List of Alger readings for January 31:
From the Norton Critical Edition: Gary Scharnhorst, "Demythologizing Alger"
From the Cambridge History of the American Novel, David A. Zimmerman, "Novels of American business, industry, and consumerism"
From the list below: Miner, Shaheen, Zuckerman.
List of Alger readings for February 7:
From the Norton Critical Edition: Hendler, Hoeller, Moon
Nackenoff, Carol. "Money, Price, and Value: Alger's Interventions in the Market." The Fictional Republic, Horatio Alger and American Political Discourse. New York: Oxford UP, 1994. 133-161 (You will get this PDF via e-mail ASAP).
From the list below: Baxter. I'm working on getting this scanned, too.
From Keywords for American Cultural Studies: Gender, Market, Queer, Sex.
Collaborative Alger Bibliography
Allen, John. “‘Street Arabs’ and the ‘Tramp Menace’: The Function of Homeless Characters in the Work of Horatio Alger.” Homelessness in American Literature: Romanticism, Realism, and Testimony. New York: Routledge, 2004. 39-62. Google Books. Web. 29 Jan. 2012.
I found John Allen’s article by first searching “Horatio Alger” in Fordham’s library. Allen’s book appeared relevant since its title addresses two of the topics we discussed last class (the 19th century’s enjoyment of realism and the romanticized view of homelessness), so I searched for the book online and found the article through Google Books (because I’m reading from Jersey).
Allen’s article recapitulates the critical reception of Alger and his works: he notes Alger’s initial association with the “Gospel of Wealth” and “rags to riches” tales then discusses critical reassessments of the works. Allen affirms that while scholars have examined Alger’s portrayal of poverty and industrialism in-depth, he will be the first to magnify Alger’s “treatment of homelessness as a specific theme or trope” (39). Homelessness in Alger’s work, Allen writes, shows the author’s romantic and realist style intermeshing: while Alger exalts the adventures and freedom of street life, he also wishes to shed light on the homelessness epidemic. Allen’s argument consists of four parts: first he presents an intertextual reading to dismiss the misrepresentation of Alger: he was not a staunch supporter of capitalism, as his “books promote compassion and generosity, and condemn greed and selfishness,” and he is wrongly associated with materialism, individualism, and tales of “rags to riches,” since characters do not become wealthy, but enjoy moderate success (46). Secondly, the crux of Allen’s argument discusses Alger’s depiction of homeless boys and the reactions to it; Allen opines that Alger’s books were banned from several libraries between the 1870s and 1920s because “Americans were conflicted over his apparent message, theme, or purpose” on social and economic issues, “such as charity, work, the home, and homelessness” (48). For instance, some pseudo-scientific organizations claimed that “homelessness was a sin or a fault of moral character”; to make a homeless boy a hero, then, unsurprisingly had consequences. Thirdly, Allen looks at homeless adults and studies their physiognomy; and fourthly, Allen observes Alger’s legacy as well as the way the works “shaped” his culture.
Allen’s historical/cultural analysis, supported by close, intertextual readings and biographical facts, shows his awareness of decades of Alger criticism and forays into new territory that is directly relevant to studies of Ragged Dick—and all of American city-life literature. Allen’s article relates to his investigation of depictions of homelessness in American Literature (see his 2004 book) and also adds a new insight into Alger criticism, so I would very much recommend this for the whole class to read.
--KevinS 16:59, 30 January 2012 (EST)
Baxter, Kent. “Teen Reading at the Turn of the Century (Part I): Horatio Alger.” The Modern Age: Turn-of-the-Century American Culture and the Invention of Adolescence. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 2008. 116-135. Print.
As with the other selections from this batch, I sought to explore the Fordham catalogue and select a range of texts from those books. I chose The Modern Age: Turn-of-the-Century American Culture and the Invention of Adolescence because it’s recent (2008) and it brings a focused scholarly agenda (the invention of adolescence) to a clearly delineated period (turn-of-the-century America). As associate professor at California State University Northridge, Baxter specializes in adolescence: In addition to this book and numerous article publications on the topic, Baxter has another book, Critical Insights: Coming of Age, forthcoming from Salem Press. His chapter, “Teen Reading at the Turn of the Century (Part I): Horatio Alger,” is a natural fit for an annotation, given the Alger-focus (coincidentally, Part II approaches Edward Stratemeyer).
Baxter exceeds Gardner (survey of Alger), Decker (historicist overview), and Freidman (a historical-economic critique) by presenting a historicist account of “cheap books” using an economic and cultural context, an active engagement with other literary critics, and the integration of other primary sources from Charles Darwin and Charles Brace. While many scholars conflate cheap books--dime novels, newspapers, magazines--with adolescent readers, Baxter shows how there’s little evidence to suggest that such materials were aimed at or consumed by teens. Instead, the threat of cheap books can be seen as a way to communicate fears about the more conspicuous adolescent population of the post-bellum period. In this frame, Alger’s work, which focuses on a teen demographic, invents adolescence in the implied reader and contains that threat through a Darwinian rehabilitation. His close reading of Ragged Dick explores how characters, located at a developmental stage, experience firsthand how their behavior can help them evolve or devolve (consider Ragged Dick’s conscious choice to rise).
I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend this chapter for class consumption. The argument is clear, thorough, and well-contextualized with both primary and secondary sources. Baxter engages a number of other scholars that others’ have already annotated, including Nackenoff, Moon, and Sharnhorst, making this text a useful point of entrance to others. I’ve checked the book out of the library should we (by which I mean “I”) need to make it electronically available.
--Wfenton 19:36, 30 January 2012 (EST)
Cowley, Malcolm. "The Real Horatio Alger Story." New England Writers and Writing. Ed. Donald W. Faulkner. Hanover: University of New England, 1996. 95-104. Print.
Malcolm Cowley’s New England Writers and Writing contains a chapter on Horatio Alger titled “The Real Horatio Alger Story.” I found this book by searching Horatio Alger at the Rose Hill Library.
This article is a heavily biographical take on the life of Alger and how his experience factors into his works, and how his experience remains conspicuously absent. Cowley does not confine himself to Ragged Dick, but also references several of Alger’s other work to provide an all-encompassing take on Alger’s oeuvre. Cowley maintains that there are no references to pedophilia in Alger’s work, although his life is emblematic of a sort of “arrested development,” finding a Freudian significance in Alger’s preference for playing with blocks at the age of fifty (101). He also feels that religion and art are conspicuously missing as themes, despite Alger’s role as a writer and as a preacher (100). What is perhaps most unique about Cowley’s “story,” however, is how he reconciles Alger’s use of “luck” in tales which are supposed to extol the virtues of hard work. Cowley suggests that luck is a fairy tale device which Alger uses to indicate that his heroes are really “princes in disguise” who discover “the place and parentage that are his by right” (103). This idea of luck as an important device which ties Alger’s work to some of the most enduring works of fiction removes Alger from the realm of didacticism into fantasy.
