Papers for the People: Dime Novel Symposium

NIU, in coordination with Villanova University, will be hosting a virtual symposium on the dime novel on Wednesday, November 4th and Thursday, November 5th from 6:30-8:30 PM CST. This event marks the successful conclusion of the Johannsen Project, an effort to digitize more than 7,000 dime novels published by Beadle & Adams through a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources.

Papers for the People: A Symposium on the Dime Novel will feature panel discussions with notable and upcoming dime novel scholars. These conversations will focus on how dime novels can be used in the classroom and will offer regional educators, academics, and students at the graduate and undergraduate level the opportunity to learn about and discuss dime novels directly with experts in the field.

Leading up to the symposium, panel participants will develop several spotlights for Nickels and Dimes, featuring a particular dime novel from the collection. Each spotlight will provide context about the novel and the author, discussion questions, and suggestions for further reading. Many of these will be accompanied by brief recorded lectures about the novel.

Participation in this event is free. Live discussion will take place on Zoom:

Zoom Meeting:

Meeting ID: 836 4237 7897

Passcode: 258643

Illinois educators who wish to attend are encouraged to apply for Contining Education Credits. A total of 14.5 CEUs can be earned by reading spotlights, viewing pre-recorded lectures, and attending the symposium. To register, please visit: The enrollment key is: malaeska. A form will be available on the Moodle before the event to request credit and we will process the paperwork at no charge.

Wednesday, November 4, at 6:30 PM (CST)

Learn more about the dime novel, as well as the collections--both physical and digital--that are available at Northern Illinois University and Villanova University. Matthew Short will give an overview of the dime novel format, followed by a presentation about our digitization and data entry projects by Demian Katz. Sarah Cain and Sata Prescott will also give a virtual tour of the dime novel collections and digitization lab at NIU. Later in the evening, join a conversation about teaching with dime novels as participants share their first-hand experiences about using these materials in the classroom.

Thursday, November 5, at 6:30 PM (CST)

The second night of the symposium will feature dime novel scholars in conversation about two major areas of study: identity and genre. The first discussion will focus on how dime novels can be used to study popular ideas about race, gender, sexuality, and class in the 19th century. The second panel will look more closely at the development of popular genres, like the Western, detective fiction, and science fiction. Also, learn more about opportunities to present and publish original dime novel research with Marlena Bremseth, the Editor of the Dime Novel Round-Up, and Demian Katz and Matthew Short, co-chairs of the Series Book and Dime Novel section of the Popular Culture Association.

Who Should Attend?

  • Educators who teach at the high school or college level and are interested in exploring how dime novels, and popular fiction generally, might be incorporated into their curricula
  • Literary, social, and cultural historians who want to learn more about 19th century popular fiction and connect with like-minded scholars
  • Collectors who want to know more about large-scale digitization and how to share their expertise with the larger scholarly community
  • Librarians and curators looking for insight into collecting, preserving, and digitizing popular and ephemeral collections
  • Anyone interested in American history and culture or the development of popular genres, like the Western, science fiction, and detective fiction


Melissa Adams-Campbell

adams-campbell.jpgMelissa Adams-Campbell is an Associate Professor of Early American Literature at Northern Illinois University. She is the author of New World Courtships: Transatlantic Alternatives to Companionate Marriage (Dartmouth College Press, “Re-Mapping the Transnational: A Dartmouth Series in American Studies” ed. by Donald Pease), which uses a transnational feminist framework to recover geographically diverse eighteenth and nineteenth-century “comparative” marriage plots by authors such as Lydia Maria Child, Frances Brooke, Leonora Sansay and others. These novels challenge popular claims that the British system of companionate marriage is more progressive by comparing it with alternative systems for arranging marriage and sexual relations in the Americas. New World Courtships has received positive early reviews at American Literary History andWomen's Studies.

Her second book project, "Native to Literary History," recently won research support from NIU's Schriber Scholar Fund for the study of women's literature and language at NIU. The book argues for the cultural significance and social importance of Native women's domestic roles in the production of settler colonial domesticity at the heart of canonical early American writing.

Christine Bold

Christine Bold240x240.jpgChristine Bold is a Professor in the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph, which resides on the treaty lands and territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit (Between the Lakes, Treaty 3) and acknowledges our responsibilities to the Dish with One Spoon Covenant. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Killam Research Fellow 2018-20, and Fulbright Scholar 2020-21, she has published six books on subjects ranging from western American myth-making to New Deal arts funding to feminist memory-making (the last as part of a community-engaged collective, the Cultural Memory Group).

Her longest-standing focus is on U.S. popular print culture of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Her most recent book in this field is The Frontier Club: Popular Westerns and Cultural Power, 1880-1924 ( Oxford U.P., 2013)--winner of the 2014 Thomas J. Lyon Book Award in Western American Literary and Cultural Studies (sponsored by the Western Literature Association); winner of the 2014 Robert K. Martin Prize for Best Book (sponsored by the Canadian Association for American Studies); and a CHOICE "Outstanding Academic Title" of 2013. Additional publications in this area include: ed., U.S. Popular Print Culture, 1860-1920 (Oxford U.P., 2011, as part of their multi-volume series, The Oxford History of Popular Print Culture); Selling the Wild West: Popular Western Fiction, 1860 to 1960 (Indiana U.P., 1987); and a number of introductions, chapters, and articles. Her current book project is “‘Vaudeville Indians’ on Global Circuits, 1880s-1930s”; this research has been generously supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the University of Guelph, as well as several international fellowships.

