Dreaming revolution: transgression in the development of American romance

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University of Iowa Press, Jul 1, 1993 - Literary Criticism - 125 pages
Dreaming Revolution usefully employs current critical theory to address how the European novel of class revolt was transformed into the American novel of imperial expansion. Bradfield shows that early American romantic fiction - including works by William Godwin, Charles Brockden Brown, James Fenimore Cooper, and Edgar Allan Poe - can and should be considered as part of a genre too often limited to the Nineteenth-century European novel. Beginning with Godwin's Caleb Williams, Bradfield describes the ways in which revolution legitimates itself as a means of establishing Political consensus. For European revolutionaries like Godwin or Rousseau, the tyranny of the king must be replaced by the more indisputable authority of human reason. In other words, democratic revolution makes people free to investigate the same truths and arrive at the same democratic conclusions. In the American novel, however, the Enlightenment's idealized pursuit of abstract truth becomes restructured as a pursuit of abstractspace. Instead of revealing knowledge, Americans explore further territories, manifest destiny, limitless regions of the yet-to-be-colonized and the still-to-be-known. In a spirited discussion of works by Brown, Cooper and Poe, Bradfield argues that Americans take the class dynamics of the European psychological novel and apply them to the American landscape, reimagining psychological spaces as geographical ones. Class distinctions become refigured in terms of the common people's pursuit of a meaning vaster than themselves - a meaning which leads them to imagine the always expanding body of colonial America. However, since class conflict is never successfully eliminated or forgotten, the memoryof class struggle always reemerges in the narrative like a half-repressed dream of politics. In Dreaming Revolution, Bradfield reveals and interprets these dreams, opening these American novels to a richer and more rewarding

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Edgar Huntly
James Fenimore Cooper
Edgar Allan Poe

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About the author (1993)

Scott Bradfield is the author of The History of Luminous Motion, Good Girl Wants It Bad, Hot Animal Love, The Secret Life of Houses, Dream of the Wolf, Greetings From Earth, What's Wrong with America, and Animal Planet.