Originally published in 1979. Eric Sundquist takes four representative writers—James Fenimore Cooper, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville—and considers the way in which each grapples with the crucial issues of genealogy and authority in his works. From all four a common pattern emerges: the desire to revolt against the past is countered by the need to invoke or even repeat it. Sundquist's approach to the texts is psychoanalytic, but he does not attempt a clinical dissection of each writer; rather, he determines how personal crisis became material for engaging with larger questions of social and literary crisis.
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