Conspiracy and Romance Studies in Brockden Brown, Cooper, Hawthorne, and Melville Synopsis
Robert Levine has examined the American romance in a historical context. His book offers a fresh reading of the genre, establishing its importance to American culture between the founding of the republic and the Civil war. With convincing historical and literary detail, Levine shows that anxieties about various subversive elements - French revolutionaries, secret societies, Catholic immigrants, African slaves - are central to the fictional worlds of Brockden Brown, Cooper, Hawthorne and Melville. Ormond, The Bravo, The Blithedale Romance, and Benito Cereno are persuasively explicated by Levine to demonstrate that the romance addressed many of the same conflicts and ideals that gave rise to the American republic. Americans conceived of America as a romance, and their romances dramatised the historical conditions of the culture, The fear that conspiracies would subvert the order and integrity of the new nation were recurrent and widespread; Levine makes us see that these fears informed the works of our major romance writers from the turn of the century until the Civil War.
Conspiracy and Romance Studies in Brockden Brown, Cooper, Hawthorne, and Melville Press Reviews
...all readers interested in the American novel will find his study provocative and frequently insightful. Michael Oriard, Studies in the Novel ...richly interdisciplinary in its scholarship and the most committed to detailing precise ways that...American romancers have been very anxiously and actively responsive to their society. ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance Levine does an excellent job of situating the works he examines in particular ideological frameworks...Levine's analysis of the ways in which themes transfer across discourse communities suggests some useful directions for rethinking the relation of the traditional American literary canon to the cultural situation that gave rise to its texts. Journal of American History Levine provides useful information on the Illuminati scare and the counter-subversive discourse of the 1790's....Levine's persuasive analysis provides an example of how historical scholarship can significantly change one's reading of an individual text while also allowing that text to inform one's perception of its original audience. Scott Peeples, The Eighteenth Century