In this ambitious study of the intense and often adversarial relationship between English and American literature in the nineteenth century, Robert Weisbuch portrays the rise of American literary nationalism as a self-conscious effort to resist and, finally, to transcend the contemporary British influence.
Describing the transatlantic "double-cross" of literary influence, Weisbuch documents both the American desire to create a literature distinctly different from English models and the English insistence that any such attempt could only fail. The American response, as he demonstrates, was to make strengths out of national disadvantages by rethinking history, time, and traditional concepts of the self, and by reinterpreting and ridiculing major British texts in mocking allusions and scornful parodies.
Weisbuch approaches a precise characterization of this "double-cross" by focusing on paired sets of English and American texts. Investigations of the causes, motives, and literary results of the struggle alternate with detailed analyses of several test cases. Weisbuch considers Melville's challenge to Dickens, Thoreau's response to Coleridge and Wordsworth, Hawthorne's adaptation of Keats and influence on Eliot, Whitman's competition with Arnold, and Poe's reshaping of Shelley. Adding a new dimension to the exploration of an emerging aesthetic consciousness, Atlantic Double-Cross provides important insights into the creation of the American literary canon.