Dislocating Race and Nation

Episodes in Nineteenth-Century American Literary Nationalism

By Robert S. Levine

334 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5903-2
    Published: October 2008
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-8788-2
    Published: June 2009
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-7978-3
    Published: June 2009

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American literary nationalism is traditionally understood as a cohesive literary tradition developed in the newly independent United States that emphasized the unique features of America and consciously differentiated American literature from British literature. Robert S. Levine challenges this assessment by exploring the conflicted, multiracial, and contingent dimensions present in the works of late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American and African American writers. Conflict and uncertainty, not consensus, Levine argues, helped define American literary nationalism during this period.

Levine emphasizes the centrality of both inter- and intra-American conflict in his analysis of four illuminating "episodes" of literary responses to questions of U.S. racial nationalism and imperialism. He examines Charles Brockden Brown and the Louisiana Purchase; David Walker and the debates on the Missouri Compromise; Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Hannah Crafts and the blood-based literary nationalism and expansionism of the mid-nineteenth century; and Frederick Douglass and his approximately forty-year interest in Haiti. Levine offers critiques of recent developments in whiteness and imperialism studies, arguing that a renewed attention to the place of contingency in American literary history helps us to better understand and learn from writers trying to make sense of their own historical moments.

About the Author

Robert S. Levine is professor of English at the University of Maryland and author or editor of eleven books, including Martin Delany, Frederick Douglass, and the Politics of Representative Identity and Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, Dred (both from the University of North Carolina Press).

For more information about Robert S. Levine, visit the Author Page.


"[A] provocative critical study. . . . Comprehensive and well documented. . . . Eloquent and refreshingly jargon free. Highly recommended."--Choice

"Levine is at his best when recovering the forgotten history of African American intellectuals, such as Walker and Douglass, and showing how they responded to specific domestic events motivating their transnational imaginations."--American Historical Review

“An important and provocative deconstruction of nineteenth-century American nationalism, race, and the literature where the two intersect.”--Literature & History

"A remarkable tome. [Levine] has broken new ground. . . . Stands as an exceptional study and an instructive contribution to the scholarly literature dealing with American literary history and cultural criticism. Levine helps us to think in new ways and in new categories. Intellectual and cultural historians will find this book an especially valuable addition to the scholarship in their fields. Literature professors across a wide spectrum of specialties will welcome this book as well."--Louisiana History

“Readers of Dislocating Race and Nation will profit from these fresh (and, to my mind, more fair-minded) readings of familiar figures and texts. . . . Levine demonstrates with exemplary clarity, erudition, and even optimism that “alternative histories are always immanent in particular cultural moments”--Modern Philology

“Levine’s book puts on display his striking and arguably unequaled breadth of knowledge of interracial literary history.”--American Literature