The Traumatic Colonel

America and the Long 19th Century

Book 3
NYU Press
1
Free sample

In
American political fantasy, the Founding Fathers loom large, at once historical
and mythical figures. In The Traumatic Colonel, Michael J. Drexler and
Ed White examine the Founders as imaginative fictions, characters in the
specifically literary sense, whose significance emerged from narrative elements
clustered around them. From the revolutionary era through the 1790s, the Founders
took shape as a significant cultural system for thinking about politics, race,
and sexuality. Yet after 1800, amid the pressures of the Louisiana Purchase and
the Haitian Revolution, this system could no longer accommodate the deep
anxieties about the United States as a slave nation.

Drexler
and White assert that the most emblematic of the political tensions of the time
is the figure of Aaron Burr, whose rise and fall were detailed in the
literature of his time: his electoral tie with Thomas Jefferson in 1800,
the accusations of seduction, the notorious duel with Alexander Hamilton, his
machinations as the schemer of a breakaway empire, and his spectacular treason
trial. The authors venture a psychoanalytically-informed exploration of post-revolutionary
America to suggest that the figure of “Burr” was fundamentally a displaced
fantasy for addressing the Haitian Revolution. Drexler and White expose how the
historical and literary fictions of the nation’s founding served to repress the
larger issue of the slave system and uncover the Burr myth as the crux of that
repression. Exploring early American novels, such as the works of Charles
Brockden Brown and Tabitha Gilman Tenney, as well as the pamphlets, polemics,
tracts, and biographies of the early republican period, the authors speculate
that this flourishing of political writing illuminates the notorious gap in
U.S. literary history between 1800 and 1820.

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About the author

Michael J. Drexler is Associate Professor of English at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. He is editor of Leonora Sansay’s Secret History; or The Horrors of St. Domingo and Laura and co-editor of Haiti and the Early US: Histories, Textualities, Geographies.

Ed White is Pierce Butler Associate Professor of American literature at Tulane University in New Orleans. He is the author of The Backcountry and the City: Colonization and Conflict in Early America, co-editor, with Michael J. Drexler, of Beyond Douglass: Essays in Early African-American Literature, and editor of Hugh Henry Brackenridge’s Modern Chivalry.

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Additional Information

Publisher
NYU Press
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Published on
Jul 11, 2014
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9781479875795
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Revolutionary
History / United States / Revolutionary Period (1775-1800)
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Reimagines the American 19th century through a sweeping interdisciplinary engagement with oceans, genres, and time

Emergent Worlds re-locates nineteenth-century America from the land to the oceans and seas that surrounded it. Edward Sugden argues that these ocean spaces existed in a unique historical fold between the transformations that inaugurated the modern era—colonialism to nationalism, mercantilism to capitalism, slavery to freedom, and deferent subject to free citizen. As travellers, workers, and writers journeyed across the Pacific, Atlantic, and Caribbean Sea, they had to adapt their political expectations to the interstitial social realities that they saw before them while also feeling their very consciousness, particularly their perception of time, mutate. These four domains—oceanic geography, historical folds, emergent politics, and dissonant times—in turn, provided the conditions for the development of three previously unnamed genres of the 1850s: the Pacific elegy, the black counterfactual, and the immigrant gothic.

In telling the history of these emergent worlds and their importance to the development of the literary cultures of the US Americas, Sugden proposes narratives that alter some of the most enduring myths of the field, including the westward spread of US imperialism, the redemptionist trajectory of black historiography, and the notion that the US Americas constituted a new world. Introducing a new generic vocabulary for describing the literature of the 1850s and crossing over oceans and languages, Emergent Worlds invokes an alternative nineteenth-century America that provides nothing less than a new way to read the era.

Perhaps the most popular of all canonical
American authors, Mark Twain is famous for creating works that satirize
American formations of race and empire. While many scholars have explored
Twain’s work in African Americanist contexts, his writing on Asia and Asian
Americans remains largely in the shadows. In Sitting in Darkness, Hsuan Hsu
examines Twain’s career-long archive of writings about United States relations
with China and the Philippines. Comparing Twain’s early writings about Chinese
immigrants in California and Nevada with his later fictions of slavery and
anti-imperialist essays, he demonstrates that Twain’s ideas about race were not
limited to white and black, but profoundly comparative as he carefully crafted
assessments of racialization that drew connections between groups, including
African Americans, Chinese immigrants, and a range of colonial populations.




