1st Edition

Class and the Making of American Literature
Created Unequal

ISBN 9781138547452
Published February 6, 2018 by Routledge
308 Pages

USD $54.95

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Book Description

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.

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

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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).


"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