In this landmark work, the seven great writers of the American Renaissance--Emerson, Thoreau, Writman, Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, and Dickinson--are examined together in their cultural contexts. David Reynolds reveals how these authors broadly assimilated the themes and images of popular culture. Their classic works--among them Moby Dick, The Scarlet Letter, Leaves of Grass, Walden, and the tales of Poe--are given strikingly original reading when viewed against the rich, often startling background of long neglected popular writings of the time.
Reynolds also explores a whole lost world of sensational literature, including grisly novels, openly sold on the street, that combined intense violence with explicit eroticism. He demonstrates as well how common concerns with issues of religion, slavery, and workers' (as well as women's) rights resonate in the major writings.
Introduction The Open Text: American Writers and Their Environment
Part One: God's Bow, Man's Arrows: Religion, Reform, and American Literature 1. The New Religious Style 2. The Reform Impulse and the Paradox of Immoral Didacticism 3. The Transcendentalists, Whitman, and Popular Reform 4. Hawthorne and the Reform Impulse 5. Melville's Whited Sepulchres
Part Two: Public Poison: Sensationalism and Sexuality 6. The Sensational Press and the Rise of Subversive Literature 7. The Erotic Imagination 8. Poe and Popular Irrationalism 9. Hawthorne's Cultural Demons 10. Melville's Ruthless Democracy 11. Whitman's Transfigured Sensationalism
Part Three: Other Amazons: Women's Rights, Women's Wrongs, and the Literary Imagination 12. Types of American Womanhood 13. Hawthorne's Heroines 14. The American Women's Renaissance and Emily Dickinson
Part Four: The Grotesque Posture: Popular Humor and the American Subversive Style 15. The Carnivalization of American Language 16. Transcendental Wild Oats 17. Whitman's Poetic Humor 18. Stylized Laughter in Poe, Hawthorne, and Melville
Reconstructive Criticism:Literary Theory and Literary History
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