The Poetics of National and Racial Identity in Nineteenth-Century American Literature

Synopsis

Examining the literary history of racial and national identity in nineteenth-century America, John Kerkering argues that writers such as DuBois, Hawthorne and Whitman used poetic effect to emphasize the distinctiveness of certain groups against a diffuse social landscape. Kerkering tells the story of how poetry helped define America as a nation before helping to define America into distinct racial categories. He concludes that through a shared reliance on formal literary effects, national and racial identities become related elements of a single literary history.