This important new study examines what short fiction “can tell us about ideas of the United States before 1845” (4). Fash's careful readings of fictional sketches and tales by a range of authors—Nathaniel Hawthorne, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, Sarah Josepha Hale, among others—highlight how these works “allowed nineteenth-century white US readers to imagine themselves as part of a larger national community” (9). On the surface, this might appear to be a relatively straightforward project, yet what makes the book valuable to the field of nineteenth-century literary studies is the way in which Fash contextualizes her close readings within the regional, national, and international print cultures of the 1820s, 1830s, and early 1840s. Fash's readings illustrate how writers used the forms of the sketch and the tale to participate in, and at times to interrogate and disrupt, what she calls “the culture of beginnings” (8)—that is, the...
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Book Review| May 01 2021
The Sketch, the Tale, and the Beginnings of American Literature
The Sketch, the Tale, and the Beginnings of American Literature. By Fash, Lydia G..
U of Virginia P,
2020. 303 pp. $65.00 cloth, $37.50 paper.
Peter West is Professor of English and Dean of the School of Liberal Arts at Mercy College in New York. He is the author of The Arbiters of Reality: Hawthorne, Melville, and the Rise of Mass Information Culture, and coeditor of The Panorama: Texts and Contexts: 1787–1900.
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Nathaniel Hawthorne Review (2021) 47 (1): 176–179.
Peter West; The Sketch, the Tale, and the Beginnings of American Literature. Nathaniel Hawthorne Review 1 May 2021; 47 (1): 176–179. doi: https://doi.org/10.5325/nathhawtrevi.47.1.0176
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