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Episodic Poetics: Politics and Literary Form after the Constitution (Paperback)
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Episodic Poetics: Politics and Literary Form after the Constitution (Paperback)

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Paperback 244 Pages / Published: 28/06/2018
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The early United States was a culture of the episode. In Episodic Poetics, Matthew Garrett merges narrative theory with social and political history to explain the early American fascination with the episodic, piecemeal plot. Since Aristotle's Poetics, the episode has been a vexed category of literary analysis, troubling any easy view of the subsumption of unwieldy narrative parts into well-plotted wholes. Garrett puts forward a new, dialectical theory of episodic form to recast this peculiar object of literary history, looking to the episode as a narrative unit smaller than the genre in order to give an account of all the period's major prose genres. Garrett shows how, in ways both magisterial and mundane, episodic forms gave variegated shape to the social, political, and economic conflicts that defined the moment of national formation. Episodic Poetics proposes a new method of reading and a new way of conceiving of literary history. The book asks how we might understand the cultural role of the episode as a literary micro-unit, one that forces us to read individual narratives in terms of an always partial and fraught development toward plot. Episodic Poetics combines theoretical reflection and historical rigor with careful readings of texts from the early American canon such as The Federalist, Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, and the novels of Charles Brockden Brown, along with hitherto understudied texts and ephemera such as Washington Irving's Salmagundi, Susanna Rowson's Trials of the Human Heart and the memoirs of the metalworker and failed entrepreneur John Fitch. Garrett recounts literary history not as the easy victory of grand nationalist ambitions, but rather as a series of social struggles expressed through writers' recurring engagement with incompletely integrated forms.

Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
ISBN: 9780190887445
Number of pages: 244
Weight: 360 g
Dimensions: 235 x 162 x 15 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
The book's theoretical commitments bear special mention because they mark its relatively unique relationship to ongoing debates about historicism and literary form. Episodic Poetics is part of the resurgence of new scholarship on aesthetics, but Marxist criticism has not been particularly popular in this work, which has tended to identify Marxism (via Jameson) with the mandates of historical contextualization. And yet, perhaps for this very reason, the book's engagement with a range of older formalisms moves it toward a newly flexible, structural account of the form of politics. * Carrie Hyde, American Literature *
For Garrett, literary form is both a reflection of and engagement with social practices. Texts simultaneously represent and 'make' history. Garrett reads these particular works as symbols of the factionlism, unrest, and divisions within the early republic. * New England Quarterly *
Garrett's book is learned and imaginatively expansive, and I took great pleasure in following him as he navigated discussions of Russian formalism, analyses of eighteenth-century business manuals, close readings of The Odyssey, examinations of the aesthetic theories of Lord Kames and Hugh Blair, a consideration of Roland Barthes's distinction between cardinal and catalytic functions-to identify only some of the literary avenues through which he guides us. ...[A] delightful exercise in reading episodically. * Modern Philology *
Matthew Garrett's extraordinary Episodic Poetics: Politics and Literary Form After the Constitution explores the complex textures that resulted when the post-constitutional moment's consolidating energies found verbal expression in the fragmentary form of the period's literary production. ... The representative texts of Garrett's four genres, via their respective logics of contagion, error, hesitation, and volubility helped delineate the contours of the political. Episodic Poetics' investigation of these dynamics is as theoretically sophisticated as it is elegantly constructed, and in what follows I can only gesture at the readerly pleasures that attend following the involutions of its nuanced argument. * Common-place: The Interactive Journal of Early American Life *
How did pluribus become unum in the early United States? Matthew Garrett's Episodic Poetics reveals that the formal problem of integrating and consolidating parts into a whole connected politics with literature in the early republic. Focusing on the serialization of political tracts, the organization of events in autobiography, and the marketing of digressive fictions, Garrett makes a provocative case for the history of literary form as an integral part of political history. * Eric Slauter, author of The State as a Work of Art: The Cultural Origins of the Constitution *
Episodic Poetics is an innovative, learned, challenging account of the politics of form and the form of politics in the early Republic. Garrett makes a persuasive case that narrative plotting is key to understanding both the richness of early national writing and the ideological contradictions of U.S. nation formation. * Edward Cahill, author of Liberty of the Imagination: Aesthetic Theory, Literary Form, and Politics in the Early United States *
A powerful, unexpected new roadmap to the culture of the early republic. In Garrett's hands, literary form becomes the place where theory and history meet to tell a new story about a tired corner of American culture. A maverick and often beautiful book that resets the table for early Americanists. * Trish Loughran, author of The Republic in Print: Print Culture in the Age of U.S. Nation Building, 1770-1870 *
In this erudite study, Garrett resuscitates the episode * a distinct diversion from the causal mechanics of plot *
Matthew Garret's Episodic Poetics: Politics and Literary Form after the Constitution (2014), examines...the sub-generic feature of the "episode." Bringing this often overlooked narrative unit to the forefront allows Garrett to examine works from the early American Republic, not only revealing unexpected connections and resonances but also shedding light on formal aspects of Early Republic literature * such as the loose and seemingly rambling plots of Charles Brockden Brown's gothic novels *

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