History and Theory 22 (3):233-252 (1983)

Abstract
The historical use of literature poses a methodological challenge, used directly as a document, fiction is unreliable. Postformalist criticism and theory suggest approaches to the novel more appropriate than those historians have traditionally used. Historians should not conceive of the text as document but think of it instead as a structuralist system, discourse, or code. Reader-response criticism merits the historian's serious attention; by studying how readers in the past responded to fiction, the social historian may read the novel to understand its audience and the socially significant conventions it preferred in the novel. The novel is a mental world with an actual historical context peopled by ordinary readers through which mentalities can be investigated
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DOI 10.2307/2504982
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