This article examines the works of Washington Irving within the broad framework of global narratives. It analyzes how geographical variables enter into the writings of Irving and how as an author he played self-consciously with the contours of cultural mapping. The article suggests that the reflexive nature of Irving's work speaks to a meta-geographical dimension which was common to many American writers in the antebellum period, who were concerned in one way or another with how the national domain might be mapped.
Sandra Harbert Petrulionis
Transcendentalism has a very deep history in antislavery activism. As the article goes, Radical abolitionism gained momentum as an organized effort centered in Transcendentalist New England with the Boston publication of William Lloyd Garrison's “Liberator,” which began in 1831. The article takes on Garrison as a great antislavery activist as in contrast to using gradual methods Garrison insisted on the immediate and peaceful abolition of slavery. Bronson Alcott alone among the Transcendentalists locked arms with Garrison, attending his lectures even before the “Liberator” began publication. However, later on, by the late 1850s, nearly all of the Transcendentalists regarded themselves as abolitionists. Instead of whether to act, they deliberated how to do so. Many women in the Transcendentalist circle responded to Garrison, empowered by his insistence that women take leadership roles in his movement, though the principal female Transcendentalist Fuller, however, played little to no active role in antislavery reform.
Jordan Alexander Stein
This article examines the American novel and the problem of boring books. It investigates what would happen if the assumption about the existence of novel as a literary genre were treated as a critical problem. The article analyzes Herman Melville's 1849 novel Mardi and a Voyage Thither to demonstrate that in order to make sense of “bad” novels, one might be well served to suspend the categories required for deductive conclusions.
Michael J. Drexler
The novel Arthur Mervyn; or, Memoirs of the Year 1793 by Charles Brockden Brown challenges its readers with its multiple plot lines, a dizzying array of characters, and its formal complexity. It rewards them with the energetic effort of one writer to place in relation to one another the most pressing issues of his era, issues concerning race, gender, and political revolution. In the novel, Brown leverages one of the oldest forms of storytelling, the fairy tale, to describe a most modern predicament: how to adapt to a world that is constantly changing and within which once stable certainties are unraveling.
Poe regularly attended New York City literary salons during the 1840s with women writers referred to as “bluestockings” in an homage to the feminist intellectuals of the eighteenth-century Blue Stockings Society. Poe depended on the salons of bluestocking women to help him access the literary marketplace. Poe’s posthumous career during the 1850s and 1860s followed a similar pattern, as his reputation was linked to a coterie of New Yorkers who modeled themselves on the bohemians of Paris’s Latin Quarter. These bohemian writers, who included Walt Whitman, used Poe as a touchstone for their own work. The various groups of New York writers who claimed Poe during his life and after his death illustrate a central tension in coterie practice: namely, that membership in a literary community both models and informs the fickle nature of the marketplace.
The British book trade evolved into a fully modern industry during this period. Its modernity was signalled by more effective copyright laws, clearer divisions of labour and responsibility, and the emergence of publishing as a distinctive branch of the trade. The period saw a significant increase in the publication of fiction as a purely commercial phenomenon. Publishers, booksellers, the owners of circulating libraries, and authors all benefited from this. New and more standardized formats developed, including the ‘three-decker’ and the one-volume cheap reprint, which were to characterize much of the nineteenth-century fiction industry, and at the same time the old practice of serial publication was revived from the early 1830s onwards in several forms. Fiction publishing was a business—and by the end of the period it was a commercially significant business.
This article investigates how a particular vision of a diseased tropical environment grew out of the dynamics of British imperialism in the Indian subcontinent and how this vision was simultaneously reinforced and interrogated in the work of Rudyard Kipling, who was considered the bard of the empire. It analyzes the issue of so-called palliative imperialism in the works of Kipling and describes how the debates about cholera conducted by the imperial doctors produced a contested and contradictory idea of tropicality. This article also argues that the embedding of the idea of a global, tropical diseased environment through the techniques of empire in the nineteenth-century should enable us to place disease and medicine as key elements in any exercise of postcolonial ecocriticism.
