Literature and Politics in the Early Republic Views from the Bridge
Abstract

This essay surveys recent scholarship on secular literature and politics in the early republic. The work of Jurgen Habermas and Benedict Anderson has influenced scholarship focusing on the constitutive power of print during this era. Gender scholarship has contributed investigation of the implicit and explicit exclusions of print communities, as well as of the contributions of women authors and readers to the national imaginary. Research into literary networks has made visible the human infrastructure of print capitalism and political parties. Other scholars have explored the relationship between literature and politics through periodicals and children's literature, attempting to use those sources to penetrate the mystery of how texts were read. In general, the scholarship of literature and politics has emphasized nation-building and national distinctiveness, even as American exceptionalism has been criticized in other realms. But recent work on the Atlantic world and on Latin American–United States connections, as well as on African American "counterpublics," has brought the relevance of transnational and subnational communities to the fore. The essay concludes by calling for more attention to the imaginative and emotional purposes of politics and literature, as well as to the development of separate cultural and political elites during the early republican era.


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