Dissertation: American Literary Nationalism in the Early Republic

American Literary Nationalism in the Early Republic

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Studien zur Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Band 8

Hamburg , 284 Seiten

ISBN 978-3-8300-2556-6 (Print) |ISBN 978-3-339-02556-2 (eBook)

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What is an American? How is he different from an Englishman? What essential difference between the two merits a war for American independence – or should the American colonies continue as colonies of the British crown? Ever since the onset of the revolution, such questions abounded in America, and they did not cease to be asked when military victory had been won. The newly-founded republic needed a cultural foundation to prove its right to exist. Literature turned out to be one forum in which the debate over an American national culture was carried out.

Using review texts and other specimens of literary criticism from periodicals and other publications, this study provides a synopsis and analysis of the argumentative strategies which both literary nationalists and their opponents in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries employed in the debate over an American national literature.

Based on the assumption that nations are “imagined communities, Markus Müller finds that on their campaign to define and establish an American national identity, American cultural leaders encountered the great difficulty of distinguishing the young republic from the former mother country while at the same time using the cultural traditions of England as a basis for an American national culture.

Using French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of habitus and a number of recent theories of identity, this book shows how American cultural leaders of the Early Republic went about in defining an American national identity and establishing it as a legitimate cultural tradition, as a foundation of the young American republic.

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