Victorian Popular Fictions 4.2 7 Langbauer

Young America: Dime Novels and Juvenile Authorship

 Laurie Langbauer


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American dime novels, first published under that term in 1860, built on earlier movements in American literary traditions. Critics for over a century have recognised that this popular form emphasised the same sense of literary nationalism strongly at play in the nineteenth century when cultural pundits sought to define and assert a properly American character for so-called “serious” publications. This essay expands that understanding by directly grounding the dime novel within the tenets of the 1830s and 1840s Young America movement, as it formed around the New York circle of Evert Duyckinck. Recovering that heritage stresses how Americanness was intrinsically associated with youth, innovation, and promise. It recovers as well another movement behind the growth and popularity of the dime novel: the juvenile tradition of teenage writers that had flourished in Britain and America at the beginning of the nineteenth century. This tradition found a new form in popular fiction as young writers moved into the new markets of the dime industry. In addition to resituating the dime novel within the debate over what made literature American, augmenting literary history through an attention to the role of juvenile writing expands understandings of the changing definition of authorship. Wide-awake youth figured a new mode of authorship – not so much visionary and romantic as pragmatic, productive, capable.


Beadle & Co.; dime novel; Evert Duyckinck; fiction factory; juvenile tradition; literary juvenilia; Poe; Young America


Date of Acceptance: 31 December 2022

Date of Publication: 13 January 2023

Double Blind Peer Reviewed

Recommended Citation:

Langbauer, Laurie. 2022. “Young America: Dime Novels and Juvenile Authorship.” Victorian Popular Fictions, 4.2: 101-120. ISSN: 2632-4253 (online) DOI: 

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