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The Spectator and the City in Nineteenth Century American Literature
     

The Spectator and the City in Nineteenth Century American Literature

by Dana Brand
 

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In his book Brand traces the origin of the flaneur, a detached and powerful urban spectator, to seventeenth century English literature. He then discusses the development of the English language tradition of the flaneur in its social, cultural and philosophical contexts. Taking the encounter with the spectator and city life as an important point of contact

Overview

In his book Brand traces the origin of the flaneur, a detached and powerful urban spectator, to seventeenth century English literature. He then discusses the development of the English language tradition of the flaneur in its social, cultural and philosophical contexts. Taking the encounter with the spectator and city life as an important point of contact with modernity, Brand offers new readings of three of the most important American writers of the nineteenth century, Poe, Hawthorne, and Whitman, and the way in which, at various points in their work, each author represents a spectator who looks at a city crowd and responds to it as an entertaining spectacle. These three authors, by engaging and modifying this important tradition of representing the city as chaotic and unpleasant, dealt with issues that American writers are not normally thought to have dealt with before the Civil War. His approach enables him to offer new readings of these authors' texts, as well as a new perspective on Poe's invention of the detective story, Hawthorne's complex fascination with cities and modern life, and Whitman's effort to develop a new kind of urban poetry. In charting the movement from Poe to Hawthorne to Whitman, Brand traces the similarities and the differences that distinguish each author in his common search for literary forms adequate to the rush of city life. If these forms seem to us today to be peculiarly modern, then we need to acknowledge, as the book suggests, how profoundly we still live under the shadow of the flaneur and his literary descendants.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...this book makes a useful contribution to the study of urbanization, modernity, and mid-nineteenth-century literature in America." American Literature

"Brand has expanded our understanding of the early consciousness of American cities in ways that we will not be able to ignore." The Journal of American History

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780521152747
Publisher:
Cambridge University Press
Publication date:
08/05/2010
Pages:
254
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)

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