Episodic Poetics: Politics and Literary Form after the Constitution by Matthew Garrett

Episodic Poetics: Politics and Literary Form after the Constitution

byMatthew Garrett

Hardcover | April 29, 2014

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The early United States was a culture of the episode. In Episodic Poetics, Matthew Garrett merges narrative theory with social and political history to explain the early American fascination with the episodic, piecemeal plot.Since Aristotle's Poetics, the episode has been a vexed category of literary analysis, troubling any easy view of the subsumption of unwieldy narrative parts into well-plotted wholes. Garrett puts forward a new, dialectical theory of episodic form to recast this peculiar object of literary history,looking to the episode as a narrative unit smaller than the genre in order to give an account of all the period's major prose genres. Garrett shows how, in ways both magisterial and mundane, episodic forms gave variegated shape to the social, political, and economic conflicts that defined the momentof national formation.Episodic Poetics proposes a new method of reading and a new way of conceiving of literary history. The book asks how we might understand the cultural role of the episode as a literary micro-unit, one that forces us to read individual narratives in terms of an always partial and fraught developmenttoward plot. Episodic Poetics combines theoretical reflection and historical rigor with careful readings of texts from the early American canon such as The Federalist, Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, and the novels of Charles Brockden Brown, along with hitherto understudied texts and ephemerasuch as Washington Irving's Salmagundi, Susanna Rowson's Trials of the Human Heart and the memoirs of the metalworker and failed entrepreneur John Fitch. Garrett recounts literary history not as the easy victory of grand nationalist ambitions, but rather as a series of social struggles expressedthrough writers' recurring engagement with incompletely integrated forms.

About The Author

Matthew Garrett is Assistant Professor of English and American Studies at Wesleyan University.

Details & Specs

Title:Episodic Poetics: Politics and Literary Form after the ConstitutionFormat:HardcoverDimensions:240 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:April 29, 2014Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199346534

ISBN - 13:9780199346530

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Reading the Episode in the Early RepublicThe Episode between Part and WholeTelemachus's Doubt: Toward a Theory of Episodic PoeticsThe Whole against the Parts: Narrative TheoryFrom Event to Episode: Historical PoeticsThe Hillock and the Mountain1. The Poetics of Constitutional ConsolidationComplexity and Consolidation: Out of Many, OneCommon and Finer: The Legacy of 1787-88The Chain of Reading: Commerce, Episodic Poetics, PoliticsHierarchy and Literary Form 1: Commerce and ContagionHierarchy and Literary Form 2: Governing the Splintered SocietyHierarchy and Literary Form 3: Faction as FormMercantile Time and the Periodical PlotDebt and the Rhythm of ExchangeUnreadability and Nationalism's Chain of Reading2. The Life in EpisodesStructure and DispersionErratum and Episode: Duration and Narrative BindingCharacter and Competition, Success and FailureSociety, Mischief, and the EpisodeExperience, Selection, and Narrative Unity3. The Fiction of HesitationReading the Episode in the NovelAdventure and DidacticismIncipits and the Incitement to Reading: From Clarissa to ConstantiaAgainst the Episode: Morality and Form in the Literary MarketNothing HappensEndless ProlixityEpisode versus FuturityEpisode and Ideology4. Miscellany and the Structure of StyleCommodity WritingWhim-Whams on the MarketCriticism and the Work of the WriterSalmagundi: An Arthrology of the Literary MiscellanyThe Rejection of ReferenceVolubility and Formal CompromiseAppendix to Chapter Four: Table of Contents and Collation of SalmagundiConclusionWorks CitedIndex