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Dislocating Race and Nation: Episodes in Nineteenth-Century American Literary Nationalism / Edition 1

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American literary nationalism is traditionally understood as a cohesive literary tradition developed in the newly independent United States that emphasized the unique features of America and consciously differentiated American literature from British literature. Robert S. Levine challenges this assessment by exploring the conflicted, multiracial, and contingent dimensions present in the works of late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American and African American writers. Conflict and uncertainty, not consensus, Levine argues, helped define American literary nationalism during this period.

Levine emphasizes the centrality of both inter- and intra-American conflict in his analysis of four illuminating "episodes" of literary responses to questions of U.S. racial nationalism and imperialism. He examines Charles Brockden Brown and the Louisiana Purchase; David Walker and the debates on the Missouri Compromise; Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Hannah Crafts and the blood-based literary nationalism and expansionism of the mid-nineteenth century; and Frederick Douglass and his approximately forty-year interest in Haiti. Levine offers critiques of recent developments in whiteness and imperialism studies, arguing that a renewed attention to the place of contingency in American literary history helps us to better understand and learn from writers trying to make sense of their own historical moments.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Brilliant and moving final chapter."--American Literary History

"Levine's book puts on display his striking and arguably unequaled breadth of knowledge of interracial literary history."--American Literature

"Readers of Dislocating Race and Nation will profit from these fresh (and, to my mind, more fair-minded) readings of familiar figures and texts. . . . Levine demonstrates with exemplary clarity, erudition, and even optimism that "alternative histories are always immanent in particular cultural moments"--Modern Philology

"A remarkable tome. [Levine] has broken new ground. . . . Stands as an exceptional study and an instructive contribution to the scholarly literature dealing with American literary history and cultural criticism. Levine helps us to think in new ways and in new categories. Intellectual and cultural historians will find this book an especially valuable addition to the scholarship in their fields. Literature professors across a wide spectrum of specialties will welcome this book as well."--Louisiana History

"An important and provocative deconstruction of nineteenth-century American nationalism, race, and the literature where the two intersect."--Literature & History

"Levine is at his best when recovering the forgotten history of African American intellectuals, such as Walker and Douglass, and showing how they responded to specific domestic events motivating their transnational imaginations."--American Historical Review

"[A] provocative critical study. . . . Comprehensive and well documented. . . . Eloquent and refreshingly jargon free. Highly recommended."--Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807859032
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 10/8/2008
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 1,017,720
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert S. Levine is professor of English at the University of Maryland and author or editor of eleven books, including Martin Delany, Frederick Douglass, and the Politics of Representative Identity and Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, Dred (both from the University of North Carolina Press).

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix Prologue: Undoings 1 Chapter 1 Charles Brockden Brown, Louisiana, and the Contingencies of Empire 17 Chapter 2 Circulating the Nation: David Walker, the Missouri Compromise, and the Appeals of Black Literary Nationalism 67 Chapter 3 Genealogical Fictions: Melville and Hannah Crafts in Hawthorne's House 119 Chapter 4 Frederick Douglass's Hemispheric Nationalism, 1857-1893 179 Epilogue: Undoings Redux 237 Notes 245 Index 303
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