authors and readers of early English novels

The rapid growth of novels in late eighteenth-century England was an important communications industry development.  A large number of manuscripts of novels were available to printers at low cost.  Printing novels was a profit-driven business, as was book-selling and book-lending through commercial circulating libraries.  Printers chose novels to print with keen regard for market demand.  Hence studying what novels were printed provides insight into what readers sought.

Female authors predominated among the authors of English novels for about thirty-five years after the production of novels rose sharply. The number of new novels printed in Britain and Ireland roughly doubled from the first half of the 1780s to the second half of the 1780s, rising above 50 novels per year and remaining above that level permanently. Across the years from 1785 to 1819, the median ratio of male-authored novels to female-authored novels was 0.69, meaning that male-authored novels numbered about 31% fewer than female-authored novels.[1]

sex ratio of authors of early English novels

[graph with underlying data and source citations here]

Printers probably favored female authors because they judged female authors to have better prospects of successfully serving readers’ demands. Female authors on average probably understood the literary demands of female readers better than male authors did. Hence the sex ratio for authors suggests that, for thirty-five years after novels became a much more popular good, female readers predominated. These were also the years when women workers, including married women, were a large share of the new cotton factory workforce. Thus, even when women were taking jobs outside the home in a new, high-profile segment of the economy, women probably were also spending more time reading fiction than were men.[2]

Given the biological facts of human sexual reproduction and the evolutionary creation of the human animal, one should expect the behavior of males and females to differ significantly. In the contemporary U.S., men are much less likely to read literary works than are women. Taking sex differences seriously is important for thinking about the development and marketing of communication services.

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[1] The ratio of male-authored to female-authored novels is not the same statistic as the ratio of male authors to female authors of novels, because some authors wrote multiple novels. Raven (2003) p. 150 declares that the latter statistic is “far more significant” than the former, but does not clearly specify why. From 1770 to 1799, the number of male authors of novels was 54% greater than the number of female authors of novels. See Raven (2000) p. 41. Since authorship of novels typically generated little profit in money or social status, the latter statistic indicates that authorship disadvantaged men more than women. Authors, however, were a much smaller share of the population than were readers.

[2] Tepper (2000) analyzes the “gender gap” in fiction reading in the U.S. This work notes that fiction reading is “passive and generally home based” and states that “girls are still socialized into passive, private and non-competitive activities, while boys are channeled into activities which tend to be aggressive, competitive, creative, and leadership-oriented” (p. 272). It cites an authority who declares that “inequalities persist for women in their opportunities for leisure” and concludes that socialization accounts for women reading more fiction than men (id.). Tepper seems not to have considered the possibility that particular patterns of socialization of males and females are part of evolved human development paths and might be extremely difficult to change without tyrannical force. Note that Tepper’s concern about women’s fiction reading goes against the fundamental theme of the NEA’s study, Reading at Risk. Neither Tepper (2000) nor Reading at Risk shows much concern for men.


Raven, James (2000), “Historical Introduction: The Novel Comes of Age,” in The English novel, 1770-1829: a bibliographical survey of prose fiction published in the British Isles, gen. eds. Peter Garside, James Raven, and Rainer Schöwerling (Oxford: Oxford University Press), vol. 1, pp. 15-121.

Raven, James (2003), “The Anonymous Novel in Britain and Ireland, 1750-1830,” in The faces of anonymity: anonymous and pseudonymous publications from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, Robert J. Griffin, ed. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan), Ch. 6.

Tepper, Steven J. (2000), “Fiction Reading in America: Explaining the gender gap,” Poetics 27, pp. 255-75.

COB-21: sacrificing people for the organization

This month at the Carnival of the Bureaucrats we review founding documents of bureaucracy. Perhaps the most important historical moment in bureaucracy was the drafting of a document whose first paragraph includes this exalted statement: “When in the course of bureaucratic events it becomes necessary for an organization to sacrifice some of its members, a decent respect for the opinions of those in charge of reviewing operational procedures requires that the bureaucrats whose job assignment includes making the relevant decisions should declare the causes which impel them to throw members of their organization under a bus.”

Bureaucrats today celebrate this important documentary principle. Consider the Duke lacrosse rape hoax. In circumstances of gross procedural injustices and an astonishing lack of credible evidence of rape, Duke Chairman of the Board Richard Steel reportedly explained that it would “best for Duke” if Duke students were forced to endure a rape trial.

spewing hate and displaying contempt for due process at Duke

At least some of the facts of Duke’s actions have been submitted to the candid world. To me, these actions indicate contempt for legal due process, wanton disregard for truth, extreme prejudice, and major injuries to Duke students. I thus believe that Duke’s bureaucratic leaders should draft a document detailing why the harms to these Duke students were “best for Duke.”

The important work of drafting and editing documents takes time. Fortunately, educational administrators comprised 51.4% of persons with full-time professional positions in higher education in 2006 (survey results). Thus, among persons holding full-time professional positions in higher education, administrators have finally surpassed faculty members. The future looks bright for bureaucratic education. In this increasingly competitive environment, Duke should work hard to build upon the Duke community’s past successes and to insure a high institutional ranking in the future.

