Prophets, Publicists, and Parasites: Antebellum Print Culture and the Rise of the Critic (Paperback)

Prophets, Publicists, and Parasites: Antebellum Print Culture and the Rise of the Critic By Adam Gordon Cover Image

Prophets, Publicists, and Parasites: Antebellum Print Culture and the Rise of the Critic (Paperback)


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Print culture expanded significantly in the nineteenth century due to new print technologies and more efficient distribution methods, providing literary critics, who were alternately celebrated and reviled, with an ever-increasing number of venues to publish their work. Adam Gordon embraces the multiplicity of critique in the period from 1830 to 1860 by exploring the critical forms that emerged. Prophets, Publicists, and Parasites is organized around these sometimes chaotic and often generative forms and their most famous practitioners: Edgar Allan Poe and the magazine review; Ralph Waldo Emerson and the quarterly essay; Rufus Wilmot Griswold and the literary anthology; Margaret Fuller and the newspaper book review; and Frederick Douglass's editorial repurposing of criticism from other sources. Revealing the many and frequently competing uses of criticism beyond evaluation and aesthetics, this insightful study offers a new vision of antebellum criticism, a new model of critical history, and a powerful argument for the centrality of literary criticism to modern life.
ADAM GORDON is associate professor of English at Whitman College.
Product Details ISBN: 9781625344533
ISBN-10: 1625344538
Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press
Publication Date: February 13th, 2020
Pages: 280
Language: English
"Gordon has written an account of American print culture's formative surge but an account battening on steam power rather than literary cults, with a bulked-up cast and a verbal poise that is economical and engaging. This new book is without question the real thing, truly original."—Kathleen Diffley, author of Where My Heart Is Turning Ever: Civil War Stories and Constitutional Reform, 1861–1876

"With many glances back to English forebears, this erudite yet approachable book focuses especially on the 1830s and 1840s. Gordon does not write a conventional narrative: his book is not a history of critical doctrine, but instead (as its subtitle suggests) approaches its subject from the perspective of book history . . . This is a book all students of English literature will want to read, not just Americanists."—CHOICE

"By organizing the discussion of each critical genre—quarterly reviews, literary anthologies, magazine reviews, newspaper reviews, and newspaper reprints—around a single figure or episode, Gordon's author-centered approach to each critical genre not only deepens our understanding of each individual author's critical practice but also sharpens our topography of critical genres during the print era."—Poe Studies