This innovative cultural history investigates an intriguing, thrilling, and often lurid assortment of sensational literature that was extremely popular in the United States in 1848--including dime novels, cheap story paper literature, and journalism for working-class Americans. Shelley Streeby uncovers themes and images in this "literature of sensation" that reveal the profound influence that the U.S.-Mexican War and other nineteenth-century imperial ventures throughout the Americas had on U.S. politics and culture. Streeby's analysis of this fascinating body of popular literature and mass culture broadens into a sweeping demonstration of the importance of the concept of empire for understanding U.S. history and literature.
This accessible, interdisciplinary book brilliantly analyzes the sensational literature of George Lippard, A.J.H Duganne, Ned Buntline, Metta Victor, Mary Denison, John Rollin Ridge, Louisa May Alcott, and many other writers. Streeby also discusses antiwar articles in the labor and land reform press; ideas about Mexico, Cuba, and Nicaragua in popular culture; and much more. Although the Civil War has traditionally been a major period marker in U.S. history and literature, Streeby proposes a major paradigm shift by using mass culture to show that the U.S.-Mexican War and other conflicts with Mexicans and Native Americans in the borderlands were fundamental in forming the complex nexus of race, gender, and class in the United States.
List of Illustrations
Part 1 American Sensations
1. Introduction: City and Empire in the American 1848
2. George Lippard’s 1848:
Empire, Amnesia, and the U.S.-Mexican War
Part 2 Foreign Bodies and International Race Romance in the Story Papers
3. The Story Paper Empire
4. Foreign Bodies and International Race Romance
5. From Imperial Adventure to Bowery B’hoys and Buffalo Bill:
Ned Buntline, Nativism, and Class
Part 3 Land, Labor, and Empire in the Dime Novel
6. The Contradictions of Anti-Imperialism
7. The Hacienda, the Factory, and the Plantation
8. The Dime Novel, the Civil War, and Empire
Part 4: Beyond 1848
9. Joaquín Murrieta and Popular Culture
Shelley Streeby is Associate Professor of Literature at the University of California, San Diego, and a contributor to Post-Nationalist American Studies, edited by John Carlos Rowe (California, 2000).
"American Sensations is an erudite and sweeping cultural history of the sensationalist literatures and mass cultures of the American 1848. It is the finest book yet written on the U.S.-Mexican War, and how it was central to the making and unmaking of U.S. mass culture, class, and racial formation."—José David Saldívar, author of Border Matters: Remapping American Cultural Studies
"A major work that will challenge current paradigms of nineteenth-century literature and culture. American Sensations brilliantly succeeds in remapping the volatile and shifting terrain of both national identity and literary history in the mid-nineteenth century."—Amy Kaplan, co-editor of Cultures of United States Imperialism
Lora Romero First Book Prize, American Studies Association