Medical study of a French civil servant with a tiny brain has produced an important scientific insight:

“What I find amazing to this day is how the brain can deal with something which you think should not be compatible with life,” commented Dr. Max Muenke, a pediatric brain defect specialist at the National Human Genome Research Institute.

While persons with tiny brains are quite common, bureaucratic functioning is truly remarkable.

All bureaucrats experience a few days of discouragement at some time before they receive their 25-year service pin. Geek poetry can help address this temporary condition. For mournful reading I recommend Epitaph for DOS Gamer.

Cooper at Intelligent Essays describes FBI Intelligence Reform. He notes:

The main objectives undertaken by the FBI include intelligence structural reorganization, a communication and computer network overhaul, and management retraining.

Gathering management for several weeks of offsite retraining often sharply increases staff productivity.

In a related post, Louise Manning at The Human Imprint discusses management commitment. Management commitment includes:

The development of a management infrastructure to implement the actions necessary to achieve organisational goals and objectives and to deliver products and associated services that consistently meet customer requirements

More managers need to be committed.

Roger Shuy at Language Log defends bureaucrats. He declares, “Most of them [bureaucrats] were really nice folks, just like the rest of us.” We have no doubts about the first clause of that sentence.

Tim Bray at ongoing offers thoughts on business. He observes:

The free market is a wonderful thing in the abstract and in its way a triumph of human creativity. But it is a profoundly unnatural creation and would self-destruct by this time next year without those oh-so-despised public servants standing there with the guns.

Government regulators do not “intervene” in the economy. Government regulators are a vital part of the economy. Show some appreciation for government regulators today!

That’s all for this month’s Carnival of the Bureaucrats. Submit your blog article to the next edition using our carnival submission form. Submissions should conform to the Carnival’s regulations. Past editions of the Carnival of the Bureaucrats can be found on the Carnival’s category page.

artistic neuroscience

Shen Wei Dance Arts painted and played Connect Transfer at the Kennedy Center this weekend. In the open space of the Concert Hall, the performance connected senses and worked across specific to abstract in an intriguing externalization of the human brain.

In caricature, ballet is about the air, and modern dance is about the floor. Shen Wei’s company connected to the floor with lines and strokes. Even when the dancers were moving with their torsos against the floor, energy flowed out of their arms and legs, pulling them across the floor. The movement had the earthliness of modern dance, but rather than with the weight of limbs and steps, it imaged neurons firing.

Cross-sensory effects shape the performance. In an interview for Dance Umbrella in October, 2007, Shen Wei explained:

hand stencil from the Chauvet Cave, by Jean-Marie ChauvetSometimes you hear a sound and you may see an image. Sometimes you see a movement and you feel its speed. You see the movement and hear the sound as well. … When I see a physical movement, it’s important at the same time to keep my others senses open — my ears, my feelings, my touch. That way I might understand how I can deepen all of the elements of my experience.

The human neural system integrates sensory modalities across all stages of sensory processing. Connect Transfer abstractly enacts those processes.

The work also images calligraphy being written and written characters unraveling and reforming. Merce C, Franz Kline, 1961 About a third of the way through, a single dancer wearing a single, slightly extended, gloved sponge soaked in black paint brushes through the space with circular movements within traveling floorwork. The image of the movement is brush strokes of calligraphy. At one point, the music stops and floor microphones bring out the sound of the dancer’s brushing. Nonetheless, much of the movement that evokes brushwork occurs up from brushing paint on the floor. The play of senses and abstraction in brush-movement is an intriguing aspect of the work.

The floor painting was not just a product of brushing. Moving on the floor, the dancer’s tights acquired paint and transfered paint. So did their feet. One dancer had one bare hand painted red. Her painted hand created some hand stencils on the floor like those of cave art dating back about 30,000 years. In their diversity of forms and scales, and in the sense of purposive actions and chance occurrences, the resulting paintings are much more evocative of a biological system than abstract expressionist paintings.

canvas from Connect Transfer, Shen Wei Dance Arts, Kennedy Center, March 21, 2007

The part of Connect Transfer that I liked least was the personal seal that Shen Wei danced. This was done in a spotlight in front-center stage, twice, to very different music. It included the only movement directed through a dancer’s eyes. Some of the movement seemed to be body-builder camp. Connect Transfer as a whole contained little parody or irony. But for me, Shen Wei’s seal evoked, intentionally or not, a parody of the egotistical artist.

More ambitious staging might better mark the trajectory of the performance and enlarge the sense of the artistic process. Why not pull the canvas out from under the dancers after they have worked on it for awhile? With the canvas as a back drop, the percussive section of the performance might use movement patterned on finger painting and dabbing of thick, oil-based paint. Then maybe move the canvas above them. And, with a sufficiently translucent canvas, why not finish with a section that has the artists dancing behind their work? Such staging might shift some of the work from the brain to more accessible, personal artistic experience.