Hard Facts

Hard Facts : Setting and Form in the American Novel

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American culture has often been described in terms of paradigmatic images--the wilderness, the Jeffersonian landscape of family farms, the great industrial cities at the turn of the 19th century. But underlying these cultural ideals are less happy paradoxes. Settling the land meant banishing the Indians and destroying the wilderness; Jeffersonian landscapes were created with the help of the new country's enslaved citizens; and economic opportunities in the cities were purchased at the high price of self-commercialization. In this study of the popular 19th- and early 20th-century American novel, Philip Fisher demonstrates how such works as Dreiser's Sister Carrie and An American Tragedy, Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin and Cooper's The Deerslayer worked to make these three "hard facts" of the 19th-century American experience familiar and tolerable--or familiar and intolerable--to their wide audience of readers. His perceptive analysis proves that the most important cultural "work" was accomplished not by novels generally taken to be at the core of the American literary canon--those of Hawthorne, Melville, or Twain--but rather by books which never abandoned the ambition to be widely read.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 200 pages
  • 139.7 x 213.4 x 15.2mm | 272.16g
  • Oxford University Press, USA
  • New York, NY, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 0195041313
  • 9780195041316

Review quote

"Fisher makes striking observations about the cultural function of literature....[His] readings are based on a deep knowledge of literary and social theory, and he manages to make the theory his own. The result is a form of historical criticism that reformulates familiar subjects (the wilderness, the homestead, the city) so as to raise a wholly new set of questions."--Western Humanities Review "The study of American fiction of the 19th century has long been a business of reclamation.... Fisher's fascinating extension of this campaign in his treatment of Cooper and Stowe draws partly on previous pioneering efforts like Leslie A. Fiedler's Love and Death in the American Novel and Leo Marx's The Machine in the Garden, and in its probing at the guilty root of the national culture it deserves to be placed alongside them, as classic American criticism."--Times Literary Supplement "A key text for anyone interested in theories of the novel, the nature of American fiction, or the dynamics of cultural history."-Library Journal "An essential book for all readers of the American novel."--Antioch Review "Bound to become required reading for anyone interested in American fiction and its relation to American culture."--Modern Language Reviewshow more