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Messing with Romance

American Poetics and Antebellum Southern Fiction


Zeno Ackermann

Messing with Romance is a reinvestigation of southern literary history and a case study in the potentials of genre criticism. Offering contextualized readings of novels produced by representatives of the southern elite between 1824 and 1854, the study traces a development that is as fascinating as it is contradictory: from pretences of «realism» to bold fantasies of fiction’s socially transformative power, and eventually toward the collapse of the discourse of «romance» to which southern novelists had contributed with such desperate determination. Along the way, prominent critical clichés come under scrutiny: firstly, that antebellum southern literature followed a clear-cut course of radicalization; secondly, that literary conventions can easily be identified as the determining formats of ideological discourses.