The Genuine Article

Race, Mass Culture, and American Literary Manhood

The Genuine Article

New Americanists

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Book Pages: 288 Illustrations: 11 illustrations Published: November 2001

Author: Paul Gilmore

American Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

In The Genuine Article Paul Gilmore examines the interdependence of literary and mass culture at a crucial moment in U. S. history. Demonstrating from a new perspective the centrality of race to the construction of white manhood across class lines, Gilmore argues that in the years before the Civil War, as literature increasingly became another commodity in the capitalist cultural marketplace, American authors appropriated middle-brow and racially loaded cultural forms to bolster their masculinity.
From characters in Indian melodramas and minstrel shows to exhibits in popular museums and daguerrotype galleries, primitive racialized figures circulated as “the genuine article” of manliness in the antebellum United States. Gilmore argues that these figures were manipulated, translated, and adopted not only by canonical authors such as Hawthorne, Thoreau, Cooper, and Melville but also by African American and Native American writers like William Wells Brown and Okah Tubbee. By examining how these cultural notions of race played out in literary texts and helped to construct authorship as a masculine profession, Gilmore makes a unique contribution to theories of class formation in nineteenth-century America.
The Genuine Article will enrich students and scholars of American studies, gender studies, literature, history, sociology, anthropology, popular culture, and race.


“[A]n interesting and demanding study that blends literary criticism with sociology and . . . aesthetics and psychology . . . . [H]ighly recommended . . . .” — S. I. Bellman , Choice

“[F]ascinating. . . . Summary cannot do justice to the finer points of Gilmore’s argument. Gilmore is never reductionist, always embracing greater complexity and nuance with certainty and good humor. He keeps race, class, and gender constantly but distinctly in play, never muddling matters with lazy prose or jargon. He is at his best, however, when he pushes past his thesis -- the reclamation of manhood by authors threatened with market emasculation -- to examine its implications for masculinity more generally. . . . [C]ompelling.” — Stephen W. Berry II , Journal of the Early Republic

"Carefully researched and innovative, [Gilmore's] study presents an impressive analysis of marketplace cross currents in constructions of identity in nineteenth-century America. . . . . Gilmore's argument is intriguing and his scholarship is impressive. . . . Revisionist and persuasive, The Genuine Article is immensely provocative." — Brian Edwards , Australasian Journal of American Studies

"Paul Gilmore's The Genuine Article deftly analyzes the . . . cultural contradictions and ambivalences [of the first decades of the nineteenth century.] . . . [A] far-ranging survey." — T. Walter Herbert , Men and Masculinities

"There is much valuable material in The Genuine Article. Gilmore includes fascinating examples of freak shows and race images, and his interpretations are often penetrating."

— Mark Bauerlein , Journal of American History

[I]ntelligent…. Duke University Press, and the New Americanists Series, are … to be commended for their support of young scholars and their early works…. [L]ong overdue…. The Genuine Article does what good first books do.” — Bryce Traister , Nineteenth-Century Contexts

“A brilliantly conceived, carefully built, nuanced, and important study of the ongoing consolidation of white middle-class manhood in the antebellum United States.” — Dana Nelson, author of National Manhood: Capitalist Citizenship and the Imagined