Everyday Ideas: Socioliterary Experience among Antebellum New Englanders

Ronald J. Zboray and Mary Saracino Zboray

This book takes an unprecedented look at the use of literature in everyday life in one of history's most literate societies-the home ground of the American Renaissance. Using information pulled from four thousand manuscript letters and diaries, Everyday Ideas provides a comprehensive picture of how the social and literary dimensions of human existence related in antebellum New England. Penned by ordinary people-factory workers, farmers, clerks, storekeepers, domestics, and teachers and other professionals-the writings examined here brim with thoughtful references to published texts, lectures, and speeches by the period's canonized authors and lesser lights.

These personal accounts also give an insider's perspective on issues ranging from economic problems, to social status conflicts, to being separated from loved ones by region, state, or nation. Everyday Ideas examines such references and accounts and interprets the multiple ways literature figured into the lives of these New Englanders.

An important aid in understanding historical readers and social authorship practices, Everyday Ideas is a unique resource on New England and provides a framework for understanding the profound role of ideas in the everyday world of the antebellum period.

Everyday Ideas is a prize winner for "Best Book" published in 2006 in Mass Communication and Journalism History, History Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication; awarded 11 August 2007 at the AEJMC annual convention.

It also won the Triennial E. Jennifer Monaghan Prize for Best Book in the History of Literacy Published in Past Three Years, History of Reading Special Interest Group, International Reading Association, awarded at the annual convention, Chicago, 27 April 2010.  The book was named, by Kathy Roberts Forde, as among “‘A Dozen Best’: Top Books for the Journalism Historian Exploring the History of the Book,” American Journalism 26:2 (Spring 2009): 140-49.

Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2006