Hardback
December 7, 1999
9781558492400
English
176
.86 Pounds (US)
$30.00 USD
v2.1 Reference

The Dean of American Letters

The Late Career of William Dean Howells

The final volume of John W. Crowley's trilogy of works on William Dean Howells, this book focuses on the much neglected last decades of the author's life. It was during this period that Howells, already well known as a writer, became a kind of cultural icon, the so-called "Dean of American Letters." Beginning with A Hazard of New Fortunes (1890), Crowley sets Howells's later life and work into a personal as well as a public context. He traces the gradual construction of Howells's "Deanship" and its disastrous effects on his reputation, as the self-consciously aging writer sought to adapt, sometimes painfully, to a rapidly changing literary marketplace. We see Howells targeting audiences, trying to generate saleable ideas, worrying about marketing, and reflecting on the influence of commercial competition on art and creativity. In the end, Crowley sees Howells's rise to prominence as an early manifestation of the commodification of culture that came to dominate American letters during the twentieth century. At the same time, he succeeds in conveying the humane virtues that Howells never relinquished—his graciousness, his humility, and his geniality.

About the Author

John W. Crowley is professor of English and director of the doctoral program at Syracuse University. He has published two other books on Howells: The Black Heart's Truth and The Mask of Fiction. He is also author of The White Logic: Alcoholism and Gender in American Modernist Fiction.

Reviews

"A beautifully written combination of biography and cultural history, Crowley's book is indispensable for understanding the rise and fall of Howells's reputation—and therefore for understanding the processes of canonization in the modern marketplace. It should be read by anyone interested in how literary traditions are made, and how they are altered in our 'culture wars.'"—Randall Knoper, author of Acting Naturally:

Mark Twain in the Culture of Performance
University of Massachusetts Press

9781558492400 : the-dean-of-american-letters-crowley
Hardback
176 Pages
$30.00 USD

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The Mask of Fiction

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Drunkard's Progress

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