The rise of the common school movement, the beginning of free, public education for all regardless of social class or religion, led to a higher number of educated, reading US citizens. Copyright laws also arose during this time and were meant to protect authors and allowed them to begin making money from selling their intellectual property. As literacy rates increased, readers began to demand more sophisticated types of reading materials like the novel, and with the rise of the middle class, more people had access to leisure time and looked for a variety of forms of entertainment. Revisit articles on literacy, publishing, copyright, and the common school movement for further information here.
In 1830, Jackson passed the Indian Removal Act, which violently relocated large numbers of Native people to unsettled lands west of the Mississippi. Because tribal identities and cosmologies were really different from those of European, white, Christian settlers, they were relegated to undesirable geographic locations as a means of control. By this point in history, it became clear that Native people would either face complete extermination or undergo a harsh process of assimilation. Toward the end of the 18th century, a network of boarding schools were founded to aid in this process of transformation and eradication of Indian identities. Educators set out to prove that Indian children were indeed educable but employed the motto, "Kill the Indian to save the man". For more specifics on the methodologies of Indian boarding schools, see Differing Approaches.
The novel in the US did not really emerge until the end of the 18th century. "A Short History of the Early American Novel" points to the birth of the middle class, the Protestant Reformation, and the development of scientific and philosophical empiricism as the ultimate source of knowledge as the major reasons why the novel found such success at this particular moment in history. The novel as a form engaged with everyday life and people involved in tasks that readers themselves might also enjoy. The form was never meant to be as performative as poetry or other oral modes, and it was specifically created as a commodity to be sold in the emerging market to middle class buyers who had extra income and leisure time to read. See the article mentioned above for further insight on this topic.
As the novel became more popular, various subgenres began to appear. The romance focuses on the writer or narrator's inner life and emotions and usually references nature, creativity, or imagination. Beauty seems to be a recurrent theme as well as the idealization of women, children, and the rural. Individual experience is at the heart of this subgenre. Sensational literature depicts disturbing or unusual behavior, often of a sexual or violent nature, to secure a reaction from readers. The domestic-sentimental novel provided a pleasure of escape into emotionalism and the specifically gendered spaces of the domestic sphere. Woman were the main writers and readers of these popular texts, and while many of these works were rejected for their simplistic renderings, more recently these works have been recovered because of the emphasis on representations of women and the separation of private and public spheres at the time. For more info on these subgenres, revisit Hawthorne's "Preface", "Sensationalism", and "Sentimentalism".
According to Hawthorne, a romance, as a work of art, should present the truth of the human heart presented under circumstances of the author's own imagination and creation. He says that a novel, on the other hand, must present the possible, probable, and ordinary course of the life of man. In his text The House of Seven Gables, Hawthorne connects the past and bygone era with the present to offer a moral lesson of the most subtle type, one that is the same on the first page as on the last. See Hawthorne's "Preface" for more information about his definition of the romance.
In his text The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne creates a story that depicts a society that punishes a woman for adultery by making her wear a scarlet A on her chest. She is ostracized from the community and refuses to name the father of her daughter, who is born out of wedlock. The text itself challenges some of the contradictions of Puritanical philosophy by portraying the inner lives of a number of characters in a small New England town. Hawthorne asks readers to consider why Hester Prynne is condemned as she is just acting on human instinct like all the others in her town. A darkness pervades the text that acts as a character in and of itself. Characters grapple with issues like innate depravity, sin, sexuality, guilt, and secrets in this text. Hawthorne challenges readers to see how free will and freedom to question societal conventions lead to more healthy relationships. This text also explores nature and illness as they affect the spiritual life of the body. For more information about Hawthorne's engagement with these topics, review The Scarlet Letter.
Sensationalist literature was meant to entertain and titillate its readers by depicting a clear moral demarcation between the exploitative upper classes and the working classes. Its engagement with sexual licentiousness and the criminal element also drew readers in by representing provocative characters and experiences that readers would not necessarily encounter in their own lives. Lippard and Thompson were two of the most well known writers of sensationalist novels. Thompson's works tend to foreground class divisions and the viciousness of the elite while offering less condemnatory representations of sexuality and criminality. See "Sensationalism" for more information on this topic.
A woman writing in the 19th century, Fern offers a lot about the publishing industry at the time. She advocates for an end to trade courtesy, which in turn allows for opening bidding for creative works. This greatly benefits authors. In her autobiographical text, Ruth Hall, Fern tells the story of a young woman who ends up married and in love but loses both her husband and child suddenly. She must go out into the workforce to sustain herself financially. After much struggle, she becomes a writer and finds great success. She makes her own family then, without a male influence, and finds great satisfaction in life. Fern does use sentimental tropes here, but she also undermines them by showing Ruth Hall to be a competent woman who succeeds outside of the domestic sphere without a romantic relationship. See Ruth Hall for further explanation.
This vocabulary list includes terms that might help you with the review items above and some terms you should be familiar with to be successful in completing the final exam for the course.
Try to think of the reason why each term is included.