While this article may illuminate discord between Alger’s life and his work (namely, the disappearance of several of his personal components from his writing), it reads more as an obituary with a slight insight into the text. Cowley presents a sentimental picture of Alger and of his work as formative of American consciousness in the Gilded Age, but does not necessarily inject the text with any new sense of meaning or theoretical import. Therefore, I do not recommend it for class reading.
--Bernardd 13:17, 30 January 2012 (EST)
Decker, Jeffrey Louis. “Class Mobility: Moral Luck and the Horatio Alger Formula: Andrew Carnegie.” Self-Styled Success from Horatio Alger to Oprah Winfrey. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997. 1-15. Print.
As with the other selections from this batch, I sought to explore the Fordham catalogue and select a range of texts from those books. I selected Self-Styled Success from Horatio Alger to Oprah Winfrey because: a) it’s a little bit dated, though not conspicuously so (1997: again, I’m thinking in terms of a survey of criticism); and b) the first chapter on class mobility, “Moral Luck and the Horatio Alger Formula,” engages one of my favorite Captains of Industry, Andrew Carnegie. Decker, UCLA, has also edited The Black Aesthetic Movement (1991) and co-edited Literatures Across America: A Source Guide for Multicultural Curriculum Development (1992); however, as far as I can tell, Made in America (1997) is his most recent book publication (coaster).
Decker is interested why Alger’s writing peaks in popularity around 1910 (sidebar: Alger sold more books between the year of his death—1899—and 1920 than he did during his lifetime). While the question has puzzled many other literary historians, Decker argues that editorial abridgements reframed his stories as tales of class mobility—namely his characters’ ability to secure white-collar work—well-suited to the middle-class valorization of the Progressive era. Decker’s key distinction is between what he calls “moral luck” and “market pluck.” In Alger’s work, Decker sees moral luck creating the context in which market pluck is rewarded with a respectable occupation. Decker uses Andrew Carnegie, who espoused a vision wherein an enterprising young man built moral character (honesty and integrity) through market pluck (hard work and determination), as well as Bernard William, who argued that moral justification is constructed retrospectively (in his theory of moral luck), to define his terms and clarify his argument.
Although I enjoyed this article, I felt it tried to do too much in too short a space (not unlike the Shaheen essay). Decker never gets quite close enough to Alger’s texts and many of his claims are not fully substantiated: For example, he acknowledges that Alger doesn’t equally distribute moral luck across the boys in Ragged Dick, but he does little to unpack the reasons for the uneven allocation—this is despite the fact that he asserts that, across the Alger canon, new immigrants are “less likely to receive the divinity of moral luck” (5). There’s gold in them hills; however, Decker doesn’t commit the time to exploring.
--Wfenton 19:40, 30 January 2012 (EST)
Friedman, Benjamin M. “From Horatio Alger to William Jennings Bryan.” The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. 105-129. Print.
As with the other selections from this batch, I sought to explore the Fordham catalogue and select a range of texts from those books. Now I know you recognize Friedman, but I bet you don’t associate him with Alger. In fact--if I may be so bold--I would wager you don’t associate Friedman with literary studies. And you shouldn’t, normally. William Joseph Maier Professor of Political Economy at Harvard and member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Brookings Institute, and the editorial board of the Encyclopædia Britannica, Benjamin Friedman is a big--pardon me, BIG--deal in economic policy. (Caveat: In ‘89 he also wrote Day of Reckoning: The Consequences of American Economic Policy, a fairly eviscerating critique of Reagan economic policy). In his most recent book, The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth (2005), he charts a history of American economics, sentiment, and policy; his chapter “From Horatio Alger to William Jennings Bryan” lays the economic-historical backdrop for a conversation about class, money, and respectability in Alger.
Friedman is interested in booms, busts, and American psychology. His basic argument is that economic growth, stagnation, or decline shapes public opinion which in turn shapes social and political change. He opens ““From Horatio Alger to William Jennings Bryan” in the fifteen years following the Civil War, a period of rapid industrialization, economic growth, and consumer confidence. For our purposes, this is Friedman’s most useful context: Friedman sees a national spirit of optimism individualized through texts such as Alger’s Ragged Dick. Meanwhile, in the period between 1780-95, Friedman notes a shift in popular sentiment--to one of “moral decline”--as stagnation, strikes, and populism give rise to texts such as Howell’s Rise of Silas Lapham and A Hazard of New Fortunes.
While Friedman does connect economics, public sentiment, and texts, his attention to literary works is cursory at best. For this reason, “From Horatio Alger,” isn’t a strong selection on its own, but, perhaps if paired with selections in traditional literary criticism, it could be used to ground a broader conversation.
--Wfenton 19:32, 30 January 2012 (EST)
Gardner, Ralph D. “From Moral Tales To Dime Novels to Alger.” Horatio Alger: or the American Hero Era. Mendota, Illinois: The Wayside Press, 1964. 307-322. Print.
As with the other selections from this batch, I sought to explore the Fordham catalogue and select a range of texts from those books. While I didn’t hold high hopes for any of the essays included in Horatio Alger: Or, The American Hero Era, I was interested in sampling older criticism and considering that this text predates the Voting Rights Act, it certainly fits the bill. Moreover, although Gardner’s book was critiqued for being a bit too doting, it was widely considered the definitive biography at time of publication. Of the essays included in the biography, “From Moral Tales To Dime Novels to Alger” struck me as most relevant to our ends, given our attention to print culture and dime novels last class.
Horatio Alger: Or, The American Hero Era was published in 1964, and “From Moral Tales To Dime Novels to Alger” is one of twelve essays included after Gardner’s twenty-six chapter biography. While he presents Alger as a product of his time (a rather surprising sidebar: Alger’s books outsold both Charles Dickens and Hans Christian Andersen combined), Gardner seeks to address a scholarly disregard of Alger’s work (the passage of the Voting Rights Act isn’t the only development since ‘64, apparently). What follows is essentially a survey of the Alger cannon. Gardner touches upon print culture (namely the dearth of American literature, especially for young audiences), the emergence of the dime novel (Beadle), and stresses that Alger’s success relies upon simple plots, rapid pacing, and something young reader’s hadn’t yet encountered in book form: a sort of kid-tested-mother-approved adventure that was sanctioned by parents and enjoyed by children.
Gardner died at the age of 81 in 2005.  If you’re on the prowl for a fifty-year-old Alger biography, The American Hero Era is a fine place to start: Not only is it Gardner’s claim to fame; it’s also (as suggested earlier) considered the best biography on Alger at the time of its publication. That said, we’ve come a long way from the 1960s (in some respects), and there are probably better uses of class time then reading the short, summary-laden claims presented in “From Moral Tales To Dime Novels to Alger.” If there’s one selection to vote off my island, Gardner’s the silver fox who doesn’t talk to anyone else.
