New Books Network

Melanie V. Dawson and Meredith L. Goldsmith, eds.

American Literary History and the Turn toward Modernity

University Press of Florida 2018

New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network December 12, 2018 Miranda Corcoran

As scholars and readers, we often view literary history in rigid, simplistic terms. We imagine that nineteenth-century aesthetic and thematic preoccupations withered away as...

As scholars and readers, we often view literary history in rigid, simplistic terms. We imagine that nineteenth-century aesthetic and thematic preoccupations withered away as 1899 became 1900, only to be replaced immediately by a new literature of the twentieth century. In their dynamic, wide-ranging collection Melanie V. Dawson and Meredith L. Goldsmith challenge this conventional understanding of American literary history. Drawing together a diverse range of essays focused on iconic turn-of-the century writers such as Edith Wharton, Jack London and Sarah Piatt, as well as lesser-known authors like Jessie Fauset and Laura Jean Libbey, American Literary History and the Turn toward Modernity (University Press of Florida, 2018) encourages readers to reconsider their understanding of literary “modernity.” The essays contained in this wonderful new collection, published just this year by the University Press of Florida, interrogate the popular construction of literary culture between 1880 and 1930. Paying close attention to issues of culture, race, class and periodisation, Dawson and Goldsmith’s collection demonstrates that rather than representing a rejection of Victorian values, the period can instead be seen instead as a complex negotiation of both the new experimental literary forms that were emerging at the time and the entrenched values of the nineteenth century. In this episode, Melanie and Meredith join Miranda Corcoran for a discussion of expanding disciplinary boundaries and the complexities of turn-of-the-century literary culture.


Miranda Corcoran received her Ph.D. in 2016 from University College Cork, where she currently teaches American literature. Her research interests include Cold-War literature, genre fiction, literature and psychology, and popular culture. She has published articles on paranoia, literature, and Cold-War popular culture in The Boolean, Americana, and Transverse, and contributed a book chapter on transnational paranoia to the recently published book Atlantic Crossings: Archaeology, Literature, and Spatial Culture. She blogs about literature and popular culture HERE and can also be found on Twitter.