Romances of the Republic

Romances of the Republic : Women, the Family, and Violence in the Literature of the Early American Nation

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Romances of the Republic contributes to the lively field of scholarship on the interconnection of ideology and history in early American literature. Shirley Samuels illustrates the relations of sexual, political, and familial rhetoric in American writing from 1790 to the 1850s. With special focus on depictions of the American Revolution and on the use of the family as a model and instrument of political forces, she examines how the historical novel formalizes the more extravagant features of the gothic novel--incest, murder, the horror of family--while incorporating a sentimental vision of the family. Samuels's analysis deals with writers like Charles Brockden Brown, Catherine Sedgwick, James Fenimore Cooper, and Mason Weems, and argues that their novels formulated a family structure that, unlike earlier models, was neither patriarchal nor a revolt against patriarchy. In emphasizing sibling rivalry and inter-generational quarrels about marriage, the novel of this period attempted to unite disparate political, national, class, and even racial positions.
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Product details

  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • New ed.
  • 1423764900
  • 9781423764908

Review quote

"Samuels's reinterpretation of early American culture will awaken new interest and spark new ideas for anyone interested in this period, regardless of their disciplinary, theoretical, or ideological perspectives. Her striking thesis and fresh, penetrating readings will challenge established assumptions and generate lively and productive debates. Her splendid book will set a new agenda for early American studies."--Emory Elliott, University of California, Los Angeles and author of Revolutionary Writers: Literature and Authority in the New Republic, 1725-1810 (OUP 1986)"Romances of the Republic is a striking investigation, through both literature and historical documents, of the connections between nationalism and the bonds of personal liberty represented by the family. In its welcome attention to questions of rebellion, violence, and social control that had their emblem in the family's precarious structures of authority, the book promises to revise dramatically our notions of the novel as a social instrument."--Eric Sundquist, University of California, Los Angeles and editor of The Oxford W. E. B. Du Bois Reader (OUP 1996)"The publication of Romances of the Republic has been eagerly anticipated by scholars of early US culture. In it, Samuels redefines the terrain of traditional studies of early national culture and the early novel. Stepping past the separate-spheres habit of literary and cultural studies and refusing to be blinkered by sentimental reverence for familial forms, Samuels reads the (often violent) linkages between familial and political."--Dana Nelson, University of Kentucky and author of The Word in Black and White: Reading "Race" in American Literature, 1638-1867 (OUP 1993)"Frequently original and sometimes dazzlingly so in its specific readings, this book breaks new ground in a variety of ways. First and foremost, Samuels has changed the matrix for studying republican ideology, from self-fashioning to family fashioning."--Davi
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