The Literary Quest for an American National Character: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Literary Quest for an American National Character

1st Edition

By Finn Pollard


258 pages

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"What then is the American, this new man?" This question is explored here through the lives and writings of a sequence of imaginative authors each of whom confronted a crucial moment in the evolution of the new nation (from Crevecoeur and the Revolution, through Washington Irving and Jeffersonian Democracy, to James Fenimore Cooper and the Era of Good Feelings). At the centre of these confrontations was a division between those who claimed national perfection had been obtained, and those who, while desperately wanting to believe this, perceived all too clearly that that perfection had not yet come. Rediscovering this neglected literary debate, The Literary Quest for an American National Character illuminates afresh the traumatic birth and development of the new American nation.

Table of Contents


1 – A Farmer asks a Question and a Scientist creates a Model (c.1760-1776)

2 – Hugh Henry Brackenridge and the Dogma of Balance

3 – The Defining Moment: Washington Irving and A History of New York

4 – The Fragments: Minor Writers (c.1810-1824)

5 – The Illusion Ascendant: James Fenimore Cooper and the Art of Reconciliation

Conclusion: A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs




About the Author

Finn Pollard is a historian of the literature and politics of revolutionary and early national United States. He is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh and has held lectureships at the universities of Glasgow and Newcastle.

About the Series

Routledge Transnational Perspectives on American Literature

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / American / General