Literature, Culture, and Geography in Antebellum America
Publication Year: 2006
Published by: University of Michigan Press
Introduction: An Empire in Denial
During the first half of the nineteenth century, the United States more than doubled in size. As dreams of a nation spanning all of the North American continent reached their peak at midcentury, some Americans wanted to annex territory even beyond continental limits, including islands like Cuba and Hawaii. This massive ...
1. Imagining National Form
Early in Edward Everett Hale's 1863 short story "The Man Without a Country," set in the early republic, the main character, Phillip Nolan, is condemned never again "to hear of his country or to see any information regarding it." 1 And for fifty-six years, he doesn't. At the end of the story, Nolan - now "a dear, sainted old man" ...
2. Mapping and Measuring with Ahab and Wilkes
The marked differences between Ishmael and Ahab create a contrapuntal effect in the narrative of Moby-Dick. Whereas Ahab's intense desire to take revenge on the white whale drives the plot of the novel toward its violent conclusion, Ishmael's reveries and reflections on the nature of the whale slow it down, forcing the reader to pause, ...
3. From Salt Lake to Walden Pond
In his essay "Walking," Thoreau describes an apocalyptic vision of measurement gone mad, of the urge to establish boundaries taken to a blackcomical extreme.1 In this vision, a "worldly miser with a surveyor looking after his bounds" does not see that "heaven had taken place around him" and continues to look for "an old post-hole ...
4. Word, Image, and National Geography
Invented at the end of the eighteenth century, panoramas - large illusionistic paintings designed to make the viewer feel transported to the place portrayed - were extraordinarily popular for much of the nineteenth century. Circular panoramas, in which viewers would look at 360-degree paintings from a viewing platform, ...
5. Views from the Edge of Empire
Few, if any, passages in the American Renaissance canon have been quoted as often as this one from Ralph Waldo Emerson's Nature (1836). Emerson's transformation into a transparent eyeball has been called "the representative anecdote of his experience of inspiration."1 In fact, however, dramatic visual moments carry a heavy rhetorical ...
6. Body Size and the Body Politic
In chapter 1 of James Fenimore Cooper's The Prairie (1827), a historical romance centered on social and political problems arising from the Louisiana Purchase, the Bush clan - a family of westward-moving squatters portrayed so as to evoke the nomadic families of the Old Testament patriarchs - comes face to face with ...
7. Geography, Pedagogy, and Race
Despite - or perhaps because of - the multiplicity of racial and ethnic groups who coexisted uneasily within the nation's constantly fluctuating borders, the ideal of a racially homogeneous nation-state - of a geopolitical unit in which a single racial identity is coincident with national identity - was a powerful presence in antebellum ...
In this book I have tried to shed new light on the "American Renaissance" by showing how writers like Melville, Thoreau, and Fuller addressed the problem of their nation's size and shape. Some of their most important insights and formal innovations emerged, as we saw, from their engagement with various cultural mechanisms ...
Page Count: 184
Illustrations: 9 B&W illustrations
Publication Year: 2006
OCLC Number: 615635624
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