Ideology and Classic American Literature

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Sacvan Bercovitch, Myra Jehlen
Cambridge University Press, 1986 - Literary Criticism - 451 pages
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This volume of essays brings together some of the best work by Americanists concerned with the problem of ideology and its bearing upon American literature and culture. It projects neither a particular ideological view nor a particular view of ideology. On the contrary: these essays highlight the many uses of ideology as a critical term, and, in doing so, they open fresh avenues of inquiry and forums for discussion. They also demonstrate that, far from being parochial or reductive, ideological analysis is integral to considerations of formal structure and crucial to an understanding of the relations between literature and culture. Their essays deal variously with theoretical issues, with questions of theme, genre, and perspective, and with interpretations of particular authors and texts. The editors of the volume provide a general introduction to the nature and development of ideological critique, and an afterword that discusses the coherence of the volume as a whole and its implications for further study.
  

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Contents

Symbol and Idea in Virgin Land
21
Pastoralism in America
36
Myth and the Production of History
70
American Criticism Left and Right
91
The Novel and the Middle Class in America
125
Figurations for a New American Literary History
145
American Studies as a Cultural Program
172
Reification and American Literature
188
Uncle Toms Cabin and the Politics
267
Walden and the Curse of Trade
293
Melvilles Economy of Language
313
Art Religion and the Problem of Authority in Pierre
337
Benito Cereno and
352
Melville and Cultural Persuasion
384
Afterword
418
Selected Bibliography
443

of the Crowd
221
The Politics of The Scarlet Letter
247

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About the author (1986)

Sacvan Bercovitch, who is a professor at Harvard University, is probably the most influential critic in American studies today. Tracing the function of rhetoric in American writing from the Puritans through the nineteenth century, Bercovitch has argued that the persuasiveness of rhetoric is in proportion to its capacity to help people act in history. In his books, Bercovitch has revealed the power of American rhetoric as it creates a myth of America that conflates religious and political issues, transforming even the most despairing and critical energies into affirmations of the American way. Among his major arguments is the idea that the rhetoric of America's colonial sermons and histories, founding documents, such as the Declaration of Independence, and novels of the American Renaissance, all participate in the project of transforming what he calls dissensus into rituals of consensus.

Myra Jehlen is the Board of Governors Professor of Literature at Rutgers University. She is the author of "American Incarnation: The Individual, the Nation, and the Continent," among others, and coeditor of "The English Literatures of America, 1500-1800,

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