21 | 19
The nineteenth century is often viewed as a golden age of American literature, a historical moment when national identity was emergent and ideals such as freedom, democracy, and individual agency were promising, even if belied in reality by violence and hypocrisy. The writers of this “American Renaissance”—Thoreau, Fuller, Whitman, Emerson, and Dickinson, among many others—produced a body of work that has been both celebrated and contested by following generations.
As the twenty-first century unfolds in a United States characterized by deep divisions, diminished democracy, and dramatic transformation of identities, this singular book asks a dozen North American poets to engage with texts by their predecessors in ways that avoid both aloofness from the past and too-easy elegy. The resulting essays dwell provocatively on the border between the lyrical and the scholarly, casting fresh critical light on the golden age of American literature and exploring a handful of texts not commonly included in its canon.
A polyvocal collection that reflects the complexity of the cross-temporal encounter it enacts, 21|19 offers a re-reading of the “American Renaissance” and new possibilities for imaginative critical practice today.
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Praise and Prizes
“[These essays] plumb the traditional American canon—and significant texts on its periphery—to contend with the questions of national ethos and identity that resound today. Editors Kristen Case and Alexandra Manglis suggest the ways poetry might be both agitator and balm in times of social crisis, as thirteen poets write about topics such as Poe and race, gun violence, and the Black pastoral.”
“Displaying a sophisticated sense of poetics as well as a good grasp of history and its implications for the present moment . . . [the editors] have done a remarkable job of bringing together such a challenging collection.”