The Importance of Feeling English: American Literature and the British Diaspora, 1750-1850

By Leonard Tennenhouse | Go to book overview

5
THE GOTHIC IN DIASPORA

LESLIE FIEDLER made the claim, “It is the gothic form that has been most fruitful in the hands of our best writers.”1 From the colonial period to the present day, our fiction has always been Gothic, he declared, “nonrealistic and negative, sadist and melodramatic—a literature of darkness and the grotesque in a land of light and affirmation” (29). Because American literature “is most deeply influenced by the gothic,” in Fiedler's view, it “is almost essentially a gothic one” (142). Writing almost thirty years later, Toni Morrison updated Fiedler's contention without really challenging it. She famously found in American fiction “images of impenetrable whiteness” that “appear almost always in conjunction with representations of black or Africanist people who are dead, impotent, or under complete control.” This phantom “companion to whiteness” is “a dark and abiding presence that moves the hearts and texts of American literature with fear and longing.” Indeed, Playing in the Dark, Morrison's own account of American literature, describes the formation of American literature as a “haunting, a darkness from which our early literature seemed unable to extricate itself.”2

Writing in the heyday of a kind of popular psychological criticism that combined depth psychology with a strain of anthropology that made Freud and Jung equal partners in truth-telling, Fiedler felt authorized to claim that “the guilt which underlies the gothic and motivates its plots is the guilt of the revolutionary haunted by the (paternal) past which he has been striving to destroy” (129). When he identified “the slaughter of the Indians” and “the abominations of the slave trade” as “special guilts” that were projected in the gothic form in America, Fiedler anticipated not only Morrison but also Philip Fisher and a number of other contemporary critics (143).3 Formulating her argument in the multicultural and historicist environment of more recent decades, Morrison could be much more explicit about the Africanist presence in American literature because she felt it was imperative to be more precise about the historical reasons for guilt. Nor have more recent explanations for this dependency on the gothic abandoned the effort to establish a psychological cause for the phobic fantasy we identify with gothic literature.4 American literary criticism still proceeds on the assumption that telling one more horrifying story about their inhu-

-94-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Importance of Feeling English: American Literature and the British Diaspora, 1750-1850
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Importance of Feeling English iii
  • For Nancy v
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • 1: Diaspora and Empire 1
  • 2: Writing English in America 19
  • 3: The Sentimental Libertine 43
  • 4: The Heart of Masculinity 73
  • 5: The Gothic in Diaspora 94
  • Afterword from Cosmopolitanism to Hegemony 118
  • Notes 129
  • Index 153
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 158

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.