Dreaming Revolution usefully employs current critical theory to address how the European novel of class revolt was transformed into the American novel of imperial expansion. Bradfield shows that early American romantic fiction - including works by William Godwin, Charles Brockden Brown, James Fenimore Cooper, and Edgar Allan Poe - can and should be considered as part of a genre too often limited to the Nineteenth-century European novel. Beginning with Godwin's Caleb Williams, Bradfield describes the ways in which revolution legitimates itself as a means of establishing Political consensus. For European revolutionaries like Godwin or Rousseau, the tyranny of the king must be replaced by the more indisputable authority of human reason. In other words, democratic revolution makes people free to investigate the same truths and arrive at the same democratic conclusions. In the American novel, however, the Enlightenment's idealized pursuit of abstract truth becomes restructured as a pursuit of abstract space. Instead of revealing knowledge, Americans explore further territories, manifest destiny, limitless regions of the yet-to-be-colonized and the still-to-be-known. In a spirited discussion of works by Brown, Cooper and Poe, Bradfield argues that Americans take the class dynamics of the European psychological novel and apply them to the American landscape, reimagining psychological spaces as geographical ones. Class distinctions become refigured in terms of the common people's pursuit of a meaning vaster than themselves - a meaning which leads them to imagine the always expanding body of colonial America. However, since class conflict is never successfully eliminated or forgotten, the memory of class struggle always reemerges in the narrative like a half-repressed dream of politics. In Dreaming Revolution, Bradfield reveals and interprets these dreams, opening these American novels to a richer and more rewarding reading.
Author: Scott Bradfield
Publisher: University of Iowa Press
Category: Literary Criticism
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