Books and articles dealing with the “Americanness” of American literature are legion; I think it safe to say that every major general work on our literature as a whole and on our authors incorporates that stance. Books and articles reflecting on the status of the novel as an instrument for producing interpretations are also legion, and the ease with which the approach carries over from a didactic journal like College English to an advanced theoretical statement in Diacritics indicates, to my mind, the continuity of the critical activity. In the list that follows I note only books and articles with a historical focus on the period I study.
Baym, Nina. Woman’s Fiction: A Guide to Novels by and about Women in America, 1820–1870. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1978
Bell, Michael Davitt. Hawthorne and the Historical Romance of New England. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1971.
Charvat, William. Literary Publishing in America: 1790–1850. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1959.
Charvat, William. The Profession of Authorship in America, 1800–1870: The Papers of William Charvat. Edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1968. (Charvat discusses the beginnings of professionalism, the conditions of authorship, the relation between literary economics and literary history, and other contextualizing matters that are generally ignored in text-centered and major-author-centered literary histories. While he states emphatically that “we err, as historians, in allowing the taste of the modern reader to nullify the taste of the nineteenth-century reader” and complains about the “persistent neglect of the reader as a force in literature” [p. 290], he also objects to using reviewers as a substitute for readers, believing that the reviewer is not a good guide to reception because he may have been simply puffing and was at best just another reader, so that there is no necessary relation between critical response and reader response [pp. 291–92]. In framing my arguments I have been sensitive to Charvat’s objection and have tried to read the reviews for what they tell us directly or by implication about readers whose preferences differed from the reviewer’s. The matter of puffery is not so significant, because so long as the reviewer advanced reasons for his praise, criteria and expectations can be inferred.)
Douglas, Ann. The Feminization of American Culture. New York: Viking, 1977.
Hart, James D. The Popular Book. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1951.
Jones, Howard Mumford. “American Comment on George Sand, 1837–1848.” American Literature 3(1932):389–407. (Jones takes the reviewer reception to equal the reader reception despite the clear evidence that Sand’s popularity was precisely what was calling out the reviewer’s commentary. In addition, Jones’s extracts stress the Victorian American disapproval in the reviews without noting the constant qualifying acknowledgment of her genuis.)
Martin, Terence. The Instructed Vision: Scottish Common Sense Philosophy and the Origins of American Fiction. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1961. (Argues for a distinct American fictional genre, the romance, deriving from the would-be fictionist’s sense of American hostility to fiction. The evidence is taken chiefly from early antifiction statements in orations, graduation addresses, and the like. An invaluable book for the earliest periods of American literary history but one that does not follow the story into the 1830s and after, when fiction triumphed despite this early hostility.)
Miller, Perry. The Raven and the Whale: The War of Words and Wits in the Era of Poe and Melville. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1956. (A melodramatic account of New York City journalistic rivalries with emphasis on American literary nationalism and Melville’s career.)
Mills, Nicolaus. American and English Fiction in the Nineteenth Century: An Antigenre Critique and Comparison. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973. (Argues persuasively against the parceling out of novel and romance to England and America respectively: “It is impossible to accept as adequate the general assertion that American fiction is distinguishable because it veers ‘more freely’ than English fiction, ‘toward mythic, allegorical, and symbolistic, forms’” [p. 17]. Mills’s analysis, however, is based on thematic rather than formal concerns, taking fiction as constituted by its meaning: the implications of a historical vision, the treatment of a religious dilemma, and so on.)
Mott, Frank Luther. A History of American Magazines. Vol. 1: 1740–1850. New York: Appleton, 1930. Vol. 2: 1871–1870. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1938. (An invaluable resource for a project of this kind, and useful to all students of American life.)
Mott, Frank Luther. Golden Multitudes. New York: Macmillan, 1947.
Petter, Henri. The Early American Novel. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1971.
Pritchard, John Paul. Literary Wise Men of Gotham: Criticism in New York, 1817–1860. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1963. (A study of literary criticism in New York City magazines, designed in part as a corrective to Miller. Chapter 3, pp. 61–82, is entitled “The Art and Practice of Fiction.” Pritchard observes that “all reputable fiction was subsumed under the term novel” and that “in discussion it is rarely possible to discover whether the distinction between novel and romance was active in the writer’s mind” [pp. 62, 64]. He writes that reviewers, though showing a “preference for profitable pleasure as the end of literature,” found that in the novel “the pleasurable ends generally dominated,” though there was an increasing stress on profit in the era; he also finds, as a related matter, the novel of character being stressed and increasingly thought of as a higher class of fiction than the novel of pure plot [p. 82]. He identifies and describes individual reviewers.
Reynolds, David S. Faith in Fiction: The Emergence of Religious Literature in America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981.
Smith, Henry Nash. Democracy and the Novel: Popular Resistance to Classic American Authors. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978. (An antipopular approach to the dilemmas of “serious” authors in. the American tradition.)
Spencer, Benjamin T. The Quest for Nationality: An American Literary Campaign. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1957. (Makes clear that the movement peaked in the late 1830s and never centered on the novel. Accepts a distinction between the novel and the romance and observes the role of women authors in fiction, albeit patronizingly: “In their preoccupation with the detail of their own narrow locales, these female writers undoubtedly contributed to an indigenous domestic realism; yet in their general concern for fashion and sentiment per se they also evolved what was frequently called a ‘milliner’s literature’” [p. 217]. Spencer has a usefully broad sense of the makeup of a nationalist consensus, in contrast to the romance-based theorists, finding groups of novelists including Young Americans, scribbling women, tran-scendentalists, Knickerbockers, romancers, and incipient realists disagreeing on literary practice but still moving toward “a single objective, a literature consonant with what they believed to be America’s peculiar destiny” [p. 218].)
Tebbel, John. A History of Book Publishing in the United States. 3 vols. New York: R. R. Bowker, 1972–1978.
Wright, Lyle H. American Fiction, 1851–1865: A Contribution toward a Bibliography. San Marino, Calif.: Huntington Library, 1965.
Wright, Lyle H. American Fiction, 1774.-1850: A Contribution toward a Bibliography. San Marino, Calif.: Huntington Library, 1969.