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“Who Can Estimate the Value of a Book!”: Buying and Owning Books in Antebellum Domestic Fiction

European Journal of American Studies. 2017;12(2) DOI 10.4000/ejas.12015


Journal Homepage

Journal Title: European Journal of American Studies

ISSN: 1991-9336 (Print)

Publisher: European Association for American Studies

LCC Subject Category: History America: United States | Social Sciences: Sociology (General)

Country of publisher: France

Language of fulltext: English

Full-text formats available: PDF, HTML, ePUB



Johanna McElwee


Double blind peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 30 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

This paper explores the role of books in American antebellum domestic fiction. Written primarily for middle-class readers, domestic fiction offers advice on how to create an ideal home and in these ideal homes the presence of books is necessary. In an era plagued by a volatile national economy, monetary assets proved an unstable basis for class affiliation. Domestic fiction, however, presents the ownership of books as an alternative foundation for class status. As a result, rather than being based on economic resources, which might lose value overnight, thus causing a plunge on the social ladder, in these tales, middle-class status transcends economic status as it becomes synonymous with the ownership and appreciation of books and the personal qualities books were expected to foster.