Nancy Armstrong: “Novels in the Time of Democratic Writing: The American Example”


I’m Nancy Armstrong. I work on the
history and theory of the novel. My co-author Leonard Tennenhouse is a
scholar of 17th and 18th century British transatlantic literature. It took
both forms of expertise to address the following problem, this is the problem
that generated our book. First of all, 1789 saw the ratification of the U.S.
Constitution, but the period between 1789 and 1926, a fact you probably don’t know,
also saw the explosion of the first American novels.
These were novels for, by and about Americans. The question for us was why
then have not literary historians and critics addressed the
significant body of literature and cultural material. Our findings I think
will surprise you. I’m hoping that people who read our book will not
look at early American literature and culture the same way again.

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