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Beneath the American Renaissance : the subversive imagination in the age of Emerson and Melville /
David S. Reynolds.
1st ed.
New York : Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 1988.
x, 625 p., [16] p. of plates : facsims., ports.
More Details
series title
New York : Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 1988.
catalogue key
Bibliography: p. 569-604.
Includes index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1988-09:
This unique study of Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, and Dickinson cannot be welcomed enough and is surely destined for the classic shelf in countless libraries. For the many readers who will be richly rewarded by the original readings of old favorites--Moby Dick, The Scarlet Letter, Leaves of Grass, Walden, the tales of Poe--Reynolds (Rutgers University, Camden) delves beneath the American Renaissance by analyzing the process by which previously neglected popular modes and stereotypes were transferred into literary texts by the seven Renaissance greats and by discovering forgotten texts of raw power, energy, and complexity. Besides comparing the major literature of the American Renaissance with lesser-known works from popular culture, Reynolds, the author of a Twayne study on George Lippard (CH, Jan '83), also combines literary analysis with social history and discusses writings of various geographical regions and of both sexes. With 16 pages of illustrations, notes, and an index, this book should be required reading for every student and scholar of this singular moment in American culture. Libraries with 19th-century collections will find this work at once a vital tool and treasure. -G. S. Rosselot, University of North Carolina at Wilmington
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 1988-02-26:
Poe's portraits of psychopathic murderers, Melville's studies of incest and deceit, Whitman's hymns to sexual passion and Hawthorne's allegories of social outcasts had roots in the popular writings of their daypenny newspapers, crime pamphlets, erotic fiction, sensational novels, Oriental and visionary tales. In a massive, dense study, Reynolds, who teaches at Rutgers, shows that 19th century American writers were not isolated elitists, as assumed. Emerson, for example, infused his essays with the color and imagery of torrid evangelical preaching; Emily Dickinson drew upon the ``literature of misery,'' feminist ficiton which projected an embittered female self; Melville grafted such genres as mystery fiction, yellow novels and Yankee humor. Astonishing in its scope and wealth of new connections, this sweeping study is a landmark in the reevaluation of 19th century American literature. Illustrations not seen by PW. (April) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Library Journal on 1988-04-15:
Using the products of popular culture between 1820 and 1855 more comprehensively than do other Renaissance scholars, Reynolds tries to fix our ``classic'' texts (e.g., Moby Dick ) as culminating transfigurations of, rather than anomalous reactions against, the voluminous literature of their day. He focuses especially on the various reform literatures, new religious evangelical style, and flood of popular fiction, arguing that our major writers were able to absorb the style, themes, and genres of these sub-literary materials without sacrificing aesthetic control. Though he tends to overstate specific influences and embraces too mechanical a model for the creative process, his argument and impressive display of materials make for a significant contribution to American studies. Earl Rovit, City Coll., CUNY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews,
Publishers Weekly, February 1988
Library Journal, April 1988
Booklist, June 1988
Choice, September 1988
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Table of Contents
The Open Text: American Writers and Their Environment
God's Bow, Man's Arrows: Religion, Reform, and American Literature
The New Religious Style
The Reform Impulse and the Paradox of Immoral Didacticism
The Transcendentalists, Whitman, and Popular Reform
Hawthorne and the Reform Impulse
Melville's Whited Sepulchres
Public Poison: Sensationalism and Sexuality
The Sensational Press and the Rise of Subversive Literature
The Erotic Imagination
Poe and Popular Irrationalism
Hawthorne's Cultural Demons
Melville's Ruthless Democracy
Whitman's Transfigured Sensationalism
Other Amazons: Women's Rights, Women's Wrongs, and the Literary Imagination
Types of American Womanhood
Hawthorne's Heroines
The American Women's Renaissance and Emily Dickinson
The Grotesque Posture: Popular Humor and the American Subversive Style
The Carnivalization of American Language
Transcendental Wild Oats
Whitman's Poetic Humor
Stylized Laughter in Poe, Hawthorne, and Melville
Epilogue Reconstructive Criticism: Literary Theory and Literary History
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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