--Wfenton 19:43, 30 January 2012 (EST)
Garrison, Dee. "Cultural Custodians of the Gilded Age: The Public Librarian and Horatio Alger." The Journal of Library History. 6.4 (1971): 327-336. Print.
I came across this article through a JSTOR search using “Horatio Alger” as the search term and was interested by the title.
Unlike most other things written on Horatio Alger and Ragged Dick, this work comes from an intellectual history background. However, through this somewhat circuitous path it offers some interesting approaches to Alger’s writing. Garrison looks at Alger’s novels through the lens of the perception of the Gilded Age. She tracks the “antibusiness spirit” of the late 19th century which saw Alger as a retarding factor in American economic reform: Alger had been “held responsible for the reluctance of the American worker to struggle for his class interests” (328-9). Alongside this trend, was the expansion of the Public Library and the new influence that librarians and their managers had over what people could read. Garrison describes the systematic suppression of Alger’s novels because they themselves were the harbinger of the new “urban-industrial society” (334). In doing this, Garrison highlights the difficult and at times contradictory ideological position of the novels: are they deeply conservative (as we are generally inclined to think) or bracingly liberal in the manner in which they undermine parental authority and class structures?
Garrison’s work interacts with a number of different intellectual strains: First and foremost is historiography. She is placing the history of Alger’s novels (and their suppression) into the way in which Americans have understood their own past. She explores the way the content of the novels threatened certain elements of American society. Second, there is a strain of intellectual history in the way she explores the way Alger’s texts were scapegoated in the larger ideological conflicts of the early 20th Century. Thirdly, Garrison’s article employs elements of reader-response criticism in the way she imagines the interactions between child/adolescent readers and the novel’s themselves: she hypothesizes the ways in which readers would have read the text and what the ideological implications of that reading were.
I am entirely ambivalent as to whether or not the class should read the article. On one hand, its scope is a little outside of ours as its focus is technically on the actions of libraries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. On the other hand, it does explore the ways in which Alger’s novels have been ideologically employed and begs the question what ideological content they actually possess.
--AndrewFerris 14:27, 30 January 2012 (EST)
Hendler, Glenn. "Pandering in the Public Sphere: Masculinity and the Market in Horatio Alger." American Quarterly. 48.3 (1996): 415-438. Print.
Okay. I’ll do it. I came across the article using an MLA search and got the full text from Project Muse. I was already familiar with the author.
The article looks at the way Ragged Dick both reflects the anxiety over the “struggle to shape the American public sphere” (415) and the ways in which the novel itself partakes in this struggle. By using the work of Jurgen Habermas, Hendler draws connections between interpersonal legibility, participation in the marketplace, and reading. Dick’s relationship with print culture (his name in print, specifically), his burgeoning property ownership, his progression towards literary all parallel his movement towards publicity. The author follows Dick’s entrance into the public sphere and the marketplace to its conclusion when he notes that the text itself is a commodity sold on a market which belies the “fantasy” of a separation between the public and the market.
The article engages with a number of strands of critical thinking, most of them historicist in nature. It employs the historical theory of Habermas to provide a vocabulary of privacy/publicity that allows us to more closely track Dick’s progression and the novel’s navigation of the contradictions therein. Second, it deals closely (in a “New Historicist” fashion) with contextual ideological questions—a good example is Hendler’s discussion of the tension between Alger’s and Olmstead’s visions of public space. Further, it is enmeshed in an American Studies tradition which looks closely at the ways in which individuals and groups imagined themselves in relation to the market and the public sphere. Lastly, it analyzes the threat the novels continued to pose by discussing the controversies that surrounded the appearance of Alger’s novels in public libraries (also see the Garrison article for more on this).
I do indeed recommend this article for general class reading. The way it employs extremely subtle historicist reading with social theory is both relevant and useful.
--AndrewFerris 00:27, 31 January 2012 (EST)
Hoeller, Hildegard. "Freaks and the American Dream: Horatio Alger, P.T. Barnum, and the Art of Humbug." Studies in American Fiction 34.2 (2006): 189-214. JSTOR. Web. 30 Jan. 2012 <http://search.proquest.com.avoserv.library.fordham.edu/pqrl/docview/274191408/abstract/13491635BCA591AFE27/6?accountid=10932>.
While this article appears in the back of the Norton edition of Ragged Dick, I forgot to bring my copy to campus today; gratefully, a search of JSTOR gave me a copy of the article as well. (This is, incidentally, the original publishing of the article, from Studies in American Fiction in 2006.)
Hoeller engages Ragged Dick via an intriguing method: she draws a strong parallel between Alger’s novel and the freak shows associated with PT Barnum in the nineteenth century. Specifically, Hoeller finds that Ragged Dick is, in many ways, a facsimile of Tiny Tim, and Alger himself fulfills the role of Barnum. Much like Barnum’s freak shows, Ragged Dick encourages readers “to confront and master the most extreme and terrifying forms of otherness…” (qtd. in 203). While Barnum sought to quell fears of exotic natives, ambiguously sexed people, people with missing limbs, etc., Alger’s focus is not about physical anomalies; rather, Alger attempts to assuage contemporary fears of an idle, juvenile street class with a penchant for gambling and other intemperance. Hoeller argues that whereas Barnum’s freaks were examples of physical anomalies beyond their control, Dick is a “self-made freak” who performs the act rather than simply being the act (194). Alger, in his role as Barnum, “gratifies the curiosity” of his audience aggrandizing his “freak” in much the same way Barnum did: by stressing their normalcy and “respectability” (an Alger buzz-word) (199-200).
Hoeller’s argument -- her interests focusing on 18th- and 19th-century literature -- is based primarily in an historicist reading: she involves Charles Loring Brace’s social theory text Dangerous Classes, Robert Bogdan’s essay on the history of the freakshow, and an argument of Hendler’s stipulating as to Dick’s lineage. One key component of Hoeller’s article, however, allows it to engage several types of discourse at once: a main source for Hoeller is Rachel Adams’s 2001 book Sideshow USA which explores the effects the “freak” has had on sociopolitical concerns: “race, empire, and immigration, anxiety about gender, and controversies over taste and public standards of decency" (from the U. of Chicago Press website).
I found this article initially off-putting: the comparison between Dick and Alger and Tiny Tim and Barnum seemed tenuous, and also of little import to illuminating different vectors at work in Alger’s text. However, upon discovering the extensive use of the Adams text (and also the almost laughably dated Dangerous Classes), I maintain that Hoeller not only established strong evidence for a connection between Dick and Tiny Tim, but also had a profound reason for making such a connection. Further, the theoretical implications of a text such as Sideshow USA bears exploration, as it may open up a diverse set of avenues for reading Ragged Dick.
