Revolution and the Word: The Rise of the Novel in America / Edition 1

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Overview


Revolution and the Word offers a unique perspective on the origins of American fiction, looking not only at the early novels themselves but at the people who produced them, sold them, and read them. It shows how, in the aftermath of the American Revolution, the novel found a special place among the least privileged citizens of the new republic. As Cathy N. Davidson explains, early American novels--most of them now long forgotten--were a primary means by which those who bought and read them, especially women and the lower classes, moved into the higher levels of literacy required by a democracy. This very fact, Davidson shows, also made these people less amenable to the control of the gentry who, naturally enough, derided fiction as a potentially subversive genre. Combining rigorous historical methods with the newest insights of literacy theory, Davidson brilliantly reconstructs the complex interplay of politics, ideology, economics, and other social forces that governed the way novels were written, published, distributed, and understood. Davidson also shows, in almost tactile detail, how many Americans lived during the Constitutional era. She depicts the life of the traveling book peddler, the harsh lot of the printer, the shortcomings of early American schools, the ambiguous politics of novelists like Brackenridge and Tyler, and the lost lives of ordinary women like Tabitha Tenney and Patty Rogers. Drawing on a vast body of material--the novels themselves as well as reviews, inscriptions in cherished books, letters and diaries, and many other records--Davidson presents the genesis of American literature in its fullest possible context.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195148237
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 8/6/2004
  • Edition description: Expanded
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 976,216
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Cathy N. Davidson is Vice Provost of Interdisciplinary Studies and Ruth F. DeVarney Professor of English at Duke University. She is co-founder of the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University, a past president of the American Studies Association, and a past editor of the journal American Literature.

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction : toward a history of texts 59
2 The book in the new republic 73
3 Ideology and genre 101
4 Literacy, education, and the reader 121
5 Community and communication : the first American novel 153
6 Privileging the Feme Covert : the sociology of sentimental fiction 185
7 The picaresque and the margins of political discourse 233
8 Early American gothic : the limits of individualism 306
9 Afterword : texts as histories 356
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