European Revolutions and the American Literary Renaissance

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Yale University Press, 1988 - History - 207 pages
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Political issues and events have always acted as a catalyst on thought and art. In this study, Larry J. Reynolds argues that the European revolutions of 1848-49 quickened the American literary imagination and shaped the characters, plots, and themes of the American renaissance. He traces the impact of the revolutions on Emerson, Fuller, Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman, and Thoreau, showing that the upheavals abroad both inspired and disturbed. Unlike many studies that have emphasized the national features and revolutionary spirit of our classic American literature, Reynolds's study, which places this literature in an international context, reveals its conservative, counterrevolutionary side. Emerson witnessed the revolutionary turmoil in England and France during the spring of 1848. Reynolds contends that Emerson disdained the revolutions but was unable to resist their challenge - they inspired him to articulate with renewed vigor the idealism at the center of his spiritual life. Reynolds describes next the 'Bloody June Days' in Paris and examines their effect on American writings, particularly Uncle Tom's Cabin. In his discussion of Margaret Fuller, Reynolds compares her response to the socialist revolution with Emerson's and demonstrates that her Tribune dispatches from Italy, written during the Roman Revolution, constitute a powerful historical narrative of unrecognized artistry and value. Turning to the writings of Hawthorne and Melville, Reynolds explains that these authors, who viewed the revolutions skeptically, were moved to incorporate into their masterpieces the imagery and issues attracting public attention around them. Focusing on Whitman's fascination with the revolutionary events he covered as an editor, Reynolds describes how under their influence Whitman conceived himself as a poet of insurrection and began Leaves of Grass. He concludes with Thoreau, showing how residual excitement about the revolutions led to the reshaping of Walden into a spiritual autobiography emphasizing purity and serenity.
  

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European revolutions and the American literary Renaissance

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An addition to the continuing efforts of literary historians to flesh out, amend, and build upon F.O. Mathiessen's seminal work, Reynolds's book examines in detail the direct and indirect influences ... Read full review

Contents

Students at the Pont de la Concorde
7
Headlines of the New York Tribune 22 April 1848
13
Engraving of La1nartine on Front Page of the New York Herald
20
Emerson and The Movement
25
National Workshop Tailors in the Prison of Clichy at Paris
33
The Red Revolution
44
The June DaysPlace Maubert Paris
47
Women on a Barricade Near the Porte St Denis Paris during
56
The Scarlet Letter and Revolutions Abroad
79
Woodcut in the Boston Post 14 June 1849
83
The Death of Louis XVI
89
MobyDick and the Matter of France
97
French MenofWar in Typee Bay
102
Peche de la Baleine detail by Ambroise Louis Garneray
112
Revolution Martyrdom and Leaves of Grass
125
Kossuth Fever and the Serenity of Walden
153

Battle at the Porta San Pancrazi0
70

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About the author (1988)

Larry J. Reynolds is Thomas Franklin Mayo Professor in Liberal Arts and Professor of English at Texas A&M University, where he co-founded and served as first director of the Interdisciplinary Group for Historical Literary Study. He is author of James Kirke Paulding and European Revolutions and the American Literary Renaissance and co-editor of "These Sad But Glorious Days": Dispatches from Europe, 1846 1850 and New Historical Literary Study.

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