American Blood: The Ends of the Family in American Literature, 1850-1900

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9780199317042: American Blood: The Ends of the Family in American Literature, 1850-1900

Conventional understandings of the family in nineteenth-century literary studies depict a venerated institution rooted in sentiment, sympathy, and intimacy. American Blood upends this notion, showing how novels of the period frequently emphasize the darker sides of the vaunted domestic unit. Rather than a source of security and warmth, the family emerges as exclusionary, deleterious to civic life, and antagonistic to the political enterprise of the United States.

Through inventive readings supported by cultural-historical research, Holly Jackson explores critical depictions of the family in a range of both canonical and forgotten novels. Republican opposition to the generational transmission of property in early America emerges in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables (1851). The "tragic mulatta" trope in William Wells Brown's Clotel (1853) is revealed as a metaphor for sterility and national death, linking mid-century theories of hybrid infertility to anxieties concerning the nation's crisis of political continuity. A striking interpretation of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Dred (1856) occupies a subsequent chapter, as Jackson uncovers how the author most associated with the enshrinement of domestic kinship deconstructs both scientific and sentimental conceptions of the family. A focus on feminist views of maternity and the family anchor readings of Anna E. Dickinson's What Answer? (1868) and Sarah Orne Jewett's The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896), while a chapter on Pauline Hopkins's Hagar's Daughter (1901) examines how it engages with socio-scientific discourses of black atavism to expose the family's role not simply as a metaphor for the nation but also as the mechanism for the reproduction of its unequal social relations.

Cogently argued, clearly written, and anchored in unconventional readings, American Blood presents a series of lively arguments that will interest literary scholars and historians of the family, as it reveals how nineteenth-century novels imagine-even welcome-the decline of the family and the social order that it supports.

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About the Author :


Holly Jackson is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

Review :


"American Blood is an important book on nineteenth century debates over race, family structure, reproduction, and the American novel's engagement with these topics. Jackson's attention to detail and her sense of historical context make this a vital work that will be effective not only as a reference, but also as a provocative source for new interpretations of the nineteenth-century family for literary scholars and historians alike."-Shirley Samuels, author of Reading the American Novel, 1780-1865


"American Blood is a bold intervention into literary understandings of the family's metaphorical and political roles in the nineteenth century. It convincingly shows how and why a fascinating archive of writers was apostates to the family. Readers in women's studies, American studies, African American studies, as well as literary historians will find this highly readable book to be a meaningful revision of nineteenth-century literary culture."-Jeffory Clymer, author of Family Money: Property, Race, and Literature in the Nineteenth Century


"[Jackson's] texts constitute--and American Blood contributes to--an understudied
but crucial "antifamilial" tradition in American literature." -- American Literature


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Description du livre Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 2013. Hardback. État : New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. The conventional view of the family in the nineteenth-century novel holds that it venerated the traditional domestic unit as a model of national belonging. Contesting this interpretation, American Blood argues that many authors of the period challenged preconceptions of the family and portrayed it as a detriment to true democracy and, by extension, the political enterprise of the United States. Relying on works by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Wells Brown, Pauline Hopkins, and others, Holly Jackson reveals family portraits that are claustrophobic, antidemocratic, and even unnatural. The novels examined here welcome, in Jackson s reading, the decline of the family and the exclusionary white-privileging American social order that it supported. Embracing and imagining this decline, the novels examined here incorporate and celebrate the very practices that mainstream Americans felt were the most dangerous to the family as an institution-interracial sex, doomed marriages, homosexuality, and the willful rejection of reproduction.In addition to historicized readings, the monograph also highlights how formal narrative characteristics served to heighten their anti-filial message: according to Jackson, the false starts, interpolated plots, and narrative dead-ends prominent in novels like The House of the Seven Gables and Dred are formal iterations of the books interest in disrupting the family as a privileged ideological site. In sum, American Blood offers a much-needed corrective that will generate fresh insights into nineteenth-century literature and culture. N° de réf. du libraire BTE9780199317042

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