The Importance of Feeling English: American Literature and the British Diaspora, 1750-1850

Princeton University Press
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American literature is typically seen as something that inspired its own conception and that sprang into being as a cultural offshoot of America's desire for national identity. But what of the vast precedent established by English literature, which was a major American import between 1750 and 1850?

In The Importance of Feeling English, Leonard Tennenhouse revisits the landscape of early American literature and radically revises its features. Using the concept of transatlantic circulation, he shows how some of the first American authors--from poets such as Timothy Dwight and Philip Freneau to novelists like William Hill Brown and Charles Brockden Brown--applied their newfound perspective to pre-existing British literary models. These American "re-writings" would in turn inspire native British authors such as Jane Austen and Horace Walpole to reconsider their own ideas of subject, household, and nation.

The enduring nature of these literary exchanges dramatically recasts early American literature as a literature of diaspora, Tennenhouse argues--and what made the settlers' writings distinctly and indelibly American was precisely their insistence on reproducing Englishness, on making English identity portable and adaptable. Written in an incisive and illuminating style, The Importance of Feeling English reveals the complex roots of American literature, and shows how its transatlantic movement aided and abetted the modernization of Anglophone culture at large.

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About the author

Leonard Tennenhouse is professor of English, comparative literature, and modern culture and media at Brown University. He is the author of Power on Display: The Politics of Shakespeare's Genres.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Feb 9, 2009
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Pages
176
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ISBN
9781400827923
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Criticism / American / General
Literary Criticism / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh
Literary Criticism / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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A landmark American drama that inspired a classic film and a Broadway revival—featuring an introduction by David Mamet

A blistering character study and an examination of the American melting pot and the judicial system that keeps it in check, Twelve Angry Men holds at its core a deeply patriotic faith in the U.S. legal system. The play centers on Juror Eight, who is at first the sole holdout in an 11-1 guilty vote. Eight sets his sights not on proving the other jurors wrong but rather on getting them to look at the situation in a clear-eyed way not affected by their personal prejudices or biases. Reginald Rose deliberately and carefully peels away the layers of artifice from the men and allows a fuller picture to form of them—and of America, at its best and worst.
 
After the critically acclaimed teleplay aired in 1954, this landmark American drama went on to become a cinematic masterpiece in 1957 starring Henry Fonda, for which Rose wrote the adaptation. More recently, Twelve Angry Men had a successful, and award-winning, run on Broadway.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
During the thirty years following ratification of the U.S. Constitution, the first American novelists carried on an argument with their British counterparts that pitted direct democracy against representative liberalism. Such writers as Hannah Foster, Isaac Mitchell, Royall Tyler, Leonore Sansay, and Charles Brockden Brown developed a set of formal tropes that countered, move for move, those gestures and conventions by which Samuel Richardson, Jane Austen, and others created their closed worlds of self, private property, and respectable society. The result was a distinctively American novel that generated a system of social relations resembling today's distributed network. Such a network operated counter to the formal protocols that later distinguished the great tradition of the American novel.

In Novels in the Time of Democratic Writing, Nancy Armstrong and Leonard Tennenhouse show how these first U.S. novels developed multiple paths to connect an extremely diverse field of characters, redefining private property as fundamentally antisocial and setting their protagonists to the task of dispersing that property—its goods and people—throughout the field of characters. The populations so reorganized proved suddenly capable of thinking and acting as one. Despite the diverse local character of their subject matter and community of readers, the first U.S. novels delivered this argument in a vernacular style open and available to all. Although it differed markedly from the style we attribute to literary authors, Armstrong and Tennenhouse argue, such democratic writing lives on in the novels of Cooper, Hawthorne, Melville, and James.

During the thirty years following ratification of the U.S. Constitution, the first American novelists carried on an argument with their British counterparts that pitted direct democracy against representative liberalism. Such writers as Hannah Foster, Isaac Mitchell, Royall Tyler, Leonore Sansay, and Charles Brockden Brown developed a set of formal tropes that countered, move for move, those gestures and conventions by which Samuel Richardson, Jane Austen, and others created their closed worlds of self, private property, and respectable society. The result was a distinctively American novel that generated a system of social relations resembling today's distributed network. Such a network operated counter to the formal protocols that later distinguished the great tradition of the American novel.

In Novels in the Time of Democratic Writing, Nancy Armstrong and Leonard Tennenhouse show how these first U.S. novels developed multiple paths to connect an extremely diverse field of characters, redefining private property as fundamentally antisocial and setting their protagonists to the task of dispersing that property—its goods and people—throughout the field of characters. The populations so reorganized proved suddenly capable of thinking and acting as one. Despite the diverse local character of their subject matter and community of readers, the first U.S. novels delivered this argument in a vernacular style open and available to all. Although it differed markedly from the style we attribute to literary authors, Armstrong and Tennenhouse argue, such democratic writing lives on in the novels of Cooper, Hawthorne, Melville, and James.

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