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

By Leonard Tennenhouse | Go to book overview

NOTES

Chapter One: Diaspora and Empire

1. That there is a problem with assuming a clean separation of American from British literature is born out in the confused way that American universities have institutionalized research and teaching in the areas of American literature, history, and culture. American literature tends to be nestled within departments of English literature. American history, on the other hand, is housed in history departments, along with other national histories, and requires entirely different training from a specialization in European history. A number of universities have created programs and departments of American Studies devoted to the cultural, ethnic, and social history of the United States—but not its literary traditions. English departments teach survey courses that assume the two literatures were separate and distinct at least from the late seventeenth century on. Indeed, the major literary anthologies in the field reflect this division. Thus in present-day institutional terms, American literature, in contrast with American history, is both separate from, and yet somehow still attached to, British literature. It is this peculiar relationship that I mean to explore.

2. Among the growing tradition of scholarship that addresses transatlantic literary relations are Paul Giles, Transatlantic Insurrections: British Culture and the Formation of American Literature, 1730-1860 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001); Julie Ellison, Cato's Tears and the Making of Anglo-American Emotion (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999); Steven Fink and Susan S. Williams, eds., Reciprocal Influences: Literary Production, Distribution and Consumption in America, (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1999); David Shields, Oracles of Empire: Poetry, Politics, and Commerce in British America, 1690-1750 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990); Michael Kraus, The North Atlantic Civilization (Princeton: Van Noostrand, 1957); William L. Sachse, The Colonial American in Britain (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1956); and Clarence Gohdes, American Literature in Nineteenth-Century England (New York: Columbia University Press, 1944).

3. A Literature of Their Own: British Women Novelists from Bronte to Lessing (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1977).

4. Or so Philip Gura saw the field when he surveyed two decades of scholarship. He made the point then that while historians had by the mid-1980s abandoned that notion of exceptionalism, literary scholars still clung to it. The overwhelming tendency today is to read colonial American literature as if it were sui generis and to look for an unbroken line of development within a field constituted only by American texts. Philip F. Gura, “The Study of Colonial American Literature, 1966-1987: A Vade Mecum,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 45 (1988): 309.

5. See William C. Spengemann, A New World of Words: Redefining Early American Literature (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), and A Mirror for Americanists: Reflections on the Idea of American Literature (Hanover, N.H.: Published for Dartmouth College by The University Press of New England, 1989).

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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
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