Drawing on recent legal scholarship,
comparative ethnic studies, and transnational and American studies, Sitting in
Darkness engages Twain’s best-known novels such as Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry
Finn, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, as well as his
lesser-known Chinese and trans-Pacific inflected writings, such as the
allegorical tale “A Fable of the Yellow Terror” and the yellow face play Ah
Sin. Sitting in Darkness reveals how within intersectional contexts of Chinese
Exclusion and Jim Crow, these writings registered fluctuating connections
between immigration policy, imperialist ventures, and racism.

Of all the founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson stood out as the most controversial and confounding. Loved and hated, revered and reviled, during his lifetime he served as a lightning rod for dispute. Few major figures in American history provoked such a polarization of public opinion. One supporter described him as the possessor of "an enlightened mind and superior wisdom; the adorer of our God; the patriot of his country; and the friend and benefactor of the whole human race." Martha Washington, however, considered Jefferson "one of the most detestable of mankind"--and she was not alone.

While Jefferson’s supporters organized festivals in his honor where they praised him in speeches and songs, his detractors portrayed him as a dilettante and demagogue, double-faced and dangerously radical, an atheist and "Anti-Christ" hostile to Christianity. Characterizing his beliefs as un-American, they tarred him with the extremism of the French Revolution. Yet his allies cheered his contributions to the American Revolution, unmasking him as the now formerly anonymous author of the words that had helped to define America in the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson, meanwhile, anxiously monitored the development of his image. As president he even clipped expressions of praise and scorn from newspapers, pasting them in his personal scrapbooks.

In this fascinating new book, historian Robert M. S. McDonald explores how Jefferson, a man with a manner so mild some described it as meek, emerged as such a divisive figure. Bridging the gap between high politics and popular opinion, Confounding Father exposes how Jefferson’s bifurcated image took shape both as a product of his own creation and in response to factors beyond his control. McDonald tells a gripping, sometimes poignant story of disagreements over issues and ideology as well as contested conceptions of the rules of politics. In the first fifty years of independence, Americans’ views of Jefferson revealed much about their conflicting views of the purpose and promise of America.

Jeffersonian America

CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title
Winner of the George Washington Book Prize

When the delegates left the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in September 1787, the new Constitution they had written was no more than a proposal. Elected conventions in at least nine of the thirteen states would have to ratify it before it could take effect. There was reason to doubt whether that would happen. The document we revere today as the foundation of our country’s laws, the cornerstone of our legal system, was hotly disputed at the time. Some Americans denounced the Constitution for threatening the liberty that Americans had won at great cost in the Revolutionary War. One group of fiercely patriotic opponents even burned the document in a raucous public demonstration on the Fourth of July.

In this splendid new history, Pauline Maier tells the dramatic story of the yearlong battle over ratification that brought such famous founders as Washington, Hamilton, Madison, Jay, and Henry together with less well-known Americans who sometimes eloquently and always passionately expressed their hopes and fears for their new country. Men argued in taverns and coffeehouses; women joined the debate in their parlors; broadsides and newspaper stories advocated various points of view and excoriated others. In small towns and counties across the country people read the document carefully and knew it well. Americans seized the opportunity to play a role in shaping the new nation. Then the ratifying conventions chosen by "We the People" scrutinized and debated the Constitution clause by clause.

Although many books have been written about the Constitutional Convention, this is the first major history of ratification. It draws on a vast new collection of documents and tells the story with masterful attention to detail in a dynamic narrative. Each state’s experience was different, and Maier gives each its due even as she focuses on the four critical states of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Virginia, and New York, whose approval of the Constitution was crucial to its success.

