The Week in Early American History

TWEAHHappy Sunday! With the excitement from March Madness still ringing through the halls at The Junto, we look forward to bringing you more great content on a wide range of issues in early American history in the coming weeks (including an interview with Mike Jarvis, our champion!). In the meantime, let’s head right to this week’s links!
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“The Empire of Romance”: Some Notes on Novels in an Extensive Republic

woman-reading-FragonardThe current issue of the Journal of the Early Republic includes Andrew Cayton’s SHEAR presidential address on the novel’s place in the postrevolutionary Atlantic world: “The Authority of the Imagination in an Age of Wonder.” The essay makes a case for the usefulness of period novels to early-republic historians. Cayton gives us three reasons novels are useful as historical sources:

  1. “The people we study paid attention to them.” Novels were significant parts of people’s lives, and they illuminate “the shifting structure of discourse and discourse communities” in early-nineteenth-century America.
  2. “They challenge our preoccupation with categories.” Novels were experiments in defining and redefining people.
  3. Novels reveal that many people conceived of liberty socially, “as a voluntary location of one’s self within overlapping social networks” (25-26). [1] Continue reading

“Anonymous and Cacophonous Pleasures”

Jared Gardner, The Rise and Fall of Early American Magazine Culture. Urbana, Chicago, and Springfield: University of Illinois Press, 2012.

jaredgardner-riseandfallAlmost by definition, studying communications media means examining the nature of rationality and the meaning of citizenship. So literary historians generally see the novel, which privileges dialogue and individual subjectivity, as helping to constitute a liberal social order, while political historians see newspapers as essential to various expressions of republicanism and democracy. In The Rise and Fall of Early American Magazine Culture, Jared Gardner contributes to the history of American citizenship by arguing that early-national American literary intellectuals mostly had their minds on a different print medium – and that they embraced a neglected model of rational public discourse.

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