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In the aftermath of America's centennial celebrations of 1876, readers developed an appetite for chronicles of the nation's past. Born amid this national vogue, the field of American literary history was touted as the balm for numerous "ills--from burgeoning immigration to American anti-intellectualism to demanding university administrators--and enjoyed immense popularity between 1880 and 1910. In the first major analysis of the field's early decades, Claudia Stokes offers important insights into the practices, beliefs, and values that shaped the emerging discipline and have continued to shape it for the last century. She considers particular personalities--including Thomas Wentworth Higginson, William Dean Howells, Brander Matthews, and Mark Twain--and episodes that had a formative effect on American literary history as a discipline. Reexamining the field's deep attachment to the literature of antebellum New England, the periodization of the nineteenth century, and the omission of Native narratives, Stokes reveals the many forces, both inside and outside the academy, that propelled the rise of American literary history and persist as influences on the work of current practitioners of the field.

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