This essay argues that George Lippard's bold experimentation with novelistic form followed directly from his preoccupation with the concept of urban complicity, or the witting and unwitting ways city residents contributed to social harms and sustained "a corrupt social system." This essay argues further that Lippard's sociological and literary aesthetic innovation was inseparable from his religious commitments. Lippard's 1845 blockbuster The Quaker City is among the first U.S. novels to give sustained analytical attention to urban complicity, and the connection it unfolds between complicity study and the expressive limits of different kinds of story forms suggests that for Lippard, new kinds of complicity occasioned by the growth of American cities demanded new kinds of sociomoral investigation. The Quaker City concentrates on two modern forms of urban complicity, structural complicity and network complicity, and devotes markedly contrasting story forms to the investigation of each. Each kind of complicity imposes crucial aesthetic constraints on its own narrativization, and these constraints are overcome, the novel suggests, only when these two narrative forms, one presenting structural complicity's spatial fixity and one presenting network complicity's temporal flow, are subsumed within a totalizing vision of Christian eschatology.


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pp. 365-388
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