Non-Fiction Books:

Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture: Series Number 36


Paperback / softback

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Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture: Series Number 36 by John P. McWilliams
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John McWilliams's 1990 book was the first thorough account of the many attempts to fashion an epic literature (the anxiously anticipated 'American Epic') from a wide range of potentially heroic New World subjects. At the outset, McWilliams considers the many problems - cultural, political and literary' - of adapting Enlightenment views of republican progress to a genre that had traditionally celebrated the greatness of warriors. After a survey of the many epic poems written during and after the American Revolution, McWilliams shows how and why the epic had to be transformed from imitative narrative poetry into the new, open genres of prose history (Irving, Prescott and Parkman), fictional romance (Cooper and Melville) and free verse (Whitman). Believing that reviews are an important and slighted agent of literary change, McWilliams has written his book in the form of chronological literary history. His book, however, is no march of dates within tired categories. The American Epic suggests that imaginative writers of the Romantic era were in fact far less proscriptive about the boundaries of literary genre than many a twentieth-century writer and scholar.
Release date NZ
April 2nd, 2009
Country of Publication
United Kingdom
Worked examples or Exercises
Cambridge University Press
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