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Literature and Consumer Culture in Germany before 1933
288 pages, 21 illus., bibliog., index
ISBN 978-1-84545-087-8 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (December 2005)
“While [this study] successfully builds on the many previous studies on the world of books and publishing, what sets it apart from the existing literature is its systematic attempt to place reading culture within the emergence of consumer culture…Reuveni’s basic argument is that reading was in two ways an integral element of consumer culture during the first third of the twentieth century…It is a convincing argument, which overturns a number of conventional assumptions and furnishes a wealth of insights along the way." · European History Quarterly
“…an excellent monograph…By impressively integrating intellectual, social, economic, and cultural history, Reuveni offers a compelling, if dense, work.” · Journal of Social History
“…Reuveni does an excellent job investigating both the increasing segmentation of reading material and the new and innovative ways of distributing this material…one finishes the book not only with a much extended knowledge about the modern reading public but also with fresh insights about the emergence of a consumer culture in Weimar Germany.” · American Historical Review
“Gideon Reuveni’s book, Reading Germany, is an original and stimulating departure from the [previous] literature…What Reuveni argues so elegantly in his fine book is that this new reading culture was instrumental in brokering the modernization of everyday life and ‘disseminating values of consumer culture’ across inter-war Germany in new and enduring ways.” · Reviews in History
“…provides a complete overview of reading history in Germany…[and] makes for fascinating reading. The author has integrated a vast array of material into a smooth, enjoyable text.” · Daniel Purdy, Penn State University
“A splendid contribution to the history of modern Germany and of consumption ... Beautifully written and originally researched....” · Alon Confino, University of Virginia
“Reuveni has produced a fascinating portrait of the common German reader. This study will compel us to revise a good many of our preconceptions about Weimar culture and literature.” · Jonathan Rose, Drew University
“This book is a model of what books should provide: telling detail, comprehensive argument, overturned assumptions, and unexpected conclusions.” · Peter Fritzsche, University of Illinois, author of Reading Berlin 1900
By closely examining the interaction between intellectual and material culture in the period before the Nazis came to power in Germany, the author comes to the conclusion that, contrary to widely held assumptions, consumer culture in the Weimar period, far from undermining reading, used reading culture to enhance its goods and values. Reading material was marked as a consumer good, while reading as an activity, raising expectations as it did, influenced consumer culture. Consequently, consumption contributed to the diffusion of reading culture, while at the same time a popular reading culture strengthened consumption and its values.
Gideon Reuveni is Director of the Centre for German Jewish Studies at the University of Sussex. He is the co-editor of The Economy in Jewish History (Berghahn, 2010) and several other books on different aspects of Jewish history. Presently he is working on a book on consumer culture and the making of Jewish identity in Europe.