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October 10 , 2008

Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford

A Publishing History


Tracing the publishing history of Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford from its initial 1851-53 serialization in Dickens's Household Words through its numerous editions and adaptations, Thomas Recchio focuses especially on how the text has been deployed to support ideas related to nation and national identity. Recchio maps Cranford's nineteenth-century reception in Britain and the United States through illustrated editions in England dating from 1864 and their subsequent re-publication in the United States, US school editions in the first two decades of the twentieth century, dramatic adaptations from 1899 to 2007, and Anglo-American literary criticism in the latter half of the twentieth century. Making extensive use of primary materials, Recchio considers Cranford within the context of the Victorian periodical press, contemporary reviews, theories of text and word relationships in illustrated books, community theater, and digital media. In addition to being a detailed publishing history that emphasizes the material forms of the book and its adaptations, Recchio's book is a narrative of Cranford's evolution from an auto-ethnography of a receding mid-Victorian English way of life to a novel that was deployed as a maternal model to define an American sensibility for early twentieth-century Mediterranean and Eastern European immigrants. While focusing on one novel, Recchio offers a convincing micro-history of the way English literature was positioned in England and the United States to support an Anglo-centric cultural project, to resist the emergence of multicultural societies, and to ensure an unchanging notion of a stable English culture on both sides of the Atlantic.

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