Novels Before Nations: How Early US Novels Imagined Community

Nancy Armstrong, Leonard Tennenhouse

Abstract


"In this essay, we propose an alternative to the mainstream of novel criticism, which links the novel to the modern nation—whether as a symptom of the nation’s emergence, as the means of producing subjects to inhabit it, or as a representation of the nation that makes that nation seem necessary to the existence of its population. To accomplish this objective, we identify the narrative moves by which novels of the
early US republic, roughly the period from 1780 to 1830, brought intelligibility to what in European terms was most certainly a mess—namely, the colonies of North America."

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