Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

The Song of Hiawatha

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

The Song of Hiawatha

Article excerpt

The Song of Hiawatha, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Illustrated by Frederic Remington. David R. Godine, March 2004. $23.95

This lovely little edition contributes to a fledgling recovery of nineteenth-century American poetry. Perhaps it is strange to call Godine's fine-press work "recovery"; the academic recovery effort in poetry of the nineteenth century has largely focused on women writers, and has generally divorced itself from the loving aestheticism which evinces itself in every page of Godine's book. After all, why "recover" Longfellow and the other "fireside" poets, who were long ago jettisoned from the American canon on two counts: dead-whitemaleness, and formal verse. A small amount of recent work in American literature, however, has begun to reevaluate the pervasiveness of poetry in nineteenth-century culture, and the undeniable popularity of Longfellow, and his schoolroom classic Hiawatha may now be read, albeit furtively, by self-respecting scholars of the period. I say "furtively" because no one, including Godine, has addressed the truly valid political critiques of Hiawatha in its romantic, sympathetic, garbled, singular depiction of the noble savage. …

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