--Bernardd 12:04, 30 January 2012 (EST)
Holland, Norman N. "Hobbling with Horatio, or the Uses of Literature." The Hudson Review. 12.4 (Winter 1959-1960):549-557. Print.
I came across this article through some deep scholar.google.com searching. It’s amazing how even pages into the search you can come across interesting and relevant works. I then got the text itself through a JSTOR search.
Even without any historical context, a close reader can see that Holland’s appears very early in the history of Alger scholarship. His title suggests a certain condescension which proliferates throughout the entire article. Deeply influenced by Hoyt’s biography, Holland writes, “Alger's own mind was so happily matched to the minds of his young readers. He himself remained a child all his life, an emotional cripple whose growth was twisted by the steady application of moral pressures in childhood” (550). From this biographical start, Holland performs a structural reading across many of Alger’s novels and corresponds that reading with Alger’s own life. He sees tendencies in the novels—like the appearance of a surrogate father—and matches them with “Alger's own pathetic life… one long attempt to replace his father” (556).
Within a larger critical conversation, Holland’s essay seems to touch on a number of other theoretical conversations. First, implicit in this essay is a psychoanalytic approach—one that sees symptoms of the author’s biography in the text. Second, is an awareness of structuralism: Holland is consistently pointing out tendencies across several books and uniting them into broad strokes (i.e. Oedipial conflict) and then unites those broad strokes with the readership as when he argues that “Alger's readers could…project in this disguised and ostensibly just form the castration of their own stern nineteenth-century fathers.” And lastly, Holland’s work directly deals with biographical criticism by using Hoyt’s biography as a rubric of sorts to read Alger’s novels. Holland’s whole body of work is incredibly diverse—ranging from Shakespeare to Robert Frost—but has always been interested in the psychological intersection of authors and readers. (His website is a hoot).
I would not recommend reading this essay as a class. The only reason to do so would be to get a sense of what early and somewhat condescending Alger criticism looked like.
AndrewFerris 12:34, 30 January 2012 (EST)
Lhamon, Jr, W.T. "Horatio Alger and American Modernism: The One-Dimensional Social Formula." American Studies. 17.2 (1976):11-27. Print.
I discovered this article first through a google scholar search and then through some basic googling. Though none of the primary databases had it, the University of Kansas had a copy that I was able to download.
Lhamon’s approach to Alger, and Ragged Dick specifically, is essentially sociological. Emerging from a tradion that looked at the social and racial implications of literature, he analyzes the way Alger’s novels deal with the underlying problem of cultural conflict in America. He claims the novels are “romances” and notes the way “Alger’s vision relaxed the larges social tensions, for his resolution of social conflicts provided for readers a very comforting way of shaping their world” (16-7). By closely reading the way characters are depicted—socially, ethnically, economically—in Ragged Dick, he explores the cultural adgenda of the novel. Further, by correlating the structure of Alger’s novels with other major (more respected) American authors—James, Faulkner, Fitzgerald—he illustrates the fundamentally American character of this representations.
Lhamon’s approach builds off of two strains: First, is the study of American sociology that focuses on the interrelation of ethnic and class groups. He compares the image of society offered by the novels to the historical reality of the late 19th century. Secondly, the article is deeply engaged with a sense of literary history. Lhamon looks at the way the structure of Alger’s stories have been appropriated by countless other American writers and hypothesizes that post-modern literature can be judged by its ability to free itself from the Alger model. This work fits into Lhamon’s larger study of racial divisions in American society and the exploration of how those divisions are manifested in literary and artistic culture.
I would not recommend this article to the class as ultimately its interests are in a larger critical conversation about society and race. However, I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the racial politics of Alger’s novels and the way in which Alger marshals racial stereotypes to organize his vision of society.
--AndrewFerris 13:19, 30 January 2012 (EST)
MacLeod, Anne Scott. "Good Democrats: Ragged Dick and Little Lord Fauntleroy." American Childhood: Essays on Children's Literature of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Athens, GA: University of Georgia, 1994. 77-83. Google Books. Web. 30 Jan. 2012.
Excerpted from her book American Childhood: Essays on Children's Literature of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (found on Google Books), Anne Scott MacLeod analyzes Ragged Dick in light of an ostensibly similar yet markedly different book: Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Little Lord Fauntleroy.
MacLeod posits that both books represent a prototype of the democratic American character in the form of their main boy characters. Both Ragged Dick and Little Lord Fauntleroy are “egalitarian and ambitious” and, of course, “self-respecting” (78-9). Dick, however, conforms to the middle class in his effort to gain respectability; this class ascension is, for Alger, self-realization, and the ultimate goal of the novel. Alger does not argue against class distinctions but rather suggests that class lines are “permeable” (81), whereas Burnett’s character goes through a change in circumstance rather than class (82). Alger presents class mobility as a hallmark of American democratic society while Burnett endorses the idea of an innate aristocracy.
MacLeod bases the majority of her argument in biographical readings: she juxtaposes brief reviews of Alger’s and Burnett’s lives in order to better display the true discrepancies in their circumstances. These short looks into the authors’ lives are supposed to account for much of her analyses: Alger’s humble beginnings, born in New England, are implied to have endeared him to a fundamentally flawed “American dream” of upward mobility and intervention by Providence; inversely, Burnett’s British background predisposes her to look down upon such mythology. Additionally, MacLeod quotes Tocqueville to highlight the contradiction of the American dream: American egalitarianism paradoxically heightens awareness of distance among social strata.
MacLeod’s analysis is hollow. Without more extensive biographical evidence (e.g., diaries or letters), or any other theoretical framework, she cannot hope to make a strong argument. She delves little into the motivations of the characters, conceiving of them only as emblems of their respective creators’ agendas. MacLeod’s work is simply too tenuous and too isolated to contribute much to class discussion.
--Bernardd 12:30, 30 January 2012 (EST)
Marrs, Clinton W. "Paideia in America: Ragged Dick, George Babbitt, and Problem of a Modern Classical Education." Arion: A Journal of Humanities and the Classics 15.2 (2007): 39-55. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 29 Jan. 2012.
I discovered this article by searching “Ragged Dick” in the MLA International Bibliography.
Marrs documents a nineteenth-century American educational practice where educators offered blue-collar workers and housewives courses in basic Latin or Greek, for reasons as simple as educators wanting parents to maintain the respect of, and set a good example for, their educated children. However, by the 1880s, this ideal became ridiculed; sciences were lauded while “dead” languages became increasingly ignored. Marrs’s article discusses why this occurred, responding to Victor Davis Hanson and John Heath’s work, Who Killed Homer?, which blames the late-twentieth century academy for the disappearance of classical education. Marrs wholly rejects Hanson and Heath’s accusation, writing “If the late-twentieth century academy seems to have forgotten Homer, it is because generations of Americans between 1850 and 1962 decided that Homer no longer mattered. Horatio Alger’s Ragged Dick certainly has no time for him—he has a fortune to make” (46). As Marrs implies, capitalism helps to kill the classics; practical knowledge becomes valued as “Adam Smith’s invisible hand...reached out of the...cash box and pushed Homer aside” (Marrs 47). Essentially, Marrs argues that in the nineteenth-century knowledge became a utility—a means to receiving a lucrative position. Highlighting Alger’s text, Marrs claims that “for most men and women, Greek paideia is no match for the American ethic of ‘getting ahead’” (49).
