Cover

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Title Page

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Copyright

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Table of Contents

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Introduction: American Literary Fraudulence

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pp. 1-22

The Fabrication of American Literature investigates a paradox at the heart of American literary history: at the very moment when a national literature began to take shape, many observers worried that it amounted to nothing more than what Edgar...

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Chapter 1: ‘‘One Vast Perambulating Humbug’’: Literary Nationalism and the Rise of the Puffing System

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pp. 23-64

In March 1837, the booksellers of New York City held a lavish dinner to celebrate the accomplishments of American literature. Seemingly every major literary figure attended the event, including authors William Cullen Bryant, Fitz-Greene Halleck...

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Chapter 2: Backwoods and Blackface: The Strange Careers of Davy Crockett and Jim Crow

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pp. 65-100

In the April 1836 issue of the Southern Literary Messenger, Edgar Allan Poe launched into a furious indictment of ‘‘the present state of American criticism,’’ which should by now sound quite familiar. Incensed by the ‘‘indiscriminate puffing of good, bad, and indifferent...

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Chapter 3: ‘‘Slavery Never Can Be Represented’’: James Williams and the Racial Politics of Imposture

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pp. 101-132

If Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845), the source for the first epigraph, enjoys the distinction of being the most canonized American slave narrative, perhaps James Williams’s Narrative of James Williams (1838)...

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Chapter 4: Mediums of Exchange: Fanny Fern’s Unoriginality

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pp. 133-161

In 1849, the prolific anthologizer and industrious puffer Rufus Wilmot Griswold followed the success of his collections The Poets and Poetry of America (1842) and The Prose Writers of America...

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Conclusion: The Confidence Man on a Large Scale

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pp. 162-176

If there is any antebellum text that seems to exemplify the version of fraudulence I have been trying to challenge in this book, it is surely The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade (1857), Herman Melville’s obliquely satirical chronicle of the ruses practiced aboard a Mississippi...

Notes

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pp. 177-210

Works Cited

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pp. 211-230

Index

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pp. 231-242

Acknowledgments

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pp. 243-245