Writing in the new nation : prose, print, and politics in the early United States /
Larzer Ziff.
New Haven, CT : Yale University Press, c1991.
xii, 209 p.
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New Haven, CT : Yale University Press, c1991.
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Includes bibliographical references and index.
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Appeared in Choice on 1992-03:
Ziff, author of The American 1890s (CH, Jan'67) and Literary Democracy (CH, Nov'81), has a thoroughly New Historicist hypothesis for his new book: that "print culture and American political culture were twins born from the same conditions and dependent upon one another for their well-being" and that to trace their twin history "generates a consideration of the way in which the represented self contended with the immanent self both in social conduct and written narratives." In the broadest sense, he wants to trace "the powerful drift from immanence to representation in both literature and society, from a common belief that reality resided in a region beneath appearance and beyond manipulation to the belief that it could be constructed and so made identical with appearance" (emphasis added). Given the ambitions signaled here, this slight book is bound to disappoint; the evidence for Ziff's grand scheme is simply too thin. In fact, this is a pleasant and intelligent survey of American writing from the Revolution to the 1830s. Johnathan Edwards, Cr`evecoeur, Brockden Brown, Franklin, Jefferson, and Cooper are given the kind of readings most helpful to undergraduates and other nonspecialists. For more probing analyses of the subject, one should see Richard D. Brown's Knowledge Is Power (CH, May'90) William J. Gilmore's Reading Becomes a Necessity of Life (CH, Mar'90), and Michael Warner's The Letters of the Republic (CH, Jan'91).-J. D. Wallace, Boston College
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, March 1992
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