American Literary History and the Turn toward Modernity

American Literary History and the Turn toward Modernity

Melanie V. Dawson and Meredith L. Goldsmith

Print publication date: 2019

ISBN: 9780813056043

Publisher: University Press of Florida


Approaching the period of 1880 to 1930 in American literature as one in which the processes of rethinking the past were as prevalent as wholly “new” works of art, this collection treats the century’s long turn as a site that overtly staged the tension among conflicting sets of values—those of past, present, and the imagined future. Navigating established literary modes as well as anticipatory inscriptions of the “modern,” turn-of-the-century authors continually negotiated ideological boundaries, treating the century’s long turn as a period ripe for experimentation. Essays in the collection, which range across topics such as canonicity, advice literature, Native American education, companionate marriage, turn-of-the-century feminism, dime novels, and the Harlem Renaissance, stress the hybridity born of multiple historical investments. As the authors of this collection demonstrate, the literature from the century’s turn is irreducible to the characteristics either of the nineteenth or the twentieth centuries; rather, it is literature of dual practices and multiple values that embodies elastic qualities of historical plurality – a true literature in transition.