Story of a Book

Since I first finished Industrialism as Progress in the summer of 2008, it has been in the hands of 8 presses and at least as many readers. It has been called “smart and distinctive,” even “revelatory”—full of “terrific ideas about progress and change.” Others, however, have thought it stuffed with “portentous pronouncement” and “disconnected from the contemporary field of literary study.”

Mostly, for me, the book has been a source of great satisfaction; I have long believed (and still believe) that it contains a clear and important scholarly argument, one that should change the way we think about 19th-century literature. My effort to publish the book, however, has been rather less satisfying.

Both these things, the pleasure and the pain, are part of the story of my book. And it’s this full story that I want to tell here—partly as culmination and partly as catharsis. Along with the complete manuscript, which I’ve made available online and as a PDF, I’ve included all 9 of the reports that I received from readers (in rough chronological order).

Ultimately, I suspect that my experience was unique, and that the path to publication is not always this tortuous. But really I don’t know. Too few of these stories ever get shared—which is one more reason I wanted to share mine.