Sensational Designs

Sensational Designs : The Cultural Work of American Fiction 1790-1860

3.95 (87 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

This challenging book works towards a redefinition of literature and literary study. The texts the author examines are viewed not as works of art embodying enduring themes, but as attempts to redefine the social order.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 256 pages
  • 137.16 x 205.74 x 17.78mm | 317.51g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195041194
  • 9780195041194
  • 880,798

Back cover copy

What makes a literary classic? In "Sensational Designs" Jane Tompkins argues that it is not the intrinsic merit of a text, but rather the circumstances of its writing. Against the modernist belief that art, in order to be art, must be free from propaganda, Tompkins contends that writers like Brockden Brown, Cooper, Stowe, and Warner wrote in order to alter the face of the social world, not to elicit aesthetic appreciation.Thus, the value and significance of the novels, for readers of their time, depended on precisely those characteristics that formalist criticism has taught us to deplore: stereotyped characters, sensational plots, and cliched language.show more

Review quote

One of the important works of the year....Contains some of the best arguments I know on the conventionality of canon formation. * Michael J. Hoffman, American Literary Scholarship *show more

Rating details

87 ratings
3.95 out of 5 stars
5 28% (24)
4 46% (40)
3 21% (18)
2 6% (5)
1 0% (0)
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