Imagined Empires: Incas, Aztecs, and the New World of American Literature, 1771-1876 by Eric Wertheimer
Imagined Empires demonstrates that early American culture took great interest in South American civilizations, especially the Incas and Aztecs, and in so doing made a statement about the role of the United States as an empire in the emerging political order of New World colonies and states. By examining the work of Philip Freneau, Joel Barlow, William Prescott, Herman Melville, and Walt Whitman, the long-contested concept of "indigenous origins" is given expanded meaning beyond traditional critiques of American culture.
Introduction: ancient America in the postcolonial national imaginary; 1. Commencements: pre-Columbian worlds and Philip Freneau's literature of American empire; 2. Diplomacy: Joel Barlow's scripting and subscripting of ancient America; 3. Noctography: Prescott's sketchings of Aztecs and Incas; 4. Mutations: Melville, representation, and South American history; 5. Passage: two rivulets and the obscurity of American maps.