Inhabiting the American Urban Literary Imagination, 1840-1860
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: Northwestern University Press
Title Page, Copyright
List of Illustrations
A labor of love, this project has been years in the making, and I have hardly labored alone. Teachers, colleagues, friends, family, and professional acquaintance have lent their varied, vital support along the way. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge their contributions. ...
Introduction: The Forms and Functions of Modern American Metropolitan Literature
A curious work, Mortimer Thomson’s Doesticks; What He Says (1855) typifies a shift in America’s literature during the middle decades of the nineteenth century.1 Modern architects might say that its form follows its function. For as contemporary America underwent radical changes in size, scope, pace, and identity ...
Chapter 1: Boardinghouse Life, Boardinghouse Letters
In March 1842, a 22-year-old New York journalist named Walter Whitman declared the “universal Yankee nation” a “boarding people.” He provided as proof of his claim what would become, in the following decade, a characteristic catalog description of his United States. ...
Chapter 2: Rhetorical Boarding and the Limits of Domesticity
However close was their connection, boardinghouse life and letters had another near neighbor in mid-nineteenth-century domestic convention. The pervasive idiom and ideology of “home,” by which contemporaries reified their greatest residential expectations, touched not only the style and content of the period’s orthodox domestic literatures; ...
Chapter 3: Boston’s Boardinghouse Community
To suggest that antebellum boarding was at once more and less than domestic is also to say that it occupied no private separate sphere. Boarding on the one hand enjoyed something of a privileged position within the popular consciousness. The very genre of boardinghouse letters indicates that the great uncertainties ...
Chapter 4: Concord Board: Democratic Domestic as Urban Organic
An explicit civic-aesthetic problem in Oliver Wendell Holmes’s The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table, boarding figures an implicit (and implicitly progressive) literary form in another of greater Boston’s boardinghouse volumes from the period, Henry David Thoreau’s Walden (1854).1 ...
Chapter 5: Class Mapping the Literary Metropolis: A Residential Reading of The Quaker City
Behind the common modern(ist) aesthetic of boarding in the United States lies the mundane material fact of urbanization. Period American writers from the mid-nineteenth century faithfully confronted the ideologies of domesticity, civility, community, and democracy as they interrogated the antebellum household within the context of the new U.S. metropolis. ...
Chapter 6: Boarders, Brothers, Lovers: The Blithedale Romance’s Theater of Feeling
Antebellum literature occupied uncommonly melodramatic ground in popular works by the likes of best-selling author George Lippard, and yet the genre of boardinghouse letters was not inclined solely toward the rhetorical excesses of works such as The Quaker City. Boarding was similarly hospitable to the more tempered discourse of sentiment. ...
In the end, antebellum boarding tended more toward death than the love that Hawthorne’s Blithedale denies, inasmuch as the dead and dying cooccupy the pages of boardinghouse letters with great frequency. Boarders were of course mortal, and like the narratives that contained them terminated in time, no less than in corporeal/storyline space. ...