I have noticed that critical responses to Alger interestingly look at what is absent from his text: parents, factories, the Civil War, and here an education built on classic literature. Marrs does not respond to other Alger literary critics and instead views Ragged Dick as a historical document—one that emblematizes the shift in American educational priorities. Capitalism seems to be an integral aspect of almost any discussion of Alger’s novels, and Marrs’s reading is a novel pedagogical approach: capitalism becomes so ingrained in the spirit of America that it affects the way its citizens think, the content they learn, and their evaluation of education/language. However, although Marrs’s argument demonstrates this invisible influence in Ragged Dick, I would not recommend this article because of Marrs’s discursive style, lack of textual support (he surprisingly does not mention Fosdick’s tutoring), and discourse with other classicists more than Americanists. I do think Marrs makes a valid and interesting point about the cultural significance of the novel, but his article could have been much more effective if it were ten pages shorter and/or more focused on the text.
--KevinS 16:11, 30 January 2012 (EST)
Miner, Madonne M. "Horatio Alger's Ragged Dick: Projection, Denial and Double-Dealing." American Imago 47 (1990):233-248. Print.
I discovered this article through an MLA International Bibliography search by using “Ragged Dick” as the subject field. I was able to find the text of the article through the PEP (Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing ) database which has the journal American Imago archived.
Miner’s essay attempts to clarify and expand upon previous historicist criticism of Ragged Dick by bringing to the novel a psychoanalytic, structuralist lens. She writes, “we need attend to Ragged Dick's historical context and to the psychodynamics of its representation of a character ‘on the make.’” (233). In this, Miner is complicating previous readings of the text which have seen the novel’s form and didacticism as uncomplicated. Instead of attributing the texts excesses “to Alger's awareness of his audience” (an historicist interpretation), she intends to look carefully at the formal patterns of the text (233). Therefore, the essay functions as a close-reading, which pays particular attention to the presence of doubles, textual inconsistencies, and ambiguities, and interprets these phenomena psychoanalytically.
Miner’s work is emerging from a structuralist and narratological approach informed by Freudian and Lacanian theory. She does this by engaging with previous criticism of Ragged Dick, some historical scholarship, and theoretical writing on narratology. Her underlying concern seems to be exploring the way in which the text furthers its ideological agenda and the manner in which that agenda becomes complicated by the text.
I was at first not sure if I would recommend the essay to the class as it seemed too concerned with somewhat hermetic psychoanalytic issues. However, I eventually realized that the paper’s primary concern is not psychoanalysis per se, but instead the exploration of the narrative complexities (and weird-nesses) of Ragged Dick which nearly any criticism of the text needs to address. So, while this may not be a particularly influential paper, I think it provides a useful approach to the text and I do recommend it.
--AndrewFerris 15:55, 23 January 2012 (EST)
Moon, Michael. "'The Gentle Boy from the Dangerous Classes': Pederasty, Domesticity, and Capitalism in Horatio Alger." Ragged Dick. Ed. Hildegard Hoeller. New York: Norton, 2008. Print.
Firstly, the original publishing information of this article is the following: Moon, Michael. "'The Gentle Boy from the Dangerous Classes': Pederasty, Domesticity, and Capitalism in Horatio Alger." Representations 19 (1987): 87-110. After reading the novel and noticing the glaring lack of heterosexual desire (especially for an adolescent boy), I flipped through the selected essays in the back of our edition of Ragged Dick and thought Moon’s article, which discusses pederasty and the capitalist market, could produce a helpful reading.
Moon uses various theoretical approaches in his article: queer (referencing influential readings by Eve Sedgwick), biographical (looking at Alger’s homosexuality), intertextual (examining Alger’s other stories), Freudian (discussing briefly infantile anality), and Marxist (determining the homoerotic foundations of the United States’ capitalist system). He argues that “Alger’s reformulation of domestic fiction as a particular brand of male homoerotic romance functions as a support for capitalism” (211), showing how the “interests” of philanthropic older gentleman in young, good-looking street-boys yields “profits” for both parties: the boy can achieve upward mobility, while the adult can take an “intense interest in an attractive boy without risking being vilified or persecuted for doing so” (226). Although in his examination of “homophobic capitalist culture” (228) Moon occasionally exaggerates his point (like when he claims that the adult male’s interest in young boys may result “in actions as various as respectful advancement or rape”), his discovery of the homoerotic capital in Alger’s novels remains convincing (229). His reading addresses the pervasive mislabeling of Alger’s stories as “rags to riches” tales, showing that the text reveals more about the “prevailing modes of relationship between males in corporate/capitalist culture” than it resembles one of Alger’s “heroic fables of ascents from the gutter to the pinnacle of power” (212). In particular, Moon appears to redress these readings with his article, but he also responds to queer/Marxist readings such as Sedgwick’s “Homophobia, Misogyny, and Capital:The Example of Our Mutual Friend” and Luce Irigaray’s “Commodities Among Themselves.”
Besides biographical readings, Moon does not engage in other Alger scholarship, instead participating in a larger research discussion about the United States’ homophobic yet homoerotic capital market and the division between gentility and the lower, “dangerous classes” in the 19th century. Moon has written extensively about American eroticism/sexuality—he has published a book called A Small Boy and Others: Imitation and Initiation in American Culture from Henry James to Andy Warhol, which focuses on the use of childhood sexuality in 20th century American literature, according to Emory University’s website—though his scholarship on Alger appears limited to this article.
I believe that this article will be relevant to class discussions; I not only found it mostly convincing and thought-provoking, but, when perusing other articles, I saw it cited in several footnotes, which indicates its importance in studies of Ragged Dick. Moreover, though, I believe that Moon’s reading of the capitalist market is important to the study of other American texts, raising important questions such as who determines social mobility? And are notions of the American Dream predicated on more than just one’s “enterprising” (a word constantly repeated in Alger’s text), but perhaps also attractiveness and, for young boys, embracing homosexual desires?