This chapter on Charles Brockden Brown’s 1801 romance Clara Howard traces critical responses from the early nineteenth century to the present and argues that this long fiction marks a crucial transition in the author’s literary career. If Howard was long regarded as a minor or “failed” fiction, recent work suggests that its complex turns on epistolarity and sentimentality reflect on the generic formats he utilized earlier in the 1790s and articulate a critical response to the shifts in literary culture that occur in the 1800s, as the aestheticized culture of bourgeois liberalism supplants the late-eighteenth-century “republic of letters.” As the last composed of the long-form romances of Brown’s much-studied 1797–1801 period, this text stands not as a marker of decline but as a turn toward narrative experimentation, a certain “proto-modernism,” and an analytical perspective on the cultural forces and institutions of the new liberal dominant.
Ronald A. Bosco
While much of the exchange between the Transcendentalists occurred in Boston, without a doubt the heart of the movement was in the nearby small town of Conocrd. Concord was the birthplace for Henry David Thoreau and a long-time home for members of Ralph Waldo Emerson's extended family. Having spent boyhood summers in the town, Emerson settled there as an adult. The Hawthornes and Alcotts also lived in the small town for some years. By the 1850s, Concord had become a pilgrimage destination as people from all over the United States and the world came to pay homage to Emerson. This article is far less about how we approach, see, feel, and appropriate Concord today than about how Concord was approached, seen, felt, and appropriated by William Dean Howells and his contemporaries, who visited the town and took it into their respective consciousnesses from the middle of the nineteenth century into the early twentieth.
This article examines the so-called Creole kinship in American novels during the nineteenth century. It argues in the first instance that the political origins of the novel are the source of the genre's ability to conduct experiments in imagining subjectivity, the space of interior thought and feeling. The article investigates why novels about New World families knock notions of liberal subjectivity off their stable centers and discusses the explanations of several well-known American personalities on the topic of kinship and privacy, including Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Nancy Bentley.
Poe sits at the intersection of the tightly interwoven fields of computing and mass surveillance. Examining Poe’s Dupin tales through a lens of surveillance, rather than Holmesian detection or Lacanian psychoanalysis, provides new insights into Poe’s relationship to information, communications, and metadata. In the three Dupin tales, I argue, Poe explores various aspects of digital surveillance, from data mining and profiling in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt” to metadata in “The Purloined Letter.” Rereading these tales with a surveillant eye allows us to perceive more clearly the sociohistorical forces, rather than interiorized psychodynamics, at play in the Dupin tales.
The Dial, the quarterly journal of the Transcendentalists, was published from July 1840 through April 1844. It played a crucial role in the social and literary segment of the then America. Dial helped launch the careers of a series of important American writers. As the article narrates, the idea for the journal originated with the “Transcendental Club,” a small group of young people in New England with Ralph Waldo Emerson at the center. Starting a journal was hardly a novel idea in the mid-nineteenth century as there were more than 1,500 periodicals already in existence, and dozens of new magazines and journals were founded every year in the United States. It was in this complex literary marketplace the young Transcendentalist optimistically considered the scope and purposes of the new journal. However, the article says, that the journal found its way.
This chapter looks at the dozens of enemies Poe acquired in the course of his career. Instead of understanding these enemies as a phenomenon peculiar to Poe and his individual psychological state, the chapter argues that enemies were a kind of dark, unconscious side of the friendship culture that prevailed in the magazine industry in the early nineteenth-century United States. At a time when magazines depended for their content and profitability on the voluntary labor of unpaid contributors, friendship culture, in which friends volunteered to write for the periodicals of other friends, was crucial to the functioning of the magazine publishing economy. But hatred and rage were also productive energies, goading writers to write for free for magazines as easily as friendly indebtedness. Examining Poe’s rancorous relationships with his fellow authors, this article argues that Poe’s many enemies were part of a larger economy of violent invective and grudges that formed a companion to the culture of friendship.
This essay explores the development of the Evangelical novel in the early years of the nineteenth century. Drawing primarily on the novels of Barbara Hofland, Hannah More, and Mary Brunton, as well as the Cheap Repository Tracts, the essay identifies key characteristics of the Evangelical novel and proposes a theoretical framework for analysing it as homiletic and didactic fiction. The essay positions the Evangelical novel within the religious and social context of the late eighteenth century, as well as within the history of the novel, where its generic connections to individualism and realism are examined.
