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John Hay
Board of Regents Nevada System of Higher Education (Las Vegas, NV 89154-9900)
The First Person in America: The Identity of the Narrator in the Nineteenth-Century U.S. Novel

Writing four chapters of a book on the evolution of the narrator in nineteenth-century American fiction.

This is a book-length project in American literary history that examines narrative strategies in nineteenth-century U.S. novels. Throughout the 1800s, virtually all long works of fiction by American writers featured first-person narration—an “I” or a “we” telling the tale to the reader. But by the early years of the twentieth century, an impersonal or “third-person” style of narration had become the norm, and the appearance of the first-person “I” was deemed an offensive authorial intrusion. Reading nineteenth-century American novelists as members of a single family allows me to portray these narrative techniques as a social project, developed among a community of readers and writers, rather than as a series of isolated individual discoveries. “The First Person in America” presents a literary history that connects the early preoccupation with a democratic or private interiority, with the later development of an imperial or corporate self. (Edited by staff)

Project fields:
American Literature

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

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

Grant period:
5/11/2020 – 7/10/2020