ADAM SWEETING is an associate professor of Humanities at the College of General Studies, Boston University. He is the author of Reading Houses and Building Books: Andrew Jackson Downing and the Architecture of Popular Antebellum Literature, 1835-1855.
Beneath the Second Sun: A Cultural History of Indian Summerby Adam Sweeting
Indian summer, the succession of warm, fair days gracing New England in autumn, is at once a flourishing period signaling the end of fall, a meteorological event, a vernacular cultural construction, and a literary metaphor. In this appealing and elegant book, Sweeting plumbs Indian summer's use in literature as a symbol of second chance, rebirth, or reprieve before
Indian summer, the succession of warm, fair days gracing New England in autumn, is at once a flourishing period signaling the end of fall, a meteorological event, a vernacular cultural construction, and a literary metaphor. In this appealing and elegant book, Sweeting plumbs Indian summer's use in literature as a symbol of second chance, rebirth, or reprieve before the onset of a harsher season.
Well researched and charmingly written, Beneath the Second Sun is the first book to systematically treat the history and uses of Indian summer imagery in American life. The author focuses on the ways in which New Englanders have embraced the season, and he places the celebration of the season's beauty and its melancholy qualities within the context of Anglo-Native American relations. Sweeting does not try to locate the original definition of Indian summer, rather he explores the far more interesting ways in which the season has been imagined and described in American culture.
Popular authors including Philip Freneau, Susan Cooper, Lydia Sigourney, John Greenleaf Whittier, Francis Parkman Oliver, Wendell Holmes, and, especially, Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, and William Dean Howells freely employ Indian summer imagery in their works. In the context of modern American Studies, Sweeting's study is part of a "post-modern" scholarly discussion of how tangible realities such as climate are mediated, even forged, by social needs. Sweeting further investigates the imaginative, early-nineteenth-century "invention" of New England regional identity and integrates traditional American Studies literary and historical concerns with a contemporary interest in the environment and sense of place.
Sweeting's graceful, lively, and accessible style beckons not only scholars of American literature and the nineteenth century but any traveler seeking the glories of autumn in New England.
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