Dime Novels Criticism: Socio-Political Concerns - Essay

Daryl E. Jones (essay date 1970)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Blood ’n Thunder: Virgins, Villains, and Violence in the Dime Novel Western,” in Journal of Popular Culture, Vol. IV, No. 2, Fall, 1970, pp. 507-17.

[In the following essay, Jones considers the relationship between sex and violence in dime novels, concluding that the genre promoted traditional American values even as it “provid[ed] mass purgation through vicarious participation in fictional violence.”]

The plethora of violence is probably the most notable characteristic of the dime novel western. Certainly this was the case in the nineteenth century, for numerous clergymen, teachers, and moralists, angrily pointing out the deleterious effects of...

(The entire section is 3563 words.)

Michael Denning (essay date 1987)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “‘The Unknown Public’: Dime Novels and Working Class Readers,” in Mechanic Accents: Dime Novels and Working-Class Culture in America, Verso, 1987, pp. 27-46.

[In the following essay, Denning argues that dime novels constituted the primary reading material of the working class and that the books were specifically created by the middle class for workers.]

Who read these stories and what did they think of them? Though this question is now central to the study of popular culture, it remains a difficult and elusive one. In part, this is because of sketchy and uncertain evidence. Even when one can determine who the readers were, it is very difficult to...

(The entire section is 11203 words.)