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Dislocating Race and Nation

Episodes in Nineteenth-Century American Literary Nationalism

Robert S. Levine

Publication Year: 2008

American literary nationalism is traditionally understood as a cohesive literary tradition developed in the newly independent United States that emphasized the unique features of America and consciously differentiated American literature from British literature. Robert S. Levine challenges this assessment by exploring the conflicted, multiracial, and contingent dimensions present in the works of late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American and African American writers. Conflict and uncertainty, not consensus, Levine argues, helped define American literary nationalism during this period. Levine emphasizes the centrality of both inter- and intra-American conflict in his analysis of four illuminating "episodes" of literary responses to questions of U.S. racial nationalism and imperialism. He examines Charles Brockden Brown and the Louisiana Purchase; David Walker and the debates on the Missouri Compromise; Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Hannah Crafts and the blood-based literary nationalism and expansionism of the mid-nineteenth century; and Frederick Douglass and his approximately forty-year interest in Haiti. Levine offers critiques of recent developments in whiteness and imperialism studies, arguing that a renewed attention to the place of contingency in American literary history helps us to better understand and learn from writers trying to make sense of their own historical moments. Unsettling the traditional narrative of American literature evolving as a triumphant expression of nationalist efforts, Robert Levine emphasizes the critical role that conflicts over race and nation played in defining American literature from 1750 through the late 1800s. Levine explores some of the important dialogues, convergences, and divergences among white and African American writers and calls attention to writers from the south and west whose contributions were significant in their day. Through Levine's chosen case studies, he also offers critiques of whiteness studies, regional perspectives, and imperial attitudes, arguing that a finer sense of contingency in American literary history appropriately heightens our appreciation of those writers trying to make sense of their own historical moment. Levine emphasizes the centrality of both inter- and intra-American conflict in his analysis of four illuminating "episodes" of literary responses to questions of U.S. racial nationalism and imperialism. He examines Charles Brockden Brown and the Louisiana Purchase; David Walker and the debates on the Missouri Compromise; Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Hannah Crafts and the blood-based literary nationalism and expansionism of the mid-nineteenth century; and Frederick Douglass and his approximately forty-year interest in Haiti. Conflict and uncertainty, not consensus, Levine argues, helped define American literary nationalism during this period. American literary nationalism is traditionally understood as a cohesive literary tradition developed in the newly independent United States that emphasized the unique features of America and consciously differentiated American literature from British literature. Robert S. Levine challenges this assessment by exploring the conflicted, multiracial, and contingent dimensions present in the works of late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American and African American writers. Conflict and uncertainty, not consensus, Levine argues, helped define American literary nationalism during this period. Levine emphasizes the centrality of both inter- and intra-American conflict in his analysis of four illuminating "episodes" of literary responses to questions of U.S. racial nationalism and imperialism. He examines Charles Brockden Brown and the Louisiana Purchase; David Walker and the debates on the Missouri Compromise; Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Hannah Crafts and the blood-based literary nationalism and expansionism of the mid-nineteenth century; and Frederick Douglass and his approximately forty-year interest in Haiti. Levine offers critiques of recent developments in whiteness and imperialism studies, arguing that a renewed attention to the place of contingency in American literary history helps us to better understand and learn from writers trying to make sense of their own historical moments.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7

Contents

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pp. vii-9

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-13

I am pleased to acknowledge the assistance I have received from a number of individuals and institutions. For their helpful responses to sections of the book, my thanks to Jana Argersinger, Philip Barnard, Christopher Castiglia, Russ Castronovo, Mark Kamrath, Caroline Levander, Lee Person, Hollis Robbins,...

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Prologue: Undoings

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pp. 1-16

Dislocating Race and Nation is about literary practice in a historical mode.It does not set forth a new theory of American literary nationalism; it does not ‘‘locate’’ race and nation or offer any other all-encompassing explanatory paradigm; it does not argue for unbroken connections be-tween the works and periods that are examined in its four main chapters...

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CHAPTER 1. Charles Brockden Brown, Louisiana, and the Contingencies of Empire

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pp. 17-66

It is generally acknowledged that Charles Brockden Brown was an American literary nationalist. In his oft-cited prefatory note to Edgar Huntly (1799), he called on American writers to address ‘‘the condition of our country,’’ maintaining that ‘‘the field of investigation, opened to us by our own country, should differ essentially from those which exist in Europe.’’...

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CHAPTER 2. Circulating the Nation: David Walker, the Missouri Compromise, and the Appeals of Black Literary Nationalism

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pp. 67-118

The debates on the Missouri Compromise, I will be arguing in thischapter, were crucial to the development of African American literary nationalism during the 1820s and 1830s, and they had a pronounced influence on the development of a more broadly conceived American literary nationalism as well. As was the case during the 1790s and early...

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CHAPTER 3. Genealogical Fictions: Melville and Hannah Crafts in Hawthorne’s House

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pp. 119-178

The July 1844 issue of the United States Magazine and Democratic Review (generally known as the Democratic Review) featured a sketch by Nathaniel Hawthorne titled ‘‘A Select Party.’’ In it, a ‘‘Man of Fancy’’ imagines a festive get-together in ‘‘one of his castles in the air,’’ a castle, the narrator declares, that is ‘‘more real than the earth.’’ Numerous guests show up for...

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CHAPTER 4. Frederick Douglass’s Hemispheric Nationalism, 1857–1893

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pp. 179-236

This chapter takes as its starting point a little-known column, ‘‘The Colored People and Hayti,’’ that Frederick Douglass printed in the January 1861 issue of his Douglass’ Monthly. Announcing that the Haitian government had recently appointed James Redpath as its general emigration agent, Douglass provides the address of the office, 221 Washington Street in...

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Epilogue: Undoings Redux

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pp. 237-244

The Spanish-American War of 1898, which led to the U.S. military occupation of Cuba and the Philippines in 1899, brought the United States a glimpse of a new bioceanic empire far beyond the imaginings of Ulysses S. Grant or Frederick Douglass. Given that the occupation of the Philip-pines in particular was accomplished through deceit and against the...

Notes

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pp. 245-315

Index

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pp. 316-322


E-ISBN-13: 9781469605654
E-ISBN-10: 1469605651
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807832264
Print-ISBN-10: 080783226X

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2008