Nothing Abstract: Investigations in the American Literary Imagination

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Written by one of the leading scholars in the field, Nothing Abstract is a collection of essays gathered over the past twenty years—all of which, in some fashion, have to do with a genetic approach to literary study. In previous books, the author has traced the compositional histories of certain literary works, the course of individual careers, and the genesis of literary movements. In this book, Tom Quirk resists the direction taken by contemporary theory in favor of an approach to literature through source and influence study, the evolution of a writer's achievement, the establishment of biographical or other contexts, and the transition from one literary era to another.

All of the essays that Quirk has chosen for this collection illustrate a scholarly method. The first two essays, somewhat general in their concerns, constitute a defense for the genetic method, and subsequent essays serve as evidence for the usefulness of genetic inquiry. The entire volume challenges poststructuralist theory not through active confrontation, but merely by being what it is and doing what it does. More important though is that all of the chosen essays are intrinsically interesting. They tell fascinating stories—stories about literary genesis, biographical circumstances, and artistic ambitions and achievement.

Authors discussed at length are Edgar Allan Poe, Tony Hillerman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, Wallace Stevens, Willa Cather, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Joyce Carol Oates. Quirk also touches on Flannery O'Connor, Richard Wright, Robert Frost, Jack London, Stephen Crane, William Faulkner, and others. Nothing Abstract makes a great contribution to the study of important American writers and will be welcomed by all students and scholars of American studies and American literature.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"I admire the essays for inspiring a new generation of scholars to appreciate the value, the necessity, of studying a book in the context of the genetic history of the text, understanding the process of creation, revision, editing, publication, and scholarly editing that leads to the novel that is read today. . . . The essays on Twain are absolutely superb, and I am inspired by what he has done with Cather and Fitzgerald. Quirk's genetic investigations have a value that is immediately apparent, and his articles stand without further justification."—James Nagel
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826213648
  • Publisher: University of Missouri Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2001
  • Pages: 248
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Tom Quirk is Professor of English at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including Bergson in American Culture, Mark Twain: A Study of the Short Fiction and Coming to Grips with Huckleberry Finn.

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Table of Contents

I Introduction 1
II Sources, Influences, and Intertexts 13
III Authors, Intentions, and Texts 32
IV What If Poe's Humorous Tales Were Funny? Poe's "X-ing a Paragrab" and Twain's "Journalism in Tennessee" 53
V Hawthorne's Last Tales and "The Custom-House" 64
VI The Judge Dragged to the Bar: Melville, Shaw, and the Webster Murder Trial 81
VII Mark Twain in His Short Works 97
VIII The Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce 115
IX Realism, the "Real," and the Poet of Reality: Some Reflections on American Realists and the Poetry of Wallace Stevens 134
X In the Shallow Light of the Present: The Moral Geography of Death Comes for the Archbishop 156
XI Fitzgerald and Cather: The Great Gatsby 176
XII A Source for "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" 191
XIII Justice on the Reservation: Tony Hillerman's Novels and the Conflict between Federal and Tribal Jurisdiction 199
XIV The Trying Out of Genetic Inquiry 213
A Checklist of Publications 221
Index 227
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