We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE
OR
title

Archives of American Time

Literature and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century

By Lloyd Pratt

Publication Year: 2010

American historians have typically argued that a shared experience of time worked to bind the antebellum nation together. Trains, technology, and expanding market forces catapulted the United States into the future on a straight line of progressive time. The nation's exceedingly diverse population could cluster around this common temporality as one forward-looking people.

In a bold revision of this narrative, Archives of American Time examines American literature's figures and forms to disclose the competing temporalities that in fact defined the antebellum period. Through discussions that link literature's essential qualities to social theories of modernity, Lloyd Pratt asserts that the competition between these varied temporalities forestalled the consolidation of national and racial identity. Paying close attention to the relationship between literary genre and theories of nationalism, race, and regionalism, Archives of American Time shows how the fine details of literary genres tell against the notion that they helped to create national, racial, or regional communities. Its chapters focus on images of invasive forms of print culture, the American historical romance, African American life writing, and Southwestern humor. Each in turn revises our sense of how these images and genres work in such a way as to reconnect them to a broad literary and social history of modernity. At precisely the moment when American authors began self-consciously to quest after a future in which national and racial identity would reign triumphant over all, their writing turned out to restructure time in a way that began foreclosing on that particular future.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

read more

Introduction: Written to the Future

pdf iconDownload PDF (121.2 KB)
pp. 1-23

In the winter of 1829, a handful of young women and men on the island of Nantucket began gathering the first Thursday of every month to write the history of the future. Before their meetings, each member of the group composed a short piece of writing. Upon arrival, they deposited their anonymous...

read more

1. Figures of Print, Orders of Time, and the Character of American Modernity

pdf iconDownload PDF (537.7 KB)
pp. 24-62

In the winter of 1829, a handful of young women and men on the island of Nantucket began gathering the first Thursday of every month to write the history of the future. Before their meetings, each member of the group composed a short piece of writing. Upon arrival, they deposited their anonymous...

read more

2. ‘‘A Magnificent Fragment’’: Dialects of Time and the American Historical Romance

pdf iconDownload PDF (307.4 KB)
pp. 63-124

The first half of the nineteenth century saw large numbers of Americans begin the task of writing—and reading—new histories of their young nation. Committed to the endurance of the Republic, emboldened by the patriotic aftermath of the century’s first international wars, and troubled by the entropic energies of the market revolution, legions of writers set about filling...

read more

3. Local Time: Southwestern Humor and Nineteenth-Century Literary Regionalism

pdf iconDownload PDF (163.9 KB)
pp. 125-156

One of the first outbreaks of nostalgia in America has gone largely unreported. From the seventeenth-century onward, European physicians documented viral plagues of this incapacitating disease. According to these doctors, this malady of the soul especially afflicted soldiers, poets, and philosophers. Its European observers thought nostalgia was a social ill worth fighting; they proposed radical treatments that included the burying of soldiers alive. Yet American doctors ‘‘proudly declared that the young nation remained...

read more

4. The Deprivation of Time in African American Life Writing

pdf iconDownload PDF (158.6 KB)
pp. 157-186

The fugitive slave narratives, spiritual autobiographies, and fictionalized biographies of African America faced a double demand. On the one hand, they were expected to detail the dehumanizing realities of slavery and racism. This first requirement explains the genre’s recurring descriptions of blood-clotted whips, shredded flesh, and rape—not to mention segregation,...

read more

Epilogue: The Spatial Turn and the Scale of Freedom

pdf iconDownload PDF (154.2 KB)
pp. 187-199

It has been intriguing to watch the spatial turn barnstorm the academy, but perhaps it is time to ask why the embrace has been so quick and eager. Why is it that the accommodation of old modes of humanistic study to this new one has proceeded so smoothly? What makes it possible for new curricular...

Notes

pdf iconDownload PDF (159.3 KB)
pp. 201-227

Bibliography

pdf iconDownload PDF (93.9 KB)
pp. 229-239

Index

pdf iconDownload PDF (717.2 KB)
pp. 241-249

read more

Acknowledgments

pdf iconDownload PDF (35.2 KB)
pp. 251-252

I am grateful to the many people and several institutions that supported the writing of this book. The Nantucket Historical Association’s (NHA) Verney Fellowship and the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities/ Bay State Historical League Scholar-in-Residence Program funded my research....


E-ISBN-13: 9780812203530
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812242089

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2010

Research Areas

Recommend

UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • National characteristics, American, in literature.
  • Time -- Social aspects -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Time in literature.
  • American literature -- 19th century -- History and criticism.
  • Group identity -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Modernism (Literature) -- United States.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access