America's Imagined Revolution
The Historical Novel of Reconstruction
256 Pages / 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.75 in
- Hardcover /
- 9780807181546 /
- Published: April 2024
- eBook /
- 9780807182345 /
- Published: April 2024
America’s Imagined Revolution explores the Reconstruction period after the Civil War to ask narratological, historiographical, and theoretical questions about how slave emancipation has (and has not) been theorized as revolution. Reading historical fiction by authors such as George Washington Cable, Albion Tourgée, Charles Chesnutt, Frances Harper, and W. E. B. Du Bois in dialogue with nineteenth-century historical writing—and the era’s legal, political, and print culture—Tomos Wallbank-Hughes excavates an evanescent form of historicist writing sensitive to the revolutionary changes that shaped life in the emancipation-era South.
As an aesthetic form, the historical novel of Reconstruction poses questions about revolutionary experience in plantation societies, and in the process challenges critical assumptions about historical time in the nineteenth century: How do authors narrate epochal change that also feels like retrenchment? In what direction does history travel if it does not progress? What narratives of race, class, and region encompass both continued domination and ruptured power? By plumbing the situations that give it form, the historical novel of Reconstruction provides a window into the literary culture of the South’s long nineteenth century in which, rather than a storehouse of tradition, the region became a terrain for interpreting social revolution and uncovering slavery’s revolutionary afterlives.
America’s Imagined Revolution offers a new interpretation of the literary and historiographical significance of the Reconstruction period and its relationship to American literary history.
“This illuminating book examines one of the central paradoxes of Reconstruction, namely, how the event of emancipation, a radical historical break, can still seem like an unfinished or aborted revolution—perhaps even a mirage or ‘nonevent.’ America’s Imagined Revolution takes up this puzzle and turns it into a lens for rethinking the very concept of revolution itself. Tomos Wallbank-Hughes’s canny, penetrating analyses of historical novels about Reconstruction and its aftermath uncover new ways to understand emancipation as a complex, ‘epoch-making force.’ By the end, we are able to see literature anew as an exhilarating ‘terrain for theorizing revolution.’ A real achievement of lasting importance.” ~Nancy Bentley, author of Frantic Panoramas: American Literature and Mass Culture, 1870–1920