Making America, Making American Literature: Franklin to Cooper
If 1776 heralds America's Birth of the Nation, so, too, it witnesses the rise of a matching, and overlapping, American Literature. For between the 1770s and the 1820s American writing moves on from the ancestral Puritanism of New England and Virginia - though not, as yet, into the American Renaissance so strikingly called for by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Even so, the concourse of voices which arise in this period, that is between (and including) Benjamin Franklin and James Fenimore Cooper, mark both a key transitional literary generation and yet one all too easily passed over in its own imaginative right.
This collection of fifteen specially commissioned essays seeks to establish new bearings, a revision of one of the key political and literary eras in American culture. Not only are Franklin and Cooper themselves carefully re-evaluated in the making of America's new literary republic, but figures like Charles Brockden Brown, Washington Irving, Philip Frencau, William Cullen Bryant, the other Alexander Hamilton, and the playwrights Royall Tyler and William Dunlop. Other essays take a more inclusive perspective, whether American epistolary fiction, a first generation of American women-authored fiction, the public discourse of The Federalist Papers, the rise of the American periodical, or the founding African-American generation of Phillis Wheatley. What unites all the essays is the common assumption that the making of America was as much a matter of creating its national literature; as the making of American literature was a matter of shaping a national identity.
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