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Reading the American Novel 1780 - 1865

ISBN: 978-0-631-23287-2
208 pages
January 2012, Wiley-Blackwell
Reading the American Novel 1780 - 1865 (0631232877) cover image


Reading the American Novel 1780-1865 provides valuable insights into the evolution and diversity of fictional genres produced in the United States from the late 18th century until the Civil War, and helps introductory students to interpret and understand the fiction from this popular period.
  • Offers an overview of early fictional genres and introduces ways to interpret them today
  • Features in depth examinations of specific novels
  • Explores the social and historical contexts of the time to help the readers’ understanding of  the stories
  • Explores questions of identity - about the novel, its 19th-century readers, and the emerging structure of the United States - as an important backdrop to understanding American fiction
  • Profiles the major authors, including Louisa May Alcott, Charles Brockden Brown, James Fenimore Cooper, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Harriet Beecher Stowe, alongside less familiar writers such as Fanny Fern, Caroline Kirkland, George Lippard, Catharine Sedgwick, and E. D. E. N. Southworth
  • Selected by Choice as a 2013 Outstanding Academic Title
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Table of Contents

Preface vii

Acknowledgments xv

1 Introduction to the American Novel: From Charles Brockden rown’s Gothic Novels to Caroline Kirkland’s Wilderness 1

2 Historical Codes in Literary Analysis: The Writing Projects of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Elizabeth Stoddard, and Hannah Crafts 23

3 Women, Blood, and Contract: Land Claims in Lydia Maria Child, Catharine Sedgwick, and James Fenimore Cooper 45

4 Black Rivers, Red Letters, and White Whales: Mobility and Desire in Catharine Williams, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville 67

5 Promoting the Nation in James Fenimore Cooper and Harriet Beecher Stowe 91

6 Women’s Worlds in the Nineteenth-Century Novel: Susan B. Warner, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Fanny Fern, E. D. E. N. Southworth, Harriet Wilson, and Louisa May Alcott 119

Afterword 151

Further Reading 165

Index 171

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Author Information

Shirley Samuels is Professor of English and American Studies at Cornell University. She is the author of Romances of the Republic (1996) and Facing America (2004), and editor of The Culture of Sentiment (1992) and The Companion to American Fiction, 1780–1865 (2004).

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Named CHOICE Outstanding Title for 2012

“Perhaps only a scholar of Samuel’s perspicacity could produce a work that treads familiar textual ground with such startling insight, a work that moves elegantly between its meta-critical concerns and the ingenuity of its close readings.  Summing Up: Essential.  All readers.”  (Choice, 1 October 2012)


"In her openness to surprise and discovery, Samuels demonstrates that the pleasures of reading are forever new and changing, as historical conditions and media formations change. This wonderful book will both confirm a rich tradition of scholarship and challenge its findings at every turn."
Wyn Kelley, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"Samuels makes a powerful and timely case for the ongoing importance of reading 19thc US fiction. In her capable hands, newcomers as well as seasoned readers of this material discover the pleasures and profound possibilities that fiction reading has offered American audiences over the last two hundred years."
Caroline Levander, Rice University

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