This chapter discusses the thematic antecedents of science fiction within the Gothic tradition of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Beginning with a reading of the two original Prefaces to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), it considers how Gothic-inflected science fiction characteristically exhibits an interest in the human condition rather than being preoccupied with technological change. The chapter then moves to consider how science and scientific professionals—most notably, the experimental surgeon or doctor and alienist—become recurrent icons of the institutional repression of the individual across the nineteenth century, expressions of an antisocial arbitrary power. Hughes concludes with a consideration of Gothic fictions of apocalypse from the earlier nineteenth century to the near contemporary, considering again how these direct reader attention to the plight of the afflicted and introspective individual, poised at the brink of personal (and species) annihilation.
This chapter traces the critical history of Charles Brockden Brown’s Jane Talbot from the dominant reception of it as a failed novel and a capitulation to a gendered consumer market and political conservatism. Yet Jane Talbot deserves to be read not as expressing the rising interests of liberalism and imperialist nationalism but as critiquing their emergence, while also standing as a retrospective consideration of the flaws of 1790s Woldwinite claims for rational sentiment and progressive emulation as a mechanism for social betterment. Jane Talbot stands as one of the first American literary productions that self-consciously understands itself as a novel (rather than a “romance”) while also suggesting the limits to the novel form in a period of increasingly dominant economic and political liberalism.
Kent P. Ljungquist
This article is about lectures and the lyceum movement. The lecture form has a long history that antedated the advent of a coherent network of public speaking. In its initial phase, the lyceum movement stressed the importance of mutual instruction and random lectures. Many early lecturers were local residents, commonly clergymen or lawyers, speaking before audiences in their own towns or villages. The article states that although New England remained a stronghold of the lyceum movement, settlers moved into Ohio, the old Western Reserve, where expanding literacy rates supported both the extension of the public lecture and new periodicals such as the Western Messenger, admired by many Transcendentalists. Theodore Parker and Emerson were much in favor of the lecture form. Emerson even noted that the “orator is the most American of Americans”.
Robert N. Hudspeth
The letters the Transcendentalists wrote each other were a kind of literary performance; they were indirect and they were a verbal play. As the article explains, among the Transcendentalists, the reaching out to close ones was often accomplished through private, very personal letters. While all writers write letters, and many of the letters of the Transcendentalists memorable, even brilliant, the Transcendentalists distinguished themselves in this genre because their letters were often an art form in themselves, one that explored their most abiding concern to know the nature of a human self. However, the Transcendentalists seldom wrote about the “holy” in their letters. Even so, not all of their letters were literature, nor did every letter rise to significant intellectual occasions, for the mail was for the Transcendentalists as it was for the public at large, a means of conducting life's ordinary business. But letters were more than just life's business; they were also an opportunity to be creative.
“Civil Disobedience”, an essay by Henry Thoreau that was first published as “Resistance to Civil Government” in 1849, was one of only two written works on the topic of civil disobedience by an American before 1900. Thoreau had been strongly influenced by the antislavery activists and it was them who developed and widely applied the concept of civil disobedience during the decades leading up to the Civil War. The article clarifies that although the prominence of Thoreau's essay had led many to assume that he was the father of civil disobedience, that form of dissent was deeply rooted in Protestant tradition and the ethos of Transcendentalism. The article also sheds light on the involvement of Mohandas Gandhi, who supported “Civil Disobedience.” His frequent references to the essay gave rise to the widespread belief that it inspired the nonviolent political movements Gandhi led in South Africa and later in India.
From 1831, when he joined the Baltimore household of his aunt Maria Clemm, to his death in 1849, Poe’s life and career were inextricable from the print culture in which he immersed himself. He worked as an editor or assistant for five different periodicals, and throughout his career he sought control of his own monthly magazine, but the closest he came was the brief ownership of a fast-failing weekly, The Broadway Journal. He published ingenious fiction and poetry as well as acerbic reviews and editorial filler, won fame for “The Raven,” and became infamous for his skirmishes with other writers. Meanwhile, he struggled with poverty, alcoholism, and the illness and death of his wife Virginia.