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Industry and the Creative Mind

The Eccentric Writer in American Literature and Entertainment, 1790-1860

Sandra Tomc

Publication Year: 2012

Industry and the Creative Mind takes a radically new look at the figure of the eccentric, alienated writer in American literature and entertainment from 1790 to 1860. Traditional scholarship takes for granted that the eccentric writer, modeled by such Romantic beings as Lord Byron and brought to life for American audiences by the gloomy person of Edgar Allan Poe, was a figure of rebellion against the excesses of modern commercial culture and industrial life. By contrast, Industry and the Creative Mind argues that in the United States myths of writerly moodiness, alienation, and irresponsibility predated the development of a commercial arts and entertainment industry and instead of forming a site of rebellion from this industry formed a bedrock for its development. Looking at the careers of a number of early American writers---Joseph Dennie, Nathaniel Parker Willis, Edgar Allan Poe, Fanny Fern, as well as a host of now forgotten souls who peopled the twilight worlds of hack fiction and industrial literature---this book traces the way in which early nineteenth-century American arts and entertainment systems incorporated writerly eccentricity in their "logical" economic workings, placing the mad, rebellious writer at the center of the industry's productivity and success.

Published by: University of Michigan Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Acknowledgments

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p. vii

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pp. 1-24

In his 1856 memoir, Recollections of a Lifetime, the American publisher and author Samuel Griswold Goodrich recalled his frustrating and yet ultimately rewarding and dazzling encounters with gloomy, tortured poets. Goodrich’s descriptions dwell...

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1. Anywhere but Here: Provincial Literature and the “Miseries of Literary Men”

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pp. 25-58

Writing in the album of a friend in 1829, Edgar Allan Poe famously depicted himself as a profoundly alienated, isolated creature, at odds with the happy rhythms of ordinary life...

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2. Personifying Vernacular Eccentricity: Joseph Dennie and the American Lounger

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pp. 59-102

In a series of letters he wrote to his mother in the late 1700s and early 1800s, Joseph Dennie, the American author and editor of the prestigious Philadelphia journal The Port Folio, referred to himself repeatedly as a kind of geographical...

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3. “Too Much above the Popular Level to Be Well Paid”: Edgar Allan Poe, His Peers, and the Rewards of Genius

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pp. 103-153

The obituary notices that followed Edgar Allan Poe’s sudden death in 1849 were unanimous in understanding Poe as a kind of Chatterton, an erratic, isolated “genius” victimized both by society and by the philistine audiences and publishers...

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4. An Idle Industry: Nathaniel Parker Willis and the Workings of Literary Leisure

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pp. 154-192

In the 1790s, Joseph Dennie had described himself as a lover of “the desultory style,” a perennial “lounger,” and the author of works read by those wishing “to waste time.”1 Dennie’s leisure was an ironic, comical affair, but it was also never...

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5. “As Crazy as a Fly in a Drum”: The Eccentric Woman Writer

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pp. 193-247

It has been a long-standing conviction among scholars that antebellum women writers, by virtue of being women, were barred from association with the putatively lofty aesthetic realms of the Romantic, exilic artist. In Naomi Sofer’s words, midcentury...

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pp. 248-256

In memoirs he published in the 1890s, William Dean Howells recalled his trip in 1860 to the center of American “Bohemia,” Pfaff’s Cellar in Manhattan. The young Howells, then a fledgling writer, was excited to go, for Pfaff’s was known...


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pp. 257-298


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pp. 299-310

E-ISBN-13: 9780472028429
E-ISBN-10: 0472028421
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472118366
Print-ISBN-10: 0472118366

Page Count: 328
Illustrations: 2 illustrations
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 801411062
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Industry and the Creative Mind

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Subject Headings

  • American literature -- 19th century -- History and criticism.
  • Eccentric literature -- History and criticism.
  • Literature and society -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Eccentrics in literature.
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