Taking its cue from Henry James’s ruminations on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s engagements with Europe in Hawthorne (1879), this paper will explore some of the ways in which US American authors from the first half of the nineteenth century, in particular, used and contributed to the development of the essay form. James’s Hawthorne, Coleman will suggest, represents a particular, if problematic, high point in the development of the US American essay in the later part of the nineteenth century, but it is preceded by major contributions that are distinctive and tricky in themselves, most notably by Washington Irving, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller and Lydia Maria Child. For each of these writers, and others, what James called the “spectacle” of Europe assumed different forms but it also served as a backdrop, and foil, against which their own individual aesthetic and ideological contributions were formed.
Philip Coleman will give a short paper, followed by a discussion of pre-circulated materials. This zoom seminar is run as part of the CMods research strand 'The Contemporary Essay', an interdisciplinary, cross-period project that seeks to interrogate and define the aesthetic, historical, and critical boundaries of the essay.
Philip Coleman is an Associate Professor in the School of English, Trinity College Dublin, where he is also a Fellow. He has published extensively on US American poetry, especially on John Berryman, and his edition of Berryman’s letters, co-edited with Calista McRae, is forthcoming from Harvard University Press. He has also published on US American short fiction with recent publications on George Saunders and David Foster Wallace. He is currently working on essays for the Cambridge History of the American Essay and the Cambridge History of the English Essay.