Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and the Transatlantic Materials of American Literature

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This article uses Longfellow’s experience in the transatlantic literary market to analyze how British publishers constructed antebellum American literature as a cultural commodity, and an aesthetically valuable tradition through their material texts. Longfellow’s correspondence with publishers John Walker, George Routledge and David Bogue, and Bogue’s illustrated editions of Evangeline and Hyperion reveal that British reprints manifested overlapping discourses of authorization and value. Publishers used the materiality of their texts to legitimize their reprinting, but also to champion Longfellow’s poetry, American letters more widely, and Longfellow’s vision of a cosmopolitan American literature. The essay then traces this dialogue between British books and the emergence of American literature in Longfellow’s The Courtship of Miles Standish, in which transatlantic circulations and British books are integral to the founding of America and American writing. Ultimately, this essay repositions British reprints as complex acts of reception that intervened in debates over the nature of American literature, and argues for a re-centering of American literary history around material transatlantic exchange.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)727-759
Number of pages33
JournalAmerican Literature
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017

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