Synopses & Reviews
, the story of religious delusions and horrific violence on the eve of the American Revolution, is the first gothic novel in America and a cornerstone of the Early American literary canon. A family living on an estate outside Philadelphia is visited first by a set of mysterious voices, seemingly coming out of thin air, followed soon after by an itinerant rustic named Carwin. Violence erupts when the family's young patriarch believes he hears God's voice demanding a human sacrifice as a sign of faith. Testing the limits of religious and literary authority in the new United States, Brown's novel has for more than two centuries kept readers debating questions of agency, accountability, and revolutionary politics as the story's moral chaos unfolds. The editor provides explanatory annotation throughout the volume. This Norton Critical Edition also reprints , Brown's fragmentary sequel to Wieland. "Sources and Contexts" presents inspirations for Brown's work, including an account of the real-life Yates family murders, an excerpt from Christoph Martin Wieland's , as well as religious and medical accounts of delusion, spontaneous combustion, and ventriloquism. Brown's outline for and his letter to Thomas Jefferson are also reprinted. "Criticism" includes contemporary responses to the novel from both the United States and the United Kingdom along with fourteen essential modern critical approaches. Recent contributors include Shirley Samuels, Christopher Looby, Nancy Ruttenberg, Laura Korobkin, David Kazanjian, Bryan Waterman, and Stephen Shapiro, among others. A Chronology and a Selected Bibliography are also included.
A light proceeding from the edifice made every part of the scene visible. A gleam diffused itself over the intermediate space, and instantly a loud report, like the explosion of a mine, followed. She uttered an involuntary shriek, but the new sounds that greeted her ear, quickly conquered her surprise. They were piercing shrieks, and uttered without intermission. The gleams which had diffused themselves far and wide were in a moment withdrawn, but the interior of the edifice was filled with rays.
-- From Weiland, by Charles Brockden Brown -- a seminal work both of American literature and the literature of the weird.
The first gothic novel in America, (1798) is now available in a Norton Critical Edition.
About the Author
Bryan Waterman is Associate Professor of English at New York University. He is the author of The Friendly Club of New York City and the Making of American Literature and several essays on American literature and culture published in American Literary History, Early American Literature, The William and Mary Quarterly, and elsewhere. He is the coeditor, with Cyrus R. K. Patell, of The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of New York.