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  • Early-19th-Century Literature
  • Michael L. Burduck

The number of noteworthy studies dealing with early-19th-century American literature continues to drop noticeably year by year. Nevertheless, scholars and students of the period will discover books and articles that shine valuable light on the period’s literary culture. Important book-length studies, as has been the case in recent years, focus on individual authors and on such issues as men and domesticity, the influence of journalism on American women writers, the antebellum stage and Northern proslavery sentiments, and the relationship between abolition and traditional notions of geography. Thought-provoking essays discuss topics as diverse as the urban park movement, cemetery landscapes, temperance drama, religion and nationalism, the popularity of panoramas, gender issues, and newspaper portrayals of American Indians and Chinese immigrants. Once again Edgar Allan Poe receives extensive critical attention: important books examine his use of visual arts; his influence on film, music, and television; and his poetry and poetics; and several useful articles discuss his manuscripts, forensic psychology, and fashion. Washington Irving’s use of sanctuaries serves as the basis of an intriguing book on that author, and a superb essay examines Irving’s notions of “geocultural change.” Several splendid works consider James Fenimore Cooper, addressing topics including the influence of Jane Austen, his environmental writings, and the American Indian and land ownership. A major collection of essays contributes to scholarship on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and a new collection on William Cullen Bryant’s short stories acquaints readers with a long neglected period of [End Page 211] his literary career. A new biography of William Wells Brown, a book-length study of Frederick Douglass’s visit to Ireland, and an anthology of 19th-century African American verse stand as important contributions to African American studies. Investigators provide keen insights into the works of various women writers, including Mary F. W. Gibson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Susan Warner, E. D. E. N. Southworth, Lydia Maria Child, and Susan Fenimore Cooper. And a fine edition of William Gilmore Simms’s reviews and essays stands as a significant contribution on antebellum Southern writers.

i Period Studies

Maura D’Amore’s Suburban Plots examines how the period’s periodicals and books, affected by rapid industrial and technological change, encouraged men to leave overcrowded, disease-ridden, expensive cities and move to the suburbs. D’Amore asserts that writers including Henry Ward Beecher and Nathaniel Parker Willis “utilized the pen to plot opportunities for a new sort of male agency that was grounded, literarily and spatially, in a suburbanized domestic landscape.” Suburban environments provided relief from the stifling cities, and numerous periodicals, novels, and domestic treatises presented plans for constructing houses and communities that would afford men the opportunity to experience “self-rejuvenation and aesthetic gratification.” Beecher, fueled by the religious enthusiasm of the Second Great Awakening and citing the negative impact of sprawling urbanization, trumpeted in his environmental writings the restorative potential of nature. His Seven Lectures for Young Men offered guidance to those who felt alienated from and overwhelmed by city life. Willis’s Out-doors at Idlewild stressed the role of aesthetics in male suburban domestic life and noted that the smallest details of a man’s home and its surrounding landscape should reflect his personality. Willis believed that “suburban home owners were more likely to devote themselves to the art of living well than were people who lived in urban or rural communities.” Although D’Amore does not devote extensive attention to Washington Irving, she does note in her introduction that Irving in Tales of a Traveller (1824)—D’Amore mistakenly dates it 1829—created the “prototype of the domestic-minded man” and offered a vision of domestic manhood that would serve as a model for other writers who would attempt to reshape “the literary and literal space between country and city in the middle decades of the nineteenth [End Page 212] century.” Irving “presented a new model of suburban masculinity for the newly established nation,” and his works “offer compelling evidence of a nascent symbiotic relationship between celebrity culture and print culture that would flower more visibly only a few decades later.” This fine study surveys how various writers viewed suburbs...


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pp. 211-233
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