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Pauline Pilote, Wizards of the West. Walter Scott and the American Historical Fiction

This book captures with one eye the Waverley Novels by the Scottish Walter Scott and the works of three American writers, James Fenimore Cooper, Washington Irving and Catharine Maria Sedgwick. He sees the American historical novel as the privileged vector of American national construction after Independence. In the context of the revival of patriotism that characterized the Jacksonian era (1824-1848), it was nevertheless vis-à-vis Europe that the Young Republic positioned itself to build its national romance. Taking up the Scottian novel, these authors offer a history to a nation that deplores its absence, provide Americans with ancestors to identify with and strive to establish the landscape as a national heritage.

Far from apprehending, as critics have long done, the historical novel in terms of a filiation between Scott and Cooper, this work adopts a transatlantic perspective and places Cooper alongside his contemporaries. In doing so, it is a question of re-reading what is considered to be the birth of the American novel not from the angle of American exceptionalism but in the light of flourishing transatlantic exchanges despite political independence. This book thus intends to go beyond the national paradigm that often prevails in studies of the 19th century.

Summary

Write the national novel

  • Old Europe, new world: defining a historical depth
  • Identifying the past and collecting memory

Telling the great deeds of our fathers

  • The historical novel: a memory of folklore
  • Find a national genealogy

Shaping the national landscape

  • Brush the decor of the national novel
  • Reveal a palimpsest landscape

Shaping the national landscape

  • Romance the wilderness
  • From the national novel to the national gesture

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