During the first half of the nineteenth-century, America experienced a fundamental shift, transforming from an agrarian nation to an industrial one. This change led to increased class disparities and a blurring of the prescribed boundaries between social groups. With the rise of mass-produced paperbacks occurring in tandem with these developments, authors utilized this new medium to express concerns regarding the changing nation. These works focused on the new American city, and because of New York City’s status as the nation’s primary urban center, many of them took place in New York. These works of urban literature sold extremely well with many becoming bestsellers. The authors of these works, which included George Lippard, Ned Buntline, and George Foster, combined sensationalism with political and moral messages that appealed to working-class readers. This study looks at how these narratives portrayed the changing city, paying special attention to issues of race, gender, class, and religion. It aims to investigate the ways in which these works either challenged or promoted existing power structures, and to what ends. This project argues that by prioritizing traditional interpretations of American values, works of city literature largely failed to challenge hegemonic discourses and power structures in a significant way.


Shaya, Greg

Second Advisor

Sacks, Susanna


English; History


Cultural History | Literature in English, North America


popular literature, american history, literary history

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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