1st Edition

Constructions of Agency in American Literature on the War of Independence War as Action, 1775-1860

By Martin Holtz Copyright 2019
    242 Pages
    by Routledge

    242 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book argues that the negotiation of agency is central not only to the experience of war but also to its representation in cultural expressions, ranging from a notion of disablement, expressed in victimization, immobilization, traumatization, and death, to enablement, expressed in the perpetration of heroic, courageous, skillful, and powerful actions of assertion and dominance. In order to illustrate this thesis, it provides a comprehensive analysis of literary representations of the American War of Independence from 1775, the beginning of the war, up until roughly 1860, when the Civil War marked a decisive historical turning point. As the first national war, it has an unquestionably exemplary status for the development of American conceptions of war. The in-depth study of exemplary texts from a variety of genres and by authors like Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, James Fenimore Cooper, Catharine Sedgwick, William Gilmore Simms, and Herman Melville, demonstrates that the overall character of Revolutionary War literature presents the war as a forum in which collective and individual agency is expressed, defended, and cultivated. It uses the military environment in order to teach the values of discipline and self-subordination to a communal good, which are perceived as basic principles of a Republican virtue to guide the actions of the autonomous individual in a popular democracy.


    1. Introduction

    2. Agency

    2.1. Agency in Philosophy

    2.1.1. Determinism vs. Libertarianism, Compatibilism vs. Incompatibilism

    2.1.2. Intentional Actions – Definition and Qualities

    2.1.3. Intentional Actions – Complications and Gradations

    2.2. Agency in Sociology and Cultural Studies

    2.2.1. Structure as Restriction

    2.2.2. The Reproduction of Structure as Agency

    2.2.3. Structure as Enabler

    2.2.4. Agency as Resistance to Structure

    2.3. Agency in War and the Military

    2.3.3. The Agency of Armies: Strategy and Friction on the Battlefield

    2.3.4. The Agency of Soldiers: Drilling and Killing

    2.4. Agency in Literature

    2.4.1. Characters as Agents

    2.4.2. Narration as Action

    2.4.3. The Agency of the Reader

    3. Agency in American Literature on the War of Independence 1775-1860

    3.1. Literature during the War – Calls to Action

    3.1.1. Declarations and Pamphlets

    3.1.2. Satire

    3.1.3. Poetry

    3.1.4. Drama

    3.1.5. Autobiographical Narratives

    3.2. Literature after the War – Calls to Virtue

    3.2.1. Memoirs

    3.2.2. James Fenimore Cooper

    The Spy (1821)

    The Pilot (1823)

    Lionel Lincoln (1823)

    3.2.3. Cooper’s Heirs – The 1820s

    Seventy-Six (1823)

    Saratoga (1824)

    The Refugee (1825)

    3.2.4. Cooper’s Heirs – The 1830s

    The Hawks of Hawk-Hollow (1835)

    The Linwoods (1835)

    Horse-Shoe Robinson (1835)

    The Partisan (1835)

    3.2.5. Herman Melville: Israel Potter: His Fifty Years in Exile (1855)

    4. Conclusion



    Dr. Martin Holtz attained his Ph.D. degree at Greifswald University (Germany) in the subject of North American Studies in 2009 with the thesis "American Cinema in Transition: The Western in New Hollywood and Hollywood Now" (summa cum laude), which was published in 2011. Dr. Holtz completed his post-doctoral degree (Habilitation) in 2017. He is currently assistant professor at the Chair of Anglophone Literature and Culture in Greifswald, focusing on American literature and Film. He has published widely on American cinema, particularly the Western.