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Narrating Discovery The Romantic Explorer in American Literature, 1790-1855 cover
  • ISBN: 9780231079969
  • ISBN10: 0231079966

Narrating Discovery The Romantic Explorer in American Literature, 1790-1855

by Bruce Robert Greenfield

  • List Price: $90.00
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Columbia Univ Pr
  • Publish date: 11/01/1992
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In Narrating Discovery Bruce Greenfield chronicles the development of the antebellum Euro-American discovery narrative. These narratives depicted the Euro-American advance westward not as a violent intrusion into occupied territories but as an inevitable by-product of science and civilization. Despite the centrality of indigenous peoples in the frontier narratives, the landscape was nevertheless sketched in biblical terms as "a terrestrial paradise ...unpeopled and unexplored", as writers insisted upon seeing "emptiness as the essential quality of the land". Beginning with the British writers Hearne, Mackenzie, and Henry, Greenfield then traces the early American narratives of Lewis and Clark, Pike, and Fremont, demonstrating how these agents of the first New World nation-state brought a distinct imperial mentality to the frontier, viewing it both as foreign and as part of their home. But Romantic writers such as Cooper, Irving, Poe, and Thoreau felt ill at ease with the colonialist discourse they inherited, and Greenfield shows how to varying degrees each altered a discourse openly based on subjugation to one highlighting profoundly personal and aesthetic responses to the American landscape. The book concludes with an illuminating discussion of Thoreau, who transformed the discovery narrative from its origins in conflict and institutional authority into the "expression of personal identity with the continent as a symbol of American potential". Written with clarity and insight, Narrating Discovery brings a fresh perspective to current debates over who "discovered" America and recovers the complexity of frontier experience through a searching look at some of the vivid narrative accounts.
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