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The site of William Penn's 'Holy Experiment' in religious toleration and representative government, Philadelphia was home to one of the largest and most influential 'free' African American communities in the United States. The city was seen as a laboratory for social experimentation, one with international consequences. While historians such as Gary B. Nash and Julie Winch have chronicled the distinctive social and political space of early national Philadelphia, no sustained attempt has been made to understand how writers such as Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Brockden Brown, George Lippard, and others were creating a distinctive literary tradition, one shaped by the city itself. Analyzing a sequence of texts written in and about Philadelphia between the Constitution and the Civil War, Otter shows how literary discourse intervened significantly in the period's intense debates about character, race, and nation. The book advances chronologically from the 1790s to the 1850s, and it is organized around the volatile issues the Philadelphia writing tradition responded to: contagion, riots, manners, and freedom. Throughout this exemplary work, Otter reveals how historical events produced a literature that wrestles with specific concerns: the city as specimen, the diagnosis and proper treatment for urban disorder, the effects of position on interpretation, the trials of character, the substance of action, the nature of human difference and similarity, and the vehemence of prejudice. Philadelphia Stories is a work that reveals (1) how the writers of Philadelphia defined the edge between freedom and slavery, altering the course of America's intellectual and national history, and (2) how the figure 'Philadelphia' stands for a place, a history, a tradition of the 'literary' that enriches and even clarifies the whole of American literary history.
Samuel Otter is Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Melville's Anatomies (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999)
Table of Contents
|Introduction: Philadelphia Stories, 1790-1860||p. 3|
|The Color of Fever||p. 29|
|Ministers and Criminals||p. 40|
|Heroic Interventions||p. 46|
|Fugitive Philadelphians||p. 52|
|Experiments in Character||p. 58|
|The Irrepressible Teague||p. 73|
|"Life in Philadelphia"||p. 81|
|"The Rage for Profiles": Silhouettes at Peak's Museum||p. 89|
|Philadelphia Metempsychosis in Robert Montgomery Bird's||p. 95|
|"The Peculiar Position of Our People": William Whipper and Debates in the Black Conventions||p. 107|
|Disfranchisement and Appeal||p. 118|
|Higher Classes of Colored Society in Philadelphia||p. 123|
|"Doomed to Destruction": The History of Pennsylvania Hall||p. 138|
|The Portraiture of the City of Philadelphia, and Henry James's American Scene||p. 157|
|The Mysteries of the City||p. 165|
|The Fiction of Riot||p. 182|
|The Condition of the Free People of Color||p. 202|
|The Struggle over "Philadelphia"||p. 212|
|The Garies and. Their Friends: "A Rather Curious Protest"||p. 224|
|Still Life in Georgia||p. 230|
|History and Farce||p. 237|
|Parlor and Riot||p. 244|
|Philadelphia Vanitas||p. 252|
|The Social Experiment in Herman Melville's Benito Cereno||p. 266|
|Coda: John Edgar Wideman's Philadelphia||p. 279|
|Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.|