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David Berton Emerson
Whitworth University (Spokane, WA 99251-2515)
American Literary Misfits: Vernacular Aesthetics and Imagined Democracies, 1828-1861

Completion of a book on 19th-century regional and non-canonical authors such as J. J. Hooper and J. R. Ride and how they contributed to the development of theories of American democracy. 

American Literary Misfits contends that the 19th century’s most radical theories of democracy emerged from texts long exiled from US literary history. Such texts are united by a shared demonstration of local decision-making as viable alternative to the abstracting tendencies of national politics. All over the USA, from Philadelphia and New York to the rural south and Gold Rush California, works like J.J. Hooper’s Simon Suggs and J.R. Ridge’s Joaquín Murieta offered both ideological and aesthetic alternatives to the national prescriptions embodied in sentimental novels and historical romances. Instead of tying individuals to a national community, as these better-known contemporaries did, literary misfits pushed back against the progressive ends of the nation, its version of liberal democracy, and its characteristic literary forms. While criticism has typically fit these texts into regional categories, these misfits demand a rewriting of the liberal tradition of US literary histories.

Project fields:
American Literature

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2019 – 7/31/2019