The New Yorker Gilbert Livingston called his participation in the ratification convention the greatest transaction of his life. The hundreds of delegates to the ratifying conventions took their responsibility seriously, and their careful inspection of the Constitution can tell us much today about a document whose meaning continues to be subject to interpretation. Ratification is the story of the founding drama of our nation, superbly told in a history that transports readers back more than two centuries to reveal the convictions and aspirations on which our country was built.
Reimagines the American 19th century through a sweeping interdisciplinary engagement with oceans, genres, and time

Emergent Worlds re-locates nineteenth-century America from the land to the oceans and seas that surrounded it. Edward Sugden argues that these ocean spaces existed in a unique historical fold between the transformations that inaugurated the modern era—colonialism to nationalism, mercantilism to capitalism, slavery to freedom, and deferent subject to free citizen. As travellers, workers, and writers journeyed across the Pacific, Atlantic, and Caribbean Sea, they had to adapt their political expectations to the interstitial social realities that they saw before them while also feeling their very consciousness, particularly their perception of time, mutate. These four domains—oceanic geography, historical folds, emergent politics, and dissonant times—in turn, provided the conditions for the development of three previously unnamed genres of the 1850s: the Pacific elegy, the black counterfactual, and the immigrant gothic.

In telling the history of these emergent worlds and their importance to the development of the literary cultures of the US Americas, Sugden proposes narratives that alter some of the most enduring myths of the field, including the westward spread of US imperialism, the redemptionist trajectory of black historiography, and the notion that the US Americas constituted a new world. Introducing a new generic vocabulary for describing the literature of the 1850s and crossing over oceans and languages, Emergent Worlds invokes an alternative nineteenth-century America that provides nothing less than a new way to read the era.

Honorable Mention for the 2014 MLA Alan Bray Memorial Award

Finalist for the 2013 LAMBDA LGBT Studies Book Award


In nineteenth-century America—before the scandalous trial of Oscar Wilde, before the public emergence of categories like homo- and heterosexuality—what were the parameters of sex? Did people characterize their sexuality as a set of bodily practices, a form of identification, or a mode of relation? Was it even something an individual could be said to possess? What could be counted as sexuality?





Tomorrow’s Parties: Sex and the Untimely in Nineteenth-Century America provides a rich new conceptual language to describe the movements of sex in the period before it solidified into the sexuality we know, or think we know. Taking up authors whose places in the American history of sexuality range from the canonical to the improbable—from Whitman, Melville, Thoreau, and James to Dickinson, Sarah Orne Jewett, Harriet Jacobs, Frederick Douglass, and Mormon founder Joseph Smith—Peter Coviello delineates the varied forms sex could take in the lead-up to its captivation by the codings of “modern” sexuality. While telling the story of nineteenth-century American sexuality, he considers what might have been lostin the ascension of these new taxonomies of sex: all the extravagant, untimely ways of imagining the domain of sex that, under the modern regime of sexuality, have sunken into muteness or illegibility. Taking queer theorizations of temporality in challenging new directions, Tomorrow’s Parties assembles an archive of broken-off, uncreated futures—futures that would not come to be. Through them, Coviello fundamentally reorients our readings of erotic being and erotic possibility in the literature of nineteenth-century America.

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Turn: Washington’s Spies, now an original series on AMC

Based on remarkable new research, acclaimed historian Alexander Rose brings to life the true story of the spy ring that helped America win the Revolutionary War. For the first time, Rose takes us beyond the battlefront and deep into the shadowy underworld of double agents and triple crosses, covert operations and code breaking, and unmasks the courageous, flawed men who inhabited this wilderness of mirrors—including the spymaster at the heart of it all.

In the summer of 1778, with the war poised to turn in his favor, General George Washington desperately needed to know where the British would strike next. To that end, he unleashed his secret weapon: an unlikely ring of spies in New York charged with discovering the enemy’s battle plans and military strategy.

Washington’s small band included a young Quaker torn between political principle and family loyalty, a swashbuckling sailor addicted to the perils of espionage, a hard-drinking barkeep, a Yale-educated cavalryman and friend of the doomed Nathan Hale, and a peaceful, sickly farmer who begged Washington to let him retire but who always came through in the end. Personally guiding these imperfect everyday heroes was Washington himself. In an era when officers were gentlemen, and gentlemen didn’ t spy, he possessed an extraordinary talent for deception—and proved an adept spymaster.

The men he mentored were dubbed the Culper Ring. The British secret service tried to hunt them down, but they escaped by the closest of shaves thanks to their ciphers, dead drops, and invisible ink. Rose’s thrilling narrative tells the unknown story of the Revolution–the murderous intelligence war, gunrunning and kidnapping, defectors and executioners—that has never appeared in the history books. But Washington’s Spies is also a spirited, touching account of friendship and trust, fear and betrayal, amid the dark and silent world of the spy.
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