Nackenoff, Carol. "Money, Price, and Value: Alger's Interventions in the Market." The Fictional Republic, Horatio Alger and American Political Discourse. New York: Oxford UP, 1994. 133-161
I found this book as a source in another article I was perusing, and found it in the library. The whole book is a good read (from what I could tell from skimming it), but I thought it would be prudent to limit myself to one chapter. This chapter examines various aspects of Alger's concept of economics (frugality, risk-taking, enterprise, luck, economic growth) and examines how they all play into Alger's morality, as well as the historical happenings of the times (god vs. silver vs. greenbacks). The main reason I picked this chapter, though, is because on pages 139-141, it clearly continues the discussion Zuckerman raised in his article, on the subject of luck's role in Alger's economic success. As a matter of fact, he directly quotes a large block of Zuckerman's "Nursery Tales," to address the point he makes that luck has more to do with a character's fate than anything else. Nackenoff argues that morality is intrinsic to Alger's economic theory, and that these instances of lightning-strike luck are examples of divine intervention, in repayment for that morality.
I would certainly recommend this chapter, since it's as clear an example as you can get of scholars talking to and building off each other. To sweeten the deal, I find her argument compelling, although she could've pushed some points a bit further. She's more concerned with developing a consistent model that all aspects of Alger's economics follow (money and moral behavior go hand in hand) than she is in deciding exactly what the implications of her theory are. Still, I'd certainly recommend this.
--Ecerta 01:06, 26 January 2012 (EST)
Nackenoff, Carol. "The Mass Fiction Writer as Producer and Consumer: Power, Powerlessness, and Gender." The Fictional Republic, Horatio Alger and American Political Discourse. New York: Oxford UP, 1994. 206-226
I'll admit this is a bit of a cop-out entry, taken from the same book by the same author as my previous entry, but... well, it's a pretty good book. I picked this chapter at first because I've been dying to read more about the gender issues in Alger's literature. I was disappointed; the whole chapter felt very bi-polar. At one point, Nackenoff was talking about how Alger marketed himself to his audience, and then all of the sudden I was reading about how feminine or masculine Alger's characters are. She was trying to connect Alger's character types with what the intelligentsia said was a good character type with what character traits were male and female at this time, and it just wasn't working for me. Furthermore, this chapter didn't really build off of very much Alger scholarship, so it was a bit difficult to place it. As the final nail in the coffin, I really didn't find her argument compelling; it felt like one moment, she was arguing one thing (workers were more feminine because they were producing goods, rather than producing self) and another thing entirely a page later (one example of a more masculine author was Melville. Didn't he write a whole book about men on a whaling ship? You know, the kind that hunts whale to sell their products on the market?). I wouldn't recommend this chapter because it really is all over the place, and none of it was very convincing for me. Furthermore, it didn't tie into any of the scholarship I've read yet, so I don't think it would be a very productive class reading.
--Ecerta 17:28, 30 January 2012 (EST)
Nackenoff, Carol. “Of Factories and Failures: Exploring the Invisible Factory Gates of Horatio Alger, Jr.” Journal of Popular Culture 25.4 (1992): 63-80. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 29 Jan. 2012.
After reading John Allen’s article, which repeatedly quoted Carol Nackenoff, I Google searched her CV and found this article, which I accessed through the MLA International Bibliography.
Nackenoff first argues what seems to be a popular topic in recent reassessments of Alger: that despite his “rags to riches” legacy, his tales stress “the importance of morality, the prevalence of middle-class occupations and modest rewards, and the unattractiveness of selfish materialism” (63). Her thesis, however, continues the discussion of Richard Weiss (although she does not explicitly mention him), who discusses Alger’s rejection of the industrial economy; she contends that Alger’s tales remove his protagonists from an industrial economy, where the threat of factory labor looms if the boys fail to sustain themselves on the streets. Nackenoff notes that “though Alger frequently set his tales in late antebellum America, the factory was, even at that point, an inescapable presence in the northeastern landscape” (68). When Alger’s heroes work in a factory, the dullness of the work or external circumstances often force the protagonist to find work elsewhere. The factory work is a detour, a bump in the road towards success, and thus it “is virtually never described. Often, the reader has no idea what is made, and is not taken into areas of production” (Nackenoff 70).
Nackenoff argues that factories become invisible in the city, precluding even the possibility of exchanging labor for factory wages, which displays Alger’s distrust of capitalists—“selfish men who are unconcerned with the interests of their workers and who would readily exploit their dependence to depress their wages” (75). Like many other critics, Nackenoff carefully defines capitalism—no doubt a key word in critical responses to Alger—and Alger’s relationship to it. Alger saw factory work as incongruous with the message of his novels: that strong moral character and enterprise will lead to success. In the factory, the “wage labor system was impersonal, and offered workers limited scope within which to affect their destinies” (Nackenoff 76). The factory cannot nurture character or introduce boys to philanthropist employers; thus, only success can be found outside the factory, where, if a boy can cultivate his character, “he is likely to improve his lot” (Nackenoff 77). Alger’s novels rebuke capitalist factories by erasing them from reality, instead portraying a world of “independence and self-reliance—and of desirable, fulfilling work”—a blur of realism and fantasy (Nackenoff 78).
Nackenoff’s mostly Marxist analysis also reveals the influence of several rereadings of Alger’s economics, such as John Cawelti’s Apostles of the Self-Made Man and Gary Scharnhorst’s Horatio Alger, Jr. As I mentioned earlier, she is an influential writer herself, who, two years after publishing this article, published her book The Fictional Republic: Horatio Alger and American Political Discourse. I would recommend this article because it blends (economic) history and Alger’s cultural context with readings of several Alger novels, offering views of the author’s treatment of capitalism and realism that are persistently discussed in the author’s criticism. Moreover, it shows the inescapability of industrialism in nineteenth-century American literature; even by virtually effacing the factory, its presence still looms.
--KevinS 16:00, 30 January 2012 (EST)
Noonan, Mark J. "Modern Instances, Vanishing Women Writers and the Rise of Realism." Reading The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, American Literature and Culture, 1870-1893. Kent OH: The Kent State UP, 2010.
I found this book in Lincoln Center's library in a search for American Literature, and I'm glad I did. Ever since reading about how masculinity becomes more opposed to femininity in American literature around the turn of the century, I've been wanting to read more about it, and this chapter lays it out very well. It doesn't address Alger per se, although it does fill in some of the background on late 19th, early 20th century magazine writers, and it brings an interesting dimension to the Realism movement: a both feminist and anti-feminist one (writers recognized that only teaching women arts and crafts left them poorly prepared for the "real world," and yet they presumed professionalism was solely within the power of men. Very interesting). The author gives some attention to Glazener, although it is to a book she wrote about realism (namely, her argument that realism was a force in stories that the writer was expected to root out and pay attention to, rather than passively accept) and not the article we were assigned. It did make me want to go and find it, though.
I don't think I'd recommend this for the class, since it's not very directly about Alger, but if anyone wants to supplement their knowledge about magazine literature in the late 19th, early 20th century, then this is your book.
