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Politics and Skepticism in Antebellum American Literature

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Part of Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture

  • Date Published: September 2016
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107431669

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  • In confronting their tumultuous time, antebellum American writers often invoked unrevealable secrets. Five of Ralph Waldo Emerson's most inventive interlocutors - Melville, Hawthorne, Dickinson, Douglass and Jacobs - produced their most riveting political thought in response to Emerson's idea that moods fundamentally shape one's experience of the world, changing only through secret causes that no one fully grasps. In this volume, Dominic Mastroianni frames antebellum and Civil War literature within the history of modern philosophical skepticism, ranging from Descartes and Hume to Levinas and Cavell, arguing that its political significance lies only partially in its most overt engagement with political issues like slavery, revolution, reform, and war. It is when antebellum writing is most philosophical, figurative, and seemingly unworldly that its political engagement is most profound. Mastroianni offers new readings of six major American authors and explores the teeming archive of nineteenth-century print culture.

    • Offers an original account of the political and philosophical thought of six major American writers
    • Explores antebellum American conceptions of 'secret causes' that are neither public nor private and that go against the grain of liberal individualism
    • Frames antebellum and Civil War writings within the context of modern philosophical skepticism
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    Product details

    • Date Published: September 2016
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107431669
    • length: 228 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 13 mm
    • weight: 0.33kg
    • contains: 1 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Moods and the secret cause of revolution in Emerson
    2. Revolutionary time and democracy's cause in Melville's Pierre
    3. Hawthorne and the temperatures of secrecy
    4. Causes of falling, civil war, and the poetics of survival in Dickinson's 'Fascicle 24'.

  • Author

    Dominic Mastroianni, Clemson University, South Carolina
    Dominic Mastroianni is an Assistant Professor of English at Clemson University, South Carolina. He is the winner of the 2012 Hennig Cohen Prize, awarded by The Melville Society for the best essay or chapter in Melville studies. He is currently writing a monograph on vulnerability, philosophy, and nineteenth-century American literature.

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