The Rhetoric of American Romance: Dialectic and Identity in Emerson, and Dickinson, Poe, and Hawthorne

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Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985 - 288 pages
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"The formalistic application of the term romance to a species of nineteenth-century narrative fiction fails to do justice to the range and concerns of American romance writers, argues Evan Carton. The Rhetoric of American Romance redefines romance as a self consciously dialectical enactment of critical and philosophic concerns about the relation of words to things and about the nature of the self. For Evan Carton, the distinctive features of the American romance are its rhetorical transgression of generic boundaries, its exploration of the divide--and its fabrication of connections--between the real and the ideal, and its ambivalent attitude toward the powers and limitations of language and imagination. The book demonstrates its theoretical claims through new readings of Emerson, Dickinson, Poe, and Hawthorne that are both independently convincing and mutually supportive. From the works of these four writers, Carton identifies the strategies and structures of romance in four different formal genres. The essays, poems, and stories of Emerson, Dickinson, and Poe exemplify the predicament of romance, which "must imagine the highest reality but which, in doing so, cannot help but see its achievement as merely imaginary, metaphorical, and linguistic." In the novelistic career of Hawthorne (which Carton discusses most extensively), these tensions culminate in The Marble Faun's exploration of the problem of a meaning in world where foundations--conceptual, moral, architectural, aesthetic--have crumbled but where the models they have supported remain powerful. In its paradoxical quest to locate the real by means of imagination and language, the American romance expresses an epistemological dialectic that informs our culture. As a creative mode that highlights the act of interpretation, it suggestively embodies the problem of meaning in contemporary criticism." -- Publisher's description

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Originality and the Self
The Terror of Integration the Terror of Detachment
The Power of Words

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