--Ecerta 17:28, 30 January 2012 (EST)
Seelye, John. "Who was Horatio? The Alger Myth and American Scholarship." American Quarterly. 17.4 (1965): 749-756. JSTOR. 25 Jan 2012. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/271113>
This is another one of the articles I found on a basic JSTOR search of "Horatio Alger." I remembered us talking about how most of Alger's early biographies were total bunk based on a poorly researched (and that's being generous) model written by Herbert Mayes, and this looks like it's one of the earlier articles calling attention to the fact. From some other articles I've skimmed so far, the point where academia recognized how it had been duped for the past few decades happened around this time, and articles published not long afterwards all take for granted that previous Alger biographies were loaded with bunk. I chose this article in particular because it clearly and concisely outlines the history of his faulty biography, and, as I said, because its timing suggests it is one of the first (although I don't think it's THE first), and so that places it somewhere close to the beginning of the conversation on Alger's bad biography.
I would recommend this because it's a quick and easy read that concisely sums up the history of the wrong biography, and would be helpful to anyone wishing to investigate, for example, how Alger became synonymous with the American Dream. All in all, it's also a good summary of what the earliest biographical scholarship on Alger holds. It also shows the start of the academic strive to accurately get Alger's real life.
--Ecerta 19:46, 25 January 2012 (EST)
Shaheen, Aaron. “Endless Frontiers and the Emancipation from History: Horatio Alger's Reconstruction of Place and Time in Ragged Dick.” Children's Literature 33 (2005): 20-40. Project MUSE. Web. 23 Jan. 2012. <http://muse.jhu.edu.avoserv.library.fordham.edu/journals/childrens_literature/v033/33.1shaheen.html>
Apologies for the belated posting. That said, considering Shaheen’s attention to ahistoricism in Ragged Dick, perhaps I’ve picked a suitable entry for unhinging temporal requirements. I’ll be better next time—I promise.
I began my search with a research ambition: I wanted to learn more about what Alger was doing with urban space, particularly in his accounts of public spaces such as New York’s nascent Central Park. From there, I narrowed my search using Google Scholar. After sifting through the riffraff--some article about “Pandering” by a “G. Hendler” kept intruding upon my searches --I staked my claim on “Endless Frontiers.” (I’ll confess my impulses may be somewhat self-interested, given my adoration of the frontier and aforementioned temporal limitations). I retrieved the full-text of the article using Project MUSE.
“Endless Frontiers” was published fairly recently (2005) in Children’s Literature (The Johns Hopkins University Press). Shaheen begins with a Marxist reading of the text, but uses a good deal of historical context to bring other primary and secondary sources into the conversation. While I don’t think that he does much to engage other scholars or bend the arc of the conversation, his close textual readings and historical context function as a useful supplement to the Alger’s text (though more to come on this shortly). As a late-nineteenth century Americanist at UTC , Shaheen is certainly in his pond when discussing Horatio Alger; however, his specialization, gender and racial notions of androgyny, upon which he has published his only book, Androgynous Democracy: Modern American Literature and the Dual-Sexed Body Politic (2010) , doesn’t color this article until the very end (when he discusses, briefly, women and marriage in Ragged Dick).
Now that we’re properly introduced, permit me to touch upon the content and quality of the article. It’s a bit of a disappointment, honestly. Not for lack of good ideas, but rather because of imprecise focus. Shaheen tries to go everywhere in twenty pages: He discusses Marx, the nineteenth century consumer class, luck and capitalism, selfhood in relation to exchange, how Alger purposes and repurposes time, space, and history, and the urban landscape as the new American frontier. Each an article unto itself—and that’s just the first half of “Endless Frontiers.” Shaheen also brings many other voices into the mix—especially when he’s traversing the frontier—from Frederick Jackson Turner to James Fenimore Cooper. The gentleman has restless leg syndrome, fine if you seek a quick and dirty survey; however, if you’re looking for a deep, sustained argument, Shaheen just doesn’t have the time. Permit me an example. To contextualize Riis and Turner, Shaheen employs some useful historical context: the purchase of Alaska from Imperial Russia coincides with the text’s serialization (1867). However, he frames Seward’s purchase as evidence of the frontier “yet again expanding” (so much for that business of the “last frontier”), and then proceeds to walk back to the Louisiana Purchase (1803), annexation of Florida (1820s), and Mexican War land-grab (1840s) to thoroughly confuse his timeline—and reader; somehow it’s as if evidence from the first half of the nineteenth century ought to support the notion that the frontier, which, while not yet dead (that doesn’t come until FJT shoots the mule in the head in 1890) is not perpetually expanding in 1867. I don’t believe Shaheen is trying to be misleading, nor do I imagine he misunderstands the history he cites; rather this moment simply illuminates how he sometimes tries to do too much, too quickly. This doesn’t negate the fact that his close-readings can be quite perceptive, particularly, for example, when he renders Ragged Dick as a Natty Bumppo figure. However, if we are looking for a survey of instrumental Alger ciriticsm, I’m not sure Shaheen is ready for the canon.
Apologies now for the lengthy response—consider it my gesture towards forgiveness for my tardiness.
Shaheen, Aaron. "Endless Frontiers and Emancipation from History: Horatio Algers Reconstruction of Place and Time in Ragged Dick." Childrens Literature: Annual of The Modern Language Association Division on Childrens Literature and The Childrens Literature Association 33 (2005): 20-40. MLA International Bibliography; MLA International Bibliography. Web. 22 Jan. 2012.
I found this scholarly article through a search on “Ragged Dick” and “economy” on the MLA Bibliography. The MLA Bibliography database provided a link to an external database which contained the full text.
This particular article primarily engages Ragged Dick via the lens of Marxist-historicist critique, opening with a quote from Marx's Capital which presages the economic theme of Shaheen’s analysis. Shaheen argues that Alger’s capitalist novel moves towards a “never-arriving future,” a dehistoricization; additionally, Sheehan proposes that Alger effectively renders New York City a new frontier, establishing a firm dialogue between the country and the city. While Shaheen is not the first author to view Ragged Dick through a Marxist mindset, he does not directly respond to other Marxist critiques but instead builds upon broader concepts established by other theorists. Shaheen utilizes RWB Lewis’s concept of the “American Adam” to explore identity; David Harvey’s social theory discusses the relationship between the city and the frontier. Sheehan effectively engages sociology and politics, injecting himself into the larger conversation about how socioeconomic forces impact the identity -- here, especially the identity of children in the Gilded Age. (As Ragged Dick was a primer of sorts for children in the late-nineteenth century, how Alger constructs the identity of his heroes must be especially important for how adolescents in that time perceived their role in society.) Shaheen’s emphasis is late-nineteenth century American literature, though not specifically in Alger (his notes stipulate that he needed convincing that Ragged Dick was, in fact, funny). This article does, however, fit with his interest in the period: Shaheen’s research here as it pertains to Ragged Dick is extensively grounded in his knowledge of that time period.
I believe that this article would be beneficial to class discussion. Shaheen provides extensive context for Alger’s work, and positions it in a place that differs from other Marxist interpretations. The construction of identity, and especially the detailed analysis of the dialectic between frontier and city, provide exciting insight into the text, blending the theoretical with the purely historical.
