A Republic in Time: Temporality and Social Imagination in Nineteenth-Century America / Edition 1

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The development of the American nation has typically been interpreted in terms of its expansion through space, specifically its growth westward. In this innovative study, Thomas Allen posits time, not space, as the most significant territory of the young nation. He argues that beginning in the nineteenth century, the actual geography of the nation became less important, as Americans imagined the future as their true national territory.

Allen explores how transformations in the perception of time shaped American conceptions of democratic society and modern nationhood. He focuses on three ways of imagining time: the romantic historical time that prevailed at the outset of the nineteenth century, the geological "deep time" that arose as widely read scientific works displaced biblical chronology with a new scale of millions of years of natural history, and the technology-driven "clock time" that became central to American culture by century's end. Allen analyzes cultural artifacts ranging from clocks and scientific treatises to paintings and literary narratives to show how Americans made use of these diverse ideas about time to create competing visions of American nationhood.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An interesting literary analysis and material cultural investigation into how elite antebellum northern narratives depicted and understood time."
Journal of American History

"Learned and wide-ranging . . . a revisionist project filled with illuminating and timely surprises. . . . Fresh and revealing. . . . A brilliant contribution."
Historically Speaking

Allen handles each and every area deftly and comprehensively, producing a fascinating study that is a true pleasure to read.
—Elizabeth L. Barnes, College of William and Mary

A Republic in Time is sure to become a classic in American studies.
—Alexis McCrossen, Southern Methodist University, author of Holy Day, Holiday: The American Sunday

From the Publisher
A provocative and suggestive read. . . . Not only provides illuminating and original approaches to the study of nineteenth-century culture, but actually challenges some of the trends currently doing the rounds in American Studies.—49th Parallel

Insightful. . . . Should challenge historians of any specialization to consider how history writing relies on ideas about time that have their own complex history.—The Journal of Southern History

Stands at the intersection between literature exploring the development of nationalism and studies in sociology and social history that examine the complexity of modern temporal consciousness.—The Historian

Offers a vivid and often provocative window into nineteenth century American perceptions of time. . . . Unique both in its scope and questions addressed.—Southern Historian

Learned and wide-ranging . . . a revisionist project filled with illuminating and timely surprises. . . . Fresh and revealing. . . . A brilliant contribution.—Historically Speaking

[A] pioneering interdisciplinary approach. . . . By integrating time, politics, and national identity, [Allen] deepens and shifts the scholarship of time and timekeeping, adding new variations, subtleties, and dimensions.—Technology and Culture

An interesting literary analysis and material cultural investigation into how elite antebellum northern narratives depicted and understood time.—Journal of American History

An important, provocative, and imaginative work, one that will challenge and enlighten historians and literary critics alike. . . . Well worth the time.—Reviews in American History

In this compelling work, Thomas M. Allen argues that spatial transformation was less important in the imagining of America by its people than the perception of time. . . . This shift in thinking opens the reader to envision more complex, and at times competing, ideas of what nationhood meant to Americans during this period.—Indiana Magazine of History

Makes its important case by reconstructing the rich history of debate and negotiation that the American national project has entailed.—Journal of Interdisciplinary History

Well-researched. . . . Draws upon material culture and literary history to present the range of nineteenth-century temporal experiences. . . . Impressive.—American Historical Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807858653
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 2/25/2008
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas M. Allen is assistant professor of English at the University of Ottawa.

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Table of Contents


Introduction: Time and Modern Nationhood
Chapter 1. The Future Republic
Chapter 2. Material Time
Chapter 3. Clockwork Nation
Chapter 4. Time in the Land
Chapter 5. Emerson's Deep Democracy
Conclusion: The Ends of Time

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