1st Edition

Literary Interventions in the Campaign Biography

By Michael J. Blouin Copyright 2021
    208 Pages
    by Routledge

    208 Pages
    by Routledge

    Continue Shopping

    Literary Interventions in the Campaign Biography considers campaign biographies written by major authors including Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Dean Howells, Lew Wallace, Jacob Riis, and Rose Wilder Lane. Whereas a number of cultural historians have previously considered campaign biographies to be marginal or isolated from the fictional output of these figures, this volume revisits the biographies in order to understand better how they inform, and are informed by, seismic shifts in the literary landscape. The book illuminates the intersection of American literature and politics while charting how the Presidency has developed in the public imagination. In so doing, it poses questions of increasing significance about how we understand the office as well as its occupants today.

    1. Introduction: The Campaign Biography as American Literature
    2. Presidential Biographies and the Knickerbockers
    3. Nathaniel Hawthorne and the (Im)perfect President
    4. William Dean Howells and the Real American President
    5. Interlude: Wolcott Balestier and the Candidate’s Secret
    6. Lew Wallace, Benjamin Harrison, and the Historical Romance
    7. Jacob Riis, Theodore Roosevelt, and the Art of Adoration
    8. Rose Wilder Land and the Frontier Candidate
    9. The Campaign Autobiography


    Michael J. Blouin, PhD, is an Associate Professor in English and the Humanities at Milligan University. His areas of interest include nineteenth-century American literature, politics, and popular culture. He and co-author Tony Magistrale were recently awarded the Carl Bode prize for best essay from the Journal of American Culture in 2019. He was also invited to serve as guest editor for a special issue of the Journal of Popular Culture entitled "Neoliberalism and Popular Culture" (2018). Blouin’s other works include Stephen King and American Politics (2021), as well as Mass-Market Fiction and the Crisis of American Liberalism, 1972–2017 (2018). He received his doctorate in American Studies from Michigan State University in 2012. He currently resides in East Tennessee with his wife and two daughters.

    "In this well-written and insightful book, Michael Blouin challenges our understanding of American politics, culture, and literature. He also persuades readers to pay better attention to books that have largely been ignored by literary critics. But rather than simply explain what we’ve been missing, Blouin explores how that strangely American genre, the campaign biography, can provoke important questions about authorship and aesthetics."

    -- Carl Sederholm, Editor, The Journal of American Culture

    "Rather than dickering around with dubious forms of cultural politics, Michael Blouin trains his critical artillery directly at the belly of the beast: US presidential politics. Reading campaign biographies produced between 1820 and 1920 by distinguished literati like Washington Irving, Nathanael Hawthorne, and William Dean Howells in the context of their better-known fictions, Blouin offers new ways of understanding the movement from Romanticism to realism: 'the "realer-than-thou" propulsion of American letters,' in his words. His work also models new ways of understanding the relation between literary and popular fiction. The final chapter, on the recent proliferation of candidate autobiographies by the Bushes, Obama, Sanders, and Hillary Clinton, is a corker. Blouin’s book is consistently engaging, theoretically sophisticated, and well argued."

    -- David Stowe, Professor in Religious Studies, Michigan State University