Trachtenberg, Alan. "Ragged Dick." Lincoln's Smile and Other Enigmas. New York: Hill and Wang, 2007. 154-66. Google Books. Web. 30 Jan. 2012.
I came across this chapter from Alan Trachtenberg’s book Lincoln’s Smile and Other Enigmas through a search on Google Books. In the chapter, “Horatio Alger’s Ragged Dick,” the author presents a reading of Ragged Dick which is at odds with much of the Marxist critique levied at the work.
Trachtenberg’s focal point is that Alger is not the “capitalist ideologue” that he has been labeled; rather, instead of writing from a serious personal agenda, Alger was writing out of economic necessity and “practical prudence” (157). Alger actually aspired to write adult novels (a goal to which an earlier article of Alger’s testifies), but the nature of the rapidly expanding publishing market and the opportunities for money and prestige drove Alger to the most economically viable genre. Moreover, Alger does not advocate the cutthroat capitalism which has been ascribed to him: to say so is a gross misrepresentation of Alger’s “motives, message, and literary methods” (155). Alger rather writes from a point of a identification which, Trachtenberg argues, allows Alger to transmute himself and to “recast himself — his genteel culture, his liberal patrician sympathies for underdogs, his economic status as an author, and, not least, his dangerous erotic attraction to boys — into juvenile fiction” (158). Alger actively argues against individualist, capitalist aggression, by having his character’s desire simple things (the most basic of which is self-respect) and by emphasizing communal redemption over individual success.
Trachtenberg, a cultural historian, derives much of his chapter from Marxist critique, though he inverts it back on Alger’s material and declares that while Alger conceives of money as something, it is not everything. Trachtenberg also implements psychoanalytic critique and queer theory in analyzing how Alger translates himself into his work and how the relationship between Dick and Fosdick could be seen as homoerotic, to the end of elevating sympathy in relationships over aggressive self-interested pursuits. Trachtenberg also engages Dangerous Classes, but to a different end than Hoeller: Trachtenberg brings in Brace’s text to indicate that bettering the community is more important than individual capital.
I would recommend this article for the class because it serves as a thought-provoking foil to the majority of the Marxist readings of Ragged Dick. Trachtenberg is not quick to dismiss Alger’s tale as a simplistic, didactic device for capitalist interests, but rather as a reflection of its author and his own personal identification with the boys at the center of the novel.
--Bernardd 12:09, 30 January 2012 (EST)
Weiss, Richard. “Horatio Alger, Jr., and the Gilded Age.” The American Myth of Success: From Horatio Alger to Norman Vincent Peale. New York: Basic Books, 1969. 48-63. Google Books. Web. 29 Jan. 2012.
I discovered this by searching “Horatio Alger” through Google scholar.
Weiss’s article argues that Alger’s fiction does not represent the Gilded Age—an era that “seemed to spawn millionaires as salmon spawn roe”—but rather displays nostalgia for a “dying order [that] linked ‘sinlessness to solvency’” (49). Alger depicts capitalists (Weiss focuses on the image of mill owners) and industrialism negatively because he personally experienced how industry disrupted his life in New England—it “placed power and prestige in new hands, upset established social patterns, and brought an influx of immigrants that threatened the homogeneity of the New England countryside” (Weiss 50). Weiss’s biographical reading also demonstrates how social reform motivates Alger’s realism, citing letters that reveal Alger’s desire to show “‘for the first time to the American public the hardships and ill-treatment of these wandering musicians [to] excite an active sympathy in their behalf’” (qtd. 54). Thus, as Carol Nackenoff later expands in her “Of Factories and Failures: Exploring the Invisible Factory Gates of Horatio Alger, Jr.,” Weiss notes that the benefactors in Alger’s novels are “engaged in mercantile rather than industrial enterprises;” the older forms of work build the character of Alger’s youth, while the industrial world lacks philanthropy and makes boys an appendage of a machine (59). Weiss sees this as Alger’s critique of the emerging new world—which spoils America with things his novels either overlook or criticize, such as “industrialization, urbanization, mammoth fortunes, and the general decline of morals”—as well as his nostalgia for “the more harmonious society in which he was raised” (59).
Weiss’s Marxist, biographical, and intertextual reading lays the foundation in 1969 for what critics would later expand upon in more detail: Alger’s depictions of capitalism and industrialism (and their widespread effects in almost every facet of American life) and his blend of realism and Romanticism. His citations focus on Alger’s biography but also show an interest in the demythologization of Alger, which can be seen in the 1940s in works like William Miller’s 1949 article, “American Historians and the Business Elite.” Weiss’s book focuses more on demythologizing various works of American literature than on Alger in particular, but I would recommend at least this article because its early analysis of central topics to studies of Alger. The mythologization of Alger and other American offers also may be of interest, however: What makes a culture produce myths? Do we intentionally misread to place a text into a historical era?
--KevinS 15:45, 30 January 2012 (EST)
Zuckerman, Michael. "The Nursery Tales of Horatio Alger." American Quarterly. 24.2 (1972): 191-209. JSTOR. 23 Jan. 2012. <http:///www.jstor.org/stable/2712070>.
First, sorry this is late; I'll save everyone the technical difficulties sob story and simply say, I won't let it happen again.
Anyway, I found this article by doing a simple search for "Horatio Alger" on JSTOR, and then realizing that a good number of other articles were citing this one. This article attacks the idea that Horatio Alger stories are paragons of the capitalistic social Darwinism inherent in the American Dream. Instead, a character's success is based mostly on luck and his own good morals, from which hard work would spring. The kind of rugged individuality commonly attributed to Alger heroes does not apply either, as respectability from other people tends to be the gauge of a hero's success, rather than what he may decide is success.,
It was a little difficult to ascertain what scholarly conversation this was a part of, since 99% of the citations that the author uses come from Alger's works themselves, rather than other scholarly articles. All he gives is a paragraph in the beginning which sets up an ambiguous straw-man of "We have imagined Alger as our dreamer of success, our rhapsodist of rags-to-riches, our avatar of the self-made man." Zuckerman seems to be responding to a common misconception, more than a scholarly argument. This was one of the weakest parts of his paper, in my opinion; his argument would have been greatly improved by a few examples of what he interprets as this egregious misinterpretation of Alger's works. The later articles that I could find which cite this one seem to take from it the point that morality and respectability were important above all in Alger's works, rather than going into Zuckerman's argument about how well these ideals fit with the American Dream.
I would recommend this to the general class because the points he raises about the un-capitalism of Alger's works certainly are interesting and thought-provoking, and complicate the conventional synonymnity of Alger with individual "Americanism." I just wish it was a little more grounded in other scholarly conversation.
--Ecerta 19:04, 23 January 2012 (EST)