Marlena E. Bremseth

bremseth2_0.jpgThe publisher and editor of Dime Novel Round-Up since December 2012, Marlena E. Bremseth is an American Popular Culture literature scholar whose areas of expertise include nineteenth century dime novels and story papers, detective fiction, and other popular culture literature genres. A veteran English professor, she has taught undergraduate and graduate courses at Howard University, San Diego City College, Hawaii Pacific University, Old Dominion University, The College of William & Mary, and other higher education institutions.

The author/editor of Who Was Guilty? Two Dimes Novels by Philip S. Warne and Howard W. Macy, which chronicles the first person of Negro descent to publish a mystery story in the United States, and articles about popular culture literature authors, works, and genres, Marlena has also been a member of the Popular Culture Association since 1997, an Active Member of Mystery Writers of America since 2005, and served on the Horatio Alger Society’s Board of Directors from 2014 until 2020.

A native of southern California, Marlena currently resides in Round Hill, Virginia with her husband, a consultant and retired naval officer.

Nancy Caronia

caronia.jpgNancy Caronia is a Teaching Associate Professor in the Department of English at West Virginia University. She is co-editor of Personal Effects: Essays on Memoir, Teaching, and Culture in the Work of Louise DeSalvo (Fordham University Press, 2015; paperback 2019). Her current research project, “The Criminal Body: Italian Racialization and Erasure in the Dime Novel,” is an interdisciplinary study that explores how the American dime novel genre helped enforce discriminatory practices against and eroticized the Italian (im)migrant body in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Encouraged by political and juridical discourses that focused on southern Italian immigrants as violent criminals, dime novel characterizations portrayed southern Italians as monstrous beings who had no loyalty to the United States or American ideals. Dime novel detectives like Nick Carter took on the mask of the Italian immigrant and Mafioso in a minstrelsy overtly designed to marginalize Italian immigrants, but unwittingly also revealed an attraction white nativist Americans had with fictionalized Italian and Italian American criminality. This examination contributes not only to American and Italian Diaspora Studies, but also to current national and local discourses regarding immigrants and immigration policies and laws. In 2017, she received an NEH Summer Institute fellowship to the Bard Graduate Center’s American Material Culture: Nineteenth-Century New York in support of this project. And in 2020, she will be the Faculty Curator for “Dime Novels: Racialization and Erasure” through a WVU Library in the Arts Faculty/Staff Exhibit Award.

Taylor Evans

evans.jpgTaylor Evans is graduate student in the Department of English at UC Riverside. He is interested in the intersection of race, science, and technology in American literature and culture, and has published on those topics in American Literature and the Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts. His current focus is the development of genre science fiction in the US, the emergence of “fugitive science fiction” (though its better known at this point as Afrofuturism), and the racial politics of posthumanism. His dissertation, "The Race of Machines, or, A Prehistory of the Posthuman," examines the way that American technoculture theorizes race, looking to archival, popular, and canonical sources to argue that race and technology were parallel developments in the US. He argues that the racial politics of genre science fiction are actuated by anxieties about black bodies and desires of what Sylvia Wynter calls white mastership. Together, these arguments set the terms for a more rigorous understanding of the racial discourses haunting the postmodern deconstruction of the liberal human subject, offering a framework for understanding our contemporary moment’s political investment in digital cultures.

Taylor is affiliated with the SFCS program at UCR, and has earned a designated emphasis in Science Fiction and Technoculture Studies.

Felicia L. Carr

Felicia Carr March 2019_original.pngFelicia L. Carr is Assistant Dean of Strategic Communications and Marketing for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at George Mason University. She graduated from George Mason University with a Ph.D. in cultural studies. Her work covers nineteenth-century American cultural history and literature with a focus on women’s popular culture and identity formation. Her dissertation, entitled “All for Love: Gender, Class, and the Woman’s Dime Novel in Nineteenth-Century America,” investigates American dime novels for working-class women in the late nineteenth century and their relationship to the development of new gender and class formations. Her website, The American Women’s Dime Novel Project features reviews of all the archives in the U.S. devoted to dime novels, hundreds of examples of cover art, primary materials, extensive bios of the key authors, and histories of the main publishing houses for romantic cheap fiction.

Daniel Gorman Jr.

gorman.jpgDaniel Gorman Jr. is a history PhD candidate at the University of Rochester, where he is writing a dissertation about the cultural, scientific, and religious debates surrounding Spiritualism in the 1850s. Currently Dan is a 2019–21 Andrew W. Mellon Digital Humanities Fellow, which has given him the opportunity to work on digital humanities projects including The William Blake Archive and Digitizing Rochester’s Religions. Dan first got involved with the study of dime novels and pulp literature as an undergrad at Rochester. He pursued the subject further at Villanova University, where he earned his M.A. and met the folks behind the Edward T. LeBlanc Dime Novel Bibliography.

