Beneath the American Renaissance: The Subversive Imagination

David S. Reynolds, Author Alfred A. Knopf $40 (625p) ISBN 978-0-394-54448-9
Poe's portraits of psychopathic murderers, Melville's studies of incest and deceit, Whitman's hymns to sexual passion and Hawthorne's allegories of social outcasts had roots in the popular writings of their daypenny newspapers, crime pamphlets, erotic fiction, sensational novels, Oriental and visionary tales. In a massive, dense study, Reynolds, who teaches at Rutgers, shows that 19th century American writers were not isolated elitists, as assumed. Emerson, for example, infused his essays with the color and imagery of torrid evangelical preaching; Emily Dickinson drew upon the ""literature of misery,'' feminist ficiton which projected an embittered female self; Melville grafted such genres as mystery fiction, yellow novels and Yankee humor. Astonishing in its scope and wealth of new connections, this sweeping study is a landmark in the reevaluation of 19th century American literature. Illustrations not seen by PW. (April)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1988
Release date: 03/01/1988
Paperback - 656 pages - 978-0-674-06565-9
Open Ebook - 978-0-307-96294-2
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