cover of book

The Transformation of Authorship in America
by Grantland S. Rice
University of Chicago Press, 1997
Cloth: 978-0-226-71123-2 | Paper: 978-0-226-71124-9
Library of Congress Classification PS25.R52 1997
Dewey Decimal Classification 810.9358

Did the emergence of a free press liberate eighteenth-century American authors? Most critics and historians have assumed so. In a study certain to force a rethinking of early American literary culture, Grantland S. Rice overturns this dominant view. Rice argues that the lapse of Puritan censorship, the consolidation of copyright law, and the explosion of a commercial print culture confronted writers in the new United States with a striking predicament: the depoliticization and commodification of public expression.

Rice shows that the rigorous censorship practiced by Puritan authorities conferred an implicit prestige on texts as civic interventions, helping to foster a vigorous and indigenous tradition of sociopolitical criticism. With special attention to the sudden emergence of the novel in post-revolutionary America, Rice reveals how the emergence of economic liberalism undermined the earlier tradition of political writing by transforming American authorship from an expression of individual civic conscience to a market-oriented profession.

Includes discussions of the writings of Benjamin Franklin, Michel-Guillaume-Jean de Crèvecoeur, and Hugh Henry Brackenridge.
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