Unsettled States: Nineteenth-Century American Literary Studies

Unsettled States: Nineteenth-Century American Literary Studies

Unsettled States: Nineteenth-Century American Literary Studies

Unsettled States: Nineteenth-Century American Literary Studies

Synopsis

In Unsettled States, Dana Luciano and Ivy G. Wilson present some of the most exciting emergent scholarship in American literary and cultural studies of the "long" nineteenth century. Featuring eleven essays from senior scholars across the discipline, the book responds to recent critical challenges to the boundaries, both spatial and temporal, that have traditionally organized scholarship within the field. The volume considers these recent challenges to be aftershocks of earlier revolutions in content and method, and it seeks ways of inhabiting and amplifying the ongoing unsettledness of the field.

Written by scholars primarily working in the "minor" fields of critical race and ethnic studies, feminist and gender studies, labor studies, and queer/sexuality studies, the essays share a minoritarian critical orientation. Minoritarian criticism, as an aesthetic, political, and ethical project, is dedicated to finding new connections and possibilities within extant frameworks. Unsettled States seeks to demonstrate how the goals of minoritarian critique may be actualized without automatic recourse to a predetermined "minor" location, subject, or critical approach. Its contributors work to develop practices of reading an "American literature" in motion, identifying nodes of inquiry attuned to the rhythms of a field that is always on the move.

Excerpt

In the early morning of December 16, 1811, the first of a major series of earthquakes struck the Mississippi Valley. The earthquakes continued through the following spring, numbering over 1,800 in total. Centered in the Louisiana territory, in a region now shared between southeastern Missouri and northeastern Arkansas, their effects were felt for over a million square miles. They cracked sidewalks in Washington, D.C., damaged buildings in Savannah, Georgia, destroyed huge tracts of forest, and permanently altered the course of rivers; local legend held that during the worst quakes, the Mississippi flowed backward. The riverbank town of New Madrid, for which both the earthquakes and the fault line later designated as their cause would be named, was all but destroyed by months of shaking and flooding.

Preoccupied by the War of 1812 and border conflicts with Indian nations, the state responded to the earthquakes rather slowly. When it did, it used them as another occasion to reassert already-familiar national narratives: those of American exceptionalism, found in the . . .

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