Homicide in American Fiction, 1798-1860: A Study in Social Values

Homicide in American Fiction, 1798-1860: A Study in Social Values

by David Brion Davis
     
 

Homicide in American Fiction, 1798-1860 analyzes the attitudes on homicide expressed in popular fiction and works of literary distinction published in a period when dueling, lynching, street fighting, and attacks by mobs on unpopular groups caused many in both Europe and America to wonder whether violence was an inevitable outgrowth of democratic

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Overview

Homicide in American Fiction, 1798-1860 analyzes the attitudes on homicide expressed in popular fiction and works of literary distinction published in a period when dueling, lynching, street fighting, and attacks by mobs on unpopular groups caused many in both Europe and America to wonder whether violence was an inevitable outgrowth of democratic institutions. David Brion Davis reads novels and stories by American writers both canonic (Charles Brockden Brown, James Fenimore Cooper, Washington Irving, Herman Melville, and Edgar A. Poe) and forgotten (Newton Mallory Curtis, Richard Henry Dana, E. Z. C. Judson, George Lippard, William Gilmore Simms, and Charles Wilkins Webber) against a background of social and intellectual history, comparing fictional depictions of crime with changing beliefs and values concerning human evil and responsibility.

His discussion follows the theological, philosophical, and psychological ideas of the time about man's moral nature and show how some of these ideas were reflected in law and legal decision. The author then considers the relation between homicide and sex. Such motives as jealousy and revenge are treated in separate chapters. In the book's final part, Davis discusses the primary conditions of American society which fiction writers associated with homicide-the absence of monarchy, established church, or tradition; the changing and more independent status of women; and the promise of unlimited financial gains-speculating on how these factors may have influenced American thinking on moral issues and fostered anxieties about imminent social disintegration, reflected in lynch mobs and duels.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801490668
Publisher:
Cornell University Press
Publication date:
06/01/1968
Series:
9/28/2005
Pages:
364
Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.48(h) x (d)

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