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The Preface

American Authorship in the Twentieth Century

Palgrave Macmillan

Authors:

  • Argues that writers shape their public personae and alter the reading of their work through prefaces

  • Examines primary source materials ranging from archival manuscripts to correspondence and first editions

  • Offers insights into twentieth-century print culture and the literary marketplace

Part of the book series: New Directions in Book History (NDBH)

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Table of contents (8 chapters)

  1. Front Matter

    Pages i-xviii
  2. Introduction: An Influence on the Public

    • Ross K. Tangedal
    Pages 1-36
  3. Coda: Any Given Moment Has Its Value

    • Ross K. Tangedal
    Pages 203-214
  4. Back Matter

    Pages 215-220

About this book

Building on insights from the fields of textual criticism, bibliography, narratology, authorship studies, and book history, The Preface: American Authorship in the Twentieth Century examines the role that prefaces played in the development of professional authorship in America. Many of the prefaces written by American writers in the twentieth century catalogue the shifting landscape of a more self-consciously professionalized trade, one fraught with tension and compromise, and influenced by evolving reading publics. With analyses of Willa Cather, Ring Lardner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Robert Penn Warren, and Toni Morrison, Ross K. Tangedal argues that writers used prefaces as a means of expanding and complicating authority over their work and, ultimately, as a way to write about their careers. Tangedal’s approach offers a new way of examining American writers in the evolving literary marketplace of the twentieth century.

Reviews

“In The Preface, Ross K. Tangedal examines an often-overlooked textual element in literature: an opening commentary (either current or in retrospect) by an author about a particular work of fiction. The author addresses the reader directly to recall the creation of the work, to reply to critics, and to assert authority over interpretation. Tangedal’s approach in this excellent new monograph yields a great many fresh and valuable insights, both critical and biographical.” (James L. W. West III, Sparks Professor of English, Emeritus, Pennsylvania State University, USA, Author of American Authors and the Literary Marketplace since 1900)

“Ross K. Tangedal’s The Preface: American Authorship in the Twentieth Century offers an expansive, inclusive take on a textual tradition that most readers consider the print equivalent of a hello. Tangedal’s multi-level discussion of this device demonstrates how integral it is to theories of authorship, and how major novelists from Willa Cather to Toni Morrison, and now-overlooked writers like Ring Lardner, employed it to fashion their personae for public consumption. From F. Scott Fitzgerald’s early self-deprecation (which did not serve him well) to Ernest Hemingway’s pugilistic professionalism to Robert Penn Warren’s obsession with historical motive, Tangedal reveals the range writers display and the risks they undertake in this textual space.” (Kirk Curnutt, Professor of English, Troy University, USA, Editor of American Literature in Transition, 1970–1980)

“Engaging, theoretically sophisticated, and well written, with fresh insights on every page, The Preface is much more than a study of prefaces. In the hands of Tangedal, this topic becomes a fascinating study of how the business of writing and publishing and the need for writers to construct and wield authority over their texts and authorial identities shaped the canon of twentieth-century American literature.” (Carl P. Eby, Professor of English, Appalachian State University, USA, Author of Hemingway’s Fetishism: Psychoanalysis and the Mirror of Manhood)

“Through this tour de force of intellectual curiosity, Ross K. Tangedal reveals fascinating new dimensions to texts we thought we knew. Beyond that, he presents profound ideas about writing and reading as a solemn, holy act. This book is inventive, assertive, generous, and impeccably researched. It is literary scholarship at its finest.” (Mark Cirino, Melvin M. Peterson Endowed Chair in Literature, University of Evansville, USA, Author of Ernest Hemingway: Thought in Action)

“In this well-researched book, Ross K. Tangedal shows how American authors responded to the emergence of new literary institutions in the twentieth century. From literary clubs to reprint editions such as the Modern Library and paperbacks, the publishing landscape encouraged the rise of the authorial preface as a way to target specific audiences and markets. Tangedal sheds new light on the connections between authors and writers, mediated by a rapidly changing publishing industry.” (Lise Jaillant, Associate Professor of English and Digital Humanities, Loughborough University, UK, Author of Modernism, Middlebrow and the Literary Canon: The Modern Library Series, 1917–1955)

“Ross K. Tangedal's fine study of the preface explores the changing face of American authorship and book publishing from Modernism to Toni Morrison. His discussion of prefaces by, among others, Willa Cather, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Robert Penn Warren offers more than a mere analysis of a literary marketing device. This exciting and original book explores the complex implications of any paratextual material that purports to speak for an author.” (Steven Trout, Professor of English, University of Alabama, USA, Author of Memorial Fictions: Willa Cather and the First World War)

“Tangedal's study of the evolving nature of twentieth-century American authorship and the literary market, as expressed through the often neglected genre of the authorial preface, is expansive in scope and rich in detail. Readers interested in the many authors Tangedal examines, or book history and its related disciplines, will find much to learn from in these pages.” (John K. Young, Professor of English, Marshall University, USA, Author of Black Writers, White Publishers)

The Preface is the first to provide an in-depth analysis of the preface in twentieth-century American literature, interlacing literary history with an analysis of the commercial market and literary criticism. It will be useful to those who are approaching the subject for the first time, as well as those seeking to better understand the ways in which authors control and exert authority over their artistic works. A fascinating and important study.” (Michelle E. Moore, Professor of English, College of DuPage, USA, Author of Chicago and the Making of American Modernism)


Authors and Affiliations

  • Department of English, University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point, Stevens Point, USA

    Ross K. Tangedal

About the author

Ross K. Tangedal is Assistant Professor of English and director of the Cornerstone Press at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point. He is the co-editor of Editing the Harlem Renaissance and Michigan Salvage: Bonnie Jo Campbell and the American Midwest.


Bibliographic Information

Buy it now

Buying options

eBook USD 89.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book USD 119.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info
Hardcover Book USD 119.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Other ways to access