Philadelphia Stories America's Literature of Race and Freedom

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2010-04-21
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
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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.

Author Biography

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, 1790-1860p. 3
Feverp. 25
The Color of Feverp. 29
Ministers and Criminalsp. 40
Heroic Interventionsp. 46
Fugitive Philadelphiansp. 52
Experiments in Characterp. 58
Mannersp. 71
The Irrepressible Teaguep. 73
"Life in Philadelphia"p. 81
"The Rage for Profiles": Silhouettes at Peak's Museump. 89
Philadelphia Metempsychosis in Robert Montgomery Bird'sp. 95
"The Peculiar Position of Our People": William Whipper and Debates in the Black Conventionsp. 107
Disfranchisement and Appealp. 118
Higher Classes of Colored Society in Philadelphiap. 123
Riotp. 131
"Doomed to Destruction": The History of Pennsylvania Hallp. 138
The Portraiture of the City of Philadelphia, and Henry James's American Scenep. 157
The Mysteries of the Cityp. 165
The Fiction of Riotp. 182
The Condition of the Free People of Colorp. 202
Freedomp. 211
The Struggle over "Philadelphia"p. 212
The Garies and. Their Friends: "A Rather Curious Protest"p. 224
Still Life in Georgiap. 230
History and Farcep. 237
Parlor and Riotp. 244
Philadelphia Vanitasp. 252
The Social Experiment in Herman Melville's Benito Cerenop. 266
Coda: John Edgar Wideman's Philadelphiap. 279
Notesp. 289
Bibliographyp. 343
Indexp. 371
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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