His family lives near NIU, and his uncle is an alumnus, so he is happy to participate in this symposium!

Deidre A. Johnson

Deidre A. Johnson taught children’s literature in the English Department at West Chester University for twenty-five years. Her early research and publications were on the Stratemeyer Syndicate; her current research interests include 19th-century women who wrote girls' series or story paper fiction. She is also associate editor of Dime Novel Round-Up, has published articles on fiction for children and on women authors, and maintains a research website at 

Matthew Kerns

kerns.jpgMatthew Kerns is a historian, author, and digital archivist from Chattanooga, Tennessee. He grew up traveling in the western United States while listening to Steely Dan, pastimes that over the years have turned into writing about western history and following Steely Dan on their 2000 tour. His most recent public project is the Walter Becker Media Project, as reported in Rolling Stone. He was twice the recipient of Media Play #8171's Employee of the Month (May 1998 and August 2001). He manages the popular western podcast Dime Library and the Texas Jack Facebook page. He has had multiple articles about Texas Jack published in The Texas Jack Scout, the triannual publication of the Texas Jack Association. His forthcoming book Texas Jack: America's First Cowboy Star will be available April 1, 2021 from Two Dot Books.

Lydia C. Schurman

schurman.jpgLydia Schurman is a Professor Emerita of Northern Virginia Community College. She co-edited Pioneers, Passionate Ladies, and Private Eyes with Larry E. Sullivan and Scorned Literature with Deidre Johnson. She has published many articles on nineteenth century popular fiction in Primary Sources and Original WorksDime Novel Round-Up, and Publishing History. She has presented papers at SHARP and PCA, where she founded the Dime Novel area.

Fredrik R. Stark

stark.jpgFredrik R. Stark is currently a lecturer in the Department of Language and Literature at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. In 2016, he received a Horatio Alger Society Fellowship for the Study of American Popular Culture to research dialogue and characterization in dime novelist Roger Starbuck’s numerous sea adventures, archived in NIU’s Johannsen and LeBlanc collections. Fred completed his Ph.D. at NIU with a dissertation that examines presentations of contact between varieties of English in works of nineteenth-century American nautical fiction, including celebrated sea novels by James Fenimore Cooper and Herman Melville but also several critically-neglected, nautically-themed dime novels by Roger Starbuck. Establishing how Starbuck’s remarkable output fits into the development of American sea literature, his study received the NIU English Department’s Harlan R. Teller Best Dissertation Award for 2019. Fred has presented and published shorter studies on Starbuck’s mass-market fictions and has assigned some of the author’s works as readings in undergraduate literature courses.  

Mark W. Van Wienen

vanwienen.pngMark W. Van Wienen is Professor of English at Northern Illinois University, his academic home since 2002. He is the author of The Political Work of American Poetry in the Great War (Cambridge U.P., 1997) and American Socialist Triptych: The Political Work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Upton Sinclair, and W. E. B. Du Bois (U. of Michigan P., 2012), the latter supported by a year-long fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Van Wienen’s essays have appeared in many journals including American Literature, American Quarterly, American Literary History, and Modern Fiction Studies. He has also edited three books: Rendezvous with Death: American Poems of the Great War (U. of Illinois P., 2002), American Literature in Transition, 1910–1920 (Cambridge U.P., 2018), and American Literature and Culture of the First World War (co-edited with Tim Dayton, forthcoming Cambridge U.P., 2020).

His current research project is a monograph with the working title “Law unto Itself Complete”: American Literature and Labor in the Rail World. Consequently, Van Wienen has a particular interest in dime novels depicting class relations on the railroad as well as those, more generally, portraying working-class characters—not excluding tramps, thieves, and detectives.

Nathaniel Williams

williams.jpgNathaniel Williams teaches business and technical writing, science writing, journalism, and other special topics at UC Davis. His research encompasses the history of technology, American literature, religious studies, and science fiction.

Nathaniel is the author of Gears and God: Technocratic Fiction, Faith, and Empire in Mark Twain's America (University of Alabama Press. 2018) and his scholarly articles have appeared in American LiteratureNineteenth-Century ContextsUtopian Studies, and elsewhere. He won Honorable Mention for American Literature's Norman Foerster Prize in 2011. He was the Academic-Track Programming Coordinator for the 2018 World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose, CA. He serves on the advisory board for the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction and is Book Review Editor of the Mark Twain Annual.

His speculative fiction has appeared in Fantasy MagazineAbyss & ApexPerihelionPoor Mojo's Almanac(k), Hadley Rille Books' Footprints anthology, and elsewhere.


CLIR-logo-RGB_0.jpgPapers for the People: A Dime Novel Symposium is part of the Johannsen Project and is supported by a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) is an independent, nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching, and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning. To learn more, visit and follow CLIR on Facebook and Twitter.