Class and the Making of American Literature: Created Unequal, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Class and the Making of American Literature

Created Unequal, 1st Edition

Edited by Andrew Lawson


308 pages

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This book refocuses current understandings of American Literature from the revolutionary period to the present-day through an analytical accounting of class, reestablishing a foundation for discussions of class in American culture. American Studies scholars have explored the ways in which American society operates through inequality and modes of social control, focusing primarily on issues of status group identities involving race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and disability. The essays in this volume focus on both the historically changing experience of class and its continuing hold on American life. The collection visits popular as well as canonical literature, recognizing that class is constructed in and mediated by the affective and the sensational. It analyzes class division, class difference, and class identity in American culture, enabling readers to grasp why class matters, as well as the economic, social, and political matter of class. Redefining the field of American literary cultural studies and asking it to rethink its preoccupation with race and gender as primary determinants of identity, contributors explore the disciplining of the laboring body and of the emotions, the political role of the novel in contesting the limits of class power and authority, and the role of the modern consumer culture in both blurring and sharpening class divisions.


"This volume will be valuable to specialists in American studies and literature, working-class studies, and sociology. Summing Up: Recommended." -- K A. Welsch, Clarion University of Pennsylvania, CHOICE

"Andrew Lawson’s capably-edited, wide-ranging volume on issues of class in American letters presents itself as an intervention into a milieu in which class has tended "to drop out of the trinity of critical terms," that is, race, class, and gender. As a rule, its fifteen authors perform this intervention effectively, often by drawing attention to previously neglected or non-canonical texts." -- Wiley College, Marshall, Texas

Table of Contents

Introduction Andrew Lawson Part I: Class in Early American Literature 1. The Shays Rebellion in Literary History Ed White 2. The Secret Witness: Thinking, and Not Thinking, about Servants in the Early American Novel Matthew Pethers Part II: Class in the Antebellum Period 3. Cheap Reading and the Rise of Proletarian Print Culture David M. Stewart 4. The City Sketch: Writing Middle-Class Identity on the Streets of Antebellum New York John Evelev 5. Materializing Identification: Theorizing Class Identification in Nineteenth-Century Literary Texts Lori Merish Part III: Class in the Gilded Age and the Progressive Period 6. Cultures of Class in the Gilded Age Labor Problem Novel Larry Isaac 7. "A question of meum and tuum:" The Civilization of the Commodity and the Maintenance of Inequality in Charles Chesnutt’s The Conjure Woman and The Marrow of Tradition Tim Libretti 8. Edith Wharton, Insider Information, and the ‘Inherited Obligations’ of Class Peter Knight Part IV: Class in the Early to Mid-Twentieth Century 9.From Class Imaginary to Cultural Revolution in Willa Cather Robert Seguin 10.Class Passing in the Fiction of the Great Depression: Breaking Boundaries Through Fashion Jan Goggans 11. Broken Frames: The World War II Novel and the Legibility of Class in the U.S. Historical Imagination Chris Vials Part V: Class in Contemporary American Literature 12. The Future as Form: Undoing the Categorical Separation of Class and Gender in Ana Castillo’s Sapogonia Marcial González 13. A Killing Greed: Capitalism, Casinos, and Violence in Contemporary Native American Literature Melanie Benson Taylor 14. "Not / one": The Poetics of the Multitude in Great Recession-Era America Margaret Ronda Part VI: Teaching Class 15. Teaching U.S. Working Class Literature; or, Firing the Canon Bill V. Mullen

About the Editor

Andrew Lawson is Principal Lecturer in English Literature at Leeds Metropolitan University. He is the author of Walt Whitman and the Class Struggle (2006) and Downwardly Mobile: The Changing Fortunes of American Realism (2012).

About the Series

Routledge Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Literature

This series is our home for cutting-edge, upper-level scholarly studies and edited collections. Taking an interdisciplinary approach to literary studies, it engages with topics such as philosophy, science, race, gender, film, music, and ecology. Titles are characterized by dynamic interventions into established subjects and innovative studies on emerging topics.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / American / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Social Classes