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The Oxford History of the Novel in EnglishVolume 5: The American Novel to 1870$
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J. Gerald Kennedy and Leland S. Person

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780195385359

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780195385359.001.0001

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Revolutionary Novels and the Problem of Literary Nationalism

Revolutionary Novels and the Problem of Literary Nationalism

(p.124) 7 Revolutionary Novels and the Problem of Literary Nationalism
The Oxford History of the Novel in English

Joseph J. Letter

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the Revolutionary novel written between 1820 and 1850, with emphasis on its “supplemental” relation to the American historical romance and to literary nationalism. As a genre, Revolutionary novels countered the national narrative of progress with local stories that served as reminders of the nation’s fragmented and conflicted Revolutionary past. They used the American Revolution to negotiate the complex and various historical legacies of the individual states, while giving literary form to the very wounds of history that literary nationalists attempted to deny or ignore as sectional conflicts gradually led the country toward the Civil War. The Revolutionary novel tackled mourning and loss as opposed to the optimism of national progress. It also personified historical ruin, as exemplified by works such as James Fenimore Cooper’s The Spy: A Tale of the Neutral Ground (1821) and John Neal’s Seventy-Six (1823).

Keywords:   historical romance, Revolutionary novel, literary nationalism, American Revolution, history, Civil War, mourning, loss, national progress, historical ruin

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