Archives of American Time
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Archives of American Time
Literature and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century

Lloyd Pratt

248 pages | 6 x 9 | 6 illus
Cloth 2009 | ISBN 978-0-8122-4208-9 | $55.00s | £36.00 | Add to cart
Ebook 2011 | ISBN 978-0-8122-0353-0 | $55s | £36.00 | About | Add to cart
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Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2010

"Essential."—Choice

"Archives of American Time does something only a few special books have been able to do quite so well in recent years: it makes nineteenth-century American literature relevant to some of the most important arguments being made right now by scholars in other areas—arguments about temporality and spatial scale, print, postcoloniality, and global literary culture."—Trish Loughran, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

American historians have typically argued that a shared experience of time worked to bind the antebellum nation together. Trains, technology, and expanding market forces catapulted the United States into the future on a straight line of progressive time. The nation's exceedingly diverse population could cluster around this common temporality as one forward-looking people.

In a bold revision of this narrative, Archives of American Time examines American literature's figures and forms to disclose the competing temporalities that in fact defined the antebellum period. Through discussions that link literature's essential qualities to social theories of modernity, Lloyd Pratt asserts that the competition between these varied temporalities forestalled the consolidation of national and racial identity. Paying close attention to the relationship between literary genre and theories of nationalism, race, and regionalism, Archives of American Time shows how the fine details of literary genres tell against the notion that they helped to create national, racial, or regional communities. Its chapters focus on images of invasive forms of print culture, the American historical romance, African American life writing, and Southwestern humor. Each in turn revises our sense of how these images and genres work in such a way as to reconnect them to a broad literary and social history of modernity. At precisely the moment when American authors began self-consciously to quest after a future in which national and racial identity would reign triumphant over all, their writing turned out to restructure time in a way that began foreclosing on that particular future.

Lloyd Pratt teaches English at Michigan State University.

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