Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

Echoes of Emerson has come to fruition through the invaluable support of family, friends, and colleagues. I am indebted to the many outstanding faculty members at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY)—most notably William Kelly, Morris Dickstein, and David Reynolds—who fostered my growth as a scholar and taught me how to be a better writer. Among a host of talented and unique individuals I met at CUNY, Andrea Knutson, Samuel Cohen, Kimberly Engber, and Tanya Radford inspired me then and continue to show me what it means to be an academic...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-13

On September 12, 2001, news agencies around the world were quick to label September 11, 2001, “the day the world changed” (“Day” 13). 9/11 became a major pinnacle, a new epoch in national, international, and even “civilizational” history (Hertzberg 27). The September 12 New York Times editorial page described the day as “one of those moments in which history splits, and we define the world as ‘before’ and ‘after.’... We look back at sunrise yesterday through pillars of smoke and dust, down streets snowed under the atomized debris of the skyline, and we understand that everything has...

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1. Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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pp. 14-39

On December 17, 1877, at the Hotel Brunswick in Boston, Mark Twain spoke at a dinner celebration commemorating both the seventieth birthday of John Greenleaf Whittier and the twentieth anniversary of the Atlantic Monthly. Among the sixty guests were three leading American literary figures: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. The short speech given by Twain and directed at these three eminent figures would haunt the comic genius for years to come. He would later write in his autobiography: “When I sat down [from speaking] it was with a heart which...

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2. Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady

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pp. 40-78

In 1879, around the same year he began writing The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James published Hawthorne, a biography that remains both a representative document of American realism and an instructive preface to Portrait.1 The text not only communicates James’s vision of Nathaniel Hawthorne but also reveals his perspective on nineteenth-century American culture and, more broadly, on literature, history, and nation. What emanates most clearly from Hawthorne is ultimately a sense of contradiction and conflict—between James’s conscious and often patronizing attempts to distance himself from the...

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3. Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth

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pp. 79-109

Edith Wharton begins her memoir, A Backward Glance, with her “earliest definite memory” (3): “It was on a bright day of midwinter, in New York. The little girl who eventually became me, but as yet was neither me nor anybody else in particular, but merely a soft anonymous morsel of humanity—this little girl, who bore my name, was going for a walk with her father. The episode is literally the first thing I can remember about her, and therefore I date the birth of her identity from that day.... It was always an event in the little girl’s life to take a walk with her father, and more particularly so today,...

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4. Willa Cather’s My Ántonia

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pp. 110-134

In 1924, Willa Cather denounced “this passion for Americanizing everything and everybody,” calling it a “deadly disease” (qtd. in Reynolds, Willa Cather in Context 73). Although Cather was specifically referring to the nationalistic impulse to transform ethnic immigrants into “Americans,” her protest is certainly relevant to the more general question of her role in American literary history. As Susan J. Rosowski notes, “a writer is important not because she represents transcendent values or universal truths, but because she is inscribed into a culture” (“Prospects” 147). In attempting to understand how...

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Epilogue

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pp. 135-144

Echoes of Emerson has explored a particular narrative contest in the realist novel: between Emerson’s idealistic philosophies of transcendentalism and the sociohistorical realities of postbellum America. In tracing the echoes of Emerson in American realism, and thus examining the dialogic relationship between two contiguous literary periods, this book raises the larger, more peripheral issue of periodization—a critical method of dividing literature into chronological blocks of time (or “periods”) differentiated by seemingly remarkable moments in history and culture.1 Although periodization still dominates literary...

Notes

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pp. 145-156

Works Cited

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pp. 157-168

Index

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pp. 169-176