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Atlantic Double-Cross

American Literature and British Influence in the Age of Emerson

In this ambitious study of the intense and often adversarial relationship between English and American literature in the nineteenth century, Robert Weisbuch portrays the rise of American literary nationalism as a self-conscious effort to resist and, finally, to transcend the contemporary British influence.

Describing the transatlantic "double-cross" of literary influence, Weisbuch documents both the American desire to create a literature distinctly different from English models and the English insistence that any such attempt could only fail. The American response, as he demonstrates, was to make strengths out of national disadvantages by rethinking history, time, and traditional concepts of the self, and by reinterpreting and ridiculing major British texts in mocking allusions and scornful parodies.

Weisbuch approaches a precise characterization of this "double-cross" by focusing on paired sets of English and American texts. Investigations of the causes, motives, and literary results of the struggle alternate with detailed analyses of several test cases. Weisbuch considers Melville’s challenge to Dickens, Thoreau’s response to Coleridge and Wordsworth, Hawthorne’s adaptation of Keats and influence on Eliot, Whitman’s competition with Arnold, and Poe’s reshaping of Shelley. Adding a new dimension to the exploration of an emerging aesthetic consciousness, Atlantic Double-Cross provides important insights into the creation of the American literary canon.

358 pages | 6 x 9 | © 1986

Literature and Literary Criticism: American and Canadian Literature

Table of Contents

Preface: The American’s Secret
One - The Dimensions of Influence
1. The Burden of Britain and the American Writer
2. Melville’s "Bartleby" and the Dead Letter of Charles Dickens
Two - Writer, Nation, Culture
3. A Litany of Causes
4. Whitman’s Personalism, Arnold’s Culture
Three - Ages of National Life
5. Cultural Time in England and America
6. Thoreau’s Dawn and the Lake School’s Night
Four - Substituting the Past
7. History in the Brain, Thought in the Land
8. History, Time, and Spirit: Whitman against Wordsworth, Carlyle and Emerson against Themselves
Five - Redeeming the Real
9. American Actualism
10. The Actualist Hero: Whitman and Wordsworth, Emerson and Carlyle Once More
Six - The Aging of America
11. Ontological Insecurity
12. Henry James and the Treaty of Gardencourt

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