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Tag: America

“A True Friend of the Cause”: Lafayette and the Antislavery Movement

“A True Friend of the Cause”: Lafayette and the Antislavery Movement
The Grolier Club, New York City
7 December 2016–4 February 2017

“I would never have drawn my sword in the cause of America if I could have conceived that thereby I was founding a land of slavery!” The placard featuring this statement in bold, black letters catches the eye of the visitor immediately upon entering the first floor gallery of the Grolier Club. First attributed to the Marquis de Lafayette in 1845, the statement “took on a life of its own in the abolitionist movement and was often quoted,” for instance in African-American historian William Cooper Nell’s The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution (1855), a copy of which is displayed in the same showcase. While Lafayette’s involvement in the American Revolution has been extensively documented, his role as an ardent abolitionist has received little attention.

Kristin L. Matthews. Reading America: Citizenship, Democracy, and Cold War Literature

Kristin L. Matthews. Reading America: Citizenship, Democracy, and Cold War Literature. Boston and Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2016. 222p. ISBN 9781625342355. US$ 29.95.

In Reading America: Citizenship, Democracy, and Cold War Literature, Kristin Matthews notes the long history of elite leaders connecting reading to citizenship in the United States. She argues that the Cold War marked a high point for this sort of discourse, as American government and cultural elites presented reading as “a duty and a responsibility, the proper performance of which was key to protecting one’s kin and country from America’s enemies” (31).

Hermann Wellenreuther. Citizens in a Strange Land: A Study of German-American Broadsides and Their Meaning for Germans in North America, 1730–1830

Hermann Wellenreuther. Citizens in a Strange Land: A Study of German-American Broadsides and Their Meaning for Germans in North America, 1730–1830. Max Kade German-American Research Institute Series. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2013. xv, 384p., ill. ISBN 9780271059372. US$ 98.95.

A research team from Gottingen, headed by the author, provides us with a study of some 215 early American broadsides produced by Germans in order to shed light on the society of German farmers who settled in Pennsylvania between 1730 and 1830. Contemporary English broadsides are ignored, on the assumption that German society was largely self-contained. “Broadside” is carefully defined as “a sheet that is printed on a single sheet on either one or both sides irrespective of its contents.” There are four chapters, dealing respectively with printers, secular life, religion, and politics.

Jesse Zuba. The First Book: Twentieth Century Poetic Careers in America

Jesse Zuba. The First Book: Twentieth Century Poetic Careers in America. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016. xiii, 213p. ISBN 9780691164472. US $39.50.

On the face of it, the notion of a “poetic career” seems contradictory. As Jesse Zuba acknowledges, the benefits can be obscure, retirement plans nonexistent. But the strength of The First Book is its articulation of contradictions at the heart of this idea, and how twentieth-century American poets from Wallace Stevens to Louise Glück work them out.

Vanessa Meikle Schulman. Work Sights: The Visual Culture of Industry in Nineteenth-Century America

Vanessa Meikle Schulman. Work Sights: The Visual Culture of Industry in Nineteenth-Century America. Amherst and Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2015. xi, 278p., ill. ISBN 9781625341952. US $29.95 (paperback).

With strong opinions of belonging and citizenship motivating current debates on immigration reform and global economics, Vanessa Schulman’s Work Sights: The Visual Culture of Industry in Nineteenth-Century America proves timely, providing useful historical context through which we can understand the ways that these concepts were shaped and circulated in nineteenth-century America.

Susan M. Ryan. The Moral Economies of American Authorship: Reputation, Scandal, and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Marketplace

Susan M. Ryan. The Moral Economies of American Authorship: Reputation, Scandal, and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Marketplace. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. x, 217p. ISBN 9780190274023. US $65.00.

Deluxe limited editions with an author’s inscription were common at the end of the nineteenth century, but it is surprising to find a 1900 Haworth Edition of the novels of Charlotte Brontë signed, “Sincerely yours, C. Brontë,” as she had died a half-century earlier. While Susan Ryan only references the practice of facsimile signatures in passing, her discussion of what she calls the “moral economy” of authorship makes sense of this practice as a marketing ploy.

Robert J. Norrell. Alex Haley and the Books That Changed a Nation

Robert J. Norrell. Alex Haley and the Books That Changed a Nation. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2015. x, 251p., ill. ISBN 9781137279606. US $27.00 (hardback).

It is difficult to believe that this is the first biography of Alex Haley, the author who wrote perhaps the two most influential books on African-American history in the twentieth century. Robert Norrell skillfully examines the extraordinary achievements of the enigmatic man behind Roots (1976) and The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965), books that transformed Americans’ understanding of race.

Cheryl Knott. Not Free, Not for All: Public Libraries in the Age of Jim Crow

Cheryl Knott. Not Free, Not for All: Public Libraries in the Age of Jim Crow. Amherst and Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2015. x, 312p., ill. ISBN 9781625341785. US $28.95.

Cheryl Knott’s Not Free, Not For All: Public Libraries in the Age of Jim Crow is a long overdue study that examines twentieth-century African-American information history and counters the fictive image of American public libraries as community spaces accessible to all. Knott argues convincingly that restricted library access for African Americans was a willful act, codified in state legislative policies that were subsequently enforced by Southern librarians.

Heather Haveman. Magazines and the Making of America: Modernization, Community, and Print Culture, 1741-1860

Heather Haveman. Magazines and the Making of America: Modernization, Community, and Print Culture, 1741-1860. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015. 432p. ISBN 9780691164403. US $45.00.

Haveman’s work explores the changing ways that American magazine publishing and distribution helped create and shape local communities and, increasingly during the nineteenth century, the trans-local communities that are a hallmark of modern life. Her narration and synthesis of data and scholarship on the evolving genres, contents, infrastructures, and institutional workings of American magazines in chapters two through four alone make her work an important source on magazine production and distribution.

Michael C. Cohen. The Social Lives of Poems in Nineteenth-Century America

Michael C. Cohen. The Social Lives of Poems in Nineteenth-Century America. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015. 281p., 23 ill. ISBN 9780812247084. US $55.00.

Michael C. Cohen’s The Social Lives of Poems in Nineteenth-Century America is a fascinating and full account of the relationships between poems and readers between the 1790s and early 1900s. Dedicated to a “lived history of literary writing in the United States,” Cohen investigates the “variety of social relations that poems made possible,” both materially and theoretically (1).