British Culture and the Formation of American Literature, 1730-1860
"A rich and varied work."—Leonard Tennenhouse, Brown University
"Paul Giles . . . describes episodes of literary exchange between Britain and America not as case studies in reproduction or disavowal but as moments of 'transnational convergence.'. . . A rich and reasoned understanding of what these influences may be and of the often inspired anxiety they produce."—Modern Language Quarterly
Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2001
Paul Giles traces the paradoxical relations between English and American literature from 1730 through 1860, suggesting how the formation of a literary tradition in each national culture was deeply dependent upon negotiation with its transatlantic counterpart. Using the American Revolution as the fulcrum of his argument, Giles describes how the impulse to go beyond conventions of British culture was crucial in the establishment of a distinct identity for American literature. Similarly, he explains the consolidation of British cultural identity partly as a response to the need to suppress the memory and consequences of defeat in the American revolutionary wars.
Giles ranges over neglected American writers such as Mather Byles and the Connecticut Wits as well as better-known figures like Franklin, Jefferson, Irving, and Hawthorne. He reads their texts alongside those of British authors such as Pope, Richardson, Equiano, Austen, and Trollope. Taking issue with more established utopian narratives of American literature, Transatlantic Insurrections analyzes how elements of blasphemous, burlesque humor entered into the making of the subject.
Paul Giles is University Lecturer in American Literature at the University of Cambridge and author of Hart Crane: The Context of The Bridge.