The Poetics of National and Racial Identity in Nineteenth-Century American Literature

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John D. Kerkering's study examines the literary history of racial and national identity in nineteenth-century America. Kerkering argues that writers such as DuBois, Lanier, Simms, and Scott used poetic effects to assert the distinctiveness of certain groups in a diffuse social landscape. Kerkering explores poetry's formal properties, its sound effects, as they intersect with the issues of race and nation. He shows how formal effects, ranging from meter and rhythm to alliteration and melody, provide these writers with evidence of a collective identity, whether national or racial. Through this shared reliance on formal literary effects, national and racial identities, Kerkering shows, are related elements of a single literary history. This is the story of how poetic effects helped to define national identities in Anglo-America as a step toward helping to define racial identities within the United States. This highly original study will command a wide audience of Americanists.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'While we are used to thinking about language representing an identity, Kerkering forces us to acknowledge the extent to which poetic forms create these identities. He supports this assertion through a set of nuanced readings that move eloquently from discursive context to textual analysis.' American Literature

"to the extent that Kerkering traces a pattern in his examples he succeeds admirably and often draws illuminating and sometimes suprising connections" - Modern Philology

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Product Details

Meet the Author

John D. Kerkering is Assistant Professor of English at Loyola University Chicago. He has published articles in American Literature and Studies in Romanticism.

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Table of Contents

Introduction; Part I. The Poetics of National Identity: 1. 'We are five and forty': meter and national identity in Sir Walter Scott; 2. 'Our sacred union', 'our beloved Apalachia': nation and genius loci in Hawthorne and Simms; Part II. The Poetics of Racial Identity: 3. 'Of me and of mine': the music of racial identity; 4. 'Blood will tell': literary effects and the diagnosis of racial instinct; Conclusion: the conversation of identities; Notes; Bibliography; Index.
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