The Fashioning of Middle-Class America: Sartain's Union Magazine of Literature and Art and Antebellum Culture

By Sivananda, Mantri | Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA), March 2005 | Go to article overview

The Fashioning of Middle-Class America: Sartain's Union Magazine of Literature and Art and Antebellum Culture


Sivananda, Mantri, Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA)


The Fashioning of Middle-Class America: Sartain's Union Magazine of Literature and Art and Antebellum Culture Heidi L. Nichols. New York: Peter Lang, 2004.

This work provides a comprehensive understanding of the literary and social vision of Sartain's Union Magazine of Literature and Art and Antebellum Culture. Nichols's study of this nineteenth-century Philadelphia periodical is a significant contribution to the cultural identity of a new nation. Based on the study of Ann Katherine Martinez and Heidi Schulz, the two prominent scholars of Sartain's, the book identifies the periodical's role m shaping the middleclass American values through its varied contents ranging from poetry to architecture.

Starting with an overview of the historiography of nineteenth-century periodicals, the book examines the working of Sartain's in the background of the social tensions of the time. Examining the literary contributions of the magazine, Nichols does an amazing job setting a discourse between Ralph Waldo Emerson and John Hart on American identity. Addressing the magazine's bias toward American poets and writers, the Nichols refers to James Rhoades and Caroline May and appraises the underlying theme of their works, such as romanticism and the refining of poetic power. She establishes a connection between artistic proliferation and democratic vision, and refers to some of the principal contributors of the magazine, such as George Burleigh, who believed that an aesthetic vision in everyday technological devices would enhance the economic and industrial development of a young nation. But Nichols does not provide illustrations of fashion plates and architectural designs in context. …

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