the armed services, and an archival set of 6,500 paperback volumes published by the Dell Publishing Company Inc. since 1943.
The Center for the Book was established in the Library of Congress in 1977 to stimulate public interest in books, reading, and libraries, and to encourage the study of books and print culture, according to Dr. Cole. All the center's projects, including this June 9-10 symposium, are supported by tax- deductible contributions from individuals, corporations, and foundations.
The opening session of the symposium on June 9 will focus on the dime novels that became favorites of American readers in the second half of the 19th century and on the lesser-known work of Louisa May Alcott, whose name is, of course, a household word because of the fame of "Little Women". Early in her career, Alcott frequently published sensational stories described as "by a well known author." "V.V. or Plots and Counterplots" was published with that credit in four installments in a magazine called "The Flag" in 1865. The same year it was published as a 10-cent novelette with A.M. Barnard listed as the author.
The first symposium speaker will be Madeleine B. Stern, rare book dealer and author, discussing Alcott in a speech on "Dime Novels by the 'Children's Friend.'" She will be joined at the session by Leona Rostenberg, distinguished literary historian, discussing "The Discovery of Louisa May Alcott's Pseudonym."
In a second major address, on June 10, Janice S. Radway of the Duke University English faculty and author of "Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature", will talk on "Clearing a Space for Middlebrow Culture: The Struggle Over the Book, 1880-1920."
Twenty other invited speakers have agreed to present papers on topics ranging from ax-murderer Lizzie Borden to present-day novels such as Harlequin Romances. For the symposium, the Rare Book and Special Collections Division will assemble an exhibition of dime novels, series books, and paperbacks from its collection.
The symposium is free and open to the public, but advance registration is required. For additional details about the program and information on registration, write to Clark W. Evans, senior reference librarian, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20540- 4860; or telephone (202) 707-2017.
As for all Library public programs, interpreting services (American Sign Language, Contact Signing, Oral and Tactile) will be provided if requested by June 1. Call (202) 707-6362, TTY and voice, to make a specific request. For other ADA accommodations, contact the Disability Employment office (202) 707-9948 TTY and (202) 707-7544 voice.
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