Surveyors of Custom: American Literature as Cultural Analysis by Joel Pfister

Surveyors of Custom: American Literature as Cultural Analysis

byJoel Pfister

Hardcover | December 28, 2015

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In 1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne, fired from Salem's Customs House and returning to writing, reconceived his old job title, Surveyor of Customs, as his new one. Taking seriously this naming of the American author's project, Joel Pfister argues that writers from Benjamin Franklin to Louise Erdrichcan be read as critical "surveyors" of customs, culture, hegemony, capitalism's emotional logic, and much else. Literary surveyors have helped make possible - and, if we credit its critical work, can advance what we now call cultural analysis. In recent decades cultural theory and history havechanged how we read literature. Literature can return the favor. America's achievement as a literary nation has contributed creatively to its accomplishment as a self-critical nation. The surveyors convened herein wrote novels, stories, plays, poetry, essays, autobiography, journals, and cultural criticism. Surveyors of Customs explores literature's insights intohow America-its soft capitalism, its "democratized" inequality, its Americanization of power-"ticks." Historica l- and timely - questions abound. When and why did capitalism invest in the secular "soul-making" business and what roles did literature play in this? What does literature teach us aboutits relationship to the establishment of a personnel culture that moved beyond self-help incentive-making and intensified Americans' preoccupations with personal life to turn them into personnel? How did literature contribute to the reproduction of "classless" class relations - and what does thistell us about dress-down politics and class formation in our Second Gilded Age?

About The Author

Joel Pfister is Olin Professor of English and American Studies at Wesleyan University. His publications include Staging Depth: Eugene O'Neill and the Politics of Psychological Discourse (University of North Carolina Press, 1995), Individuality Incorporated: Indians and the Multicultural Modern (Duke UP, 2004) and The Yale Indian: The ...
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Title:Surveyors of Custom: American Literature as Cultural AnalysisFormat:HardcoverDimensions:288 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:December 28, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0190276150

ISBN - 13:9780190276157

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsIntroduction: The Critical Work and Critical Pleasure of American Literature1. Inner-Self Industries: Soft Capitalism's Reproductive Logic2. How America Works: Getting Personal to Get Personnel3. Dress-Down Conquest: Americanizing Top-Down as Bottom-UpAfterword: PayoffsNotesWorks CitedIndex