Writing the Republic: Liberalism and Morality in American Political Fiction by Anthony Hutchison

Writing the Republic: Liberalism and Morality in American Political Fiction

byAnthony Hutchison

Kobo ebook | August 21, 2007

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In this provocative book, Anthony Hutchison challenges the belief that the American novel is "antipolitical" and condemns the relative absence of American literature in studies of the political novel. In Hutchison's view, our fiction is always informed by the complexities of the American political tradition, and to acknowledge this is to introduce a new, rewarding chapter of critical inquiry into the study of American literature.

Focusing on the works of Herman Melville, Gore Vidal, Russell Banks, Lionel Trilling, and Philip Roth, Hutchison finds a critique of liberalism put forth by classical republicanism, transcendentalism, Marxism, and neoconservatism at their respective moments of historical ascent. He shows how these authors take very specific historical periods and episodes for their subject matter and interrogate, critique, and contextualize pivotal moments in the intellectual history of American liberalism. In their work, liberalism reconstitutes itself in the face of competing ideological pressures, demonstrating that the novel is very much characterized by a "republican" concern with the health of the polity.

Considering such artists, philosophers, and theorists as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Hannah Arendt, and John Dewey, alongside numerous contemporary commentators and historians, Hutchison repositions American novelists as serious political thinkers. He reveals Melville's Moby Dick to be the formal template for the American political novel and compares and contrasts its embodiment of "republican" fiction with the "democratic" mode Mikhail Bakhtin associates with Dostoevsky. He especially draws attention to the meaning of republicanism in the early national period, the place of abolitionism in the Civil War, and the post-1930s liberal retreat from Left radicalism.

By concentrating on the tension between issues of liberalism and morality in the political thought of these American novelists, Hutchison hopes to advance a more nuanced and textured understanding of the U.S. political tradition. He scrutinizes a number of critical studies and makes a cogent case for a more interdisciplinary approach to the American political novel that focuses less on the politics of representation and more on the representation of politics.

Anthony Hutchison is a lecturer in American intellectual and cultural history at the University of Nottingham, U.K. This is his first book.
Title:Writing the Republic: Liberalism and Morality in American Political FictionFormat:Kobo ebookPublished:August 21, 2007Publisher:Columbia University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0231511906

ISBN - 13:9780231511902


Table of Contents

Introduction. Liberalism and the Problem of Tradition in American Literature
Part 1. The Nineteenth-Century Context
1. Elusive Republicanism: Thomas Jefferson and the Foundations of American Politics in Gore Vidal's Burr
2. "Our Divine Equality": Russell Banks's Cloudsplitter and the Redemptive Liberalism of the Lincoln Republic
Part 2. The Twentieth-Century Context
3. Ideas in Modulation: Marxism and Liberal Revaluation in Lionel Trilling's The Middle of the Journey
4. Liberalism Betrayed: Neoconservatism and the Postwar American Left in Philip Roth's American Trilogy
Conclusion. Writing the Republic: Moby Dick and the Form of American Political Fiction

Editorial Reviews

[A] clear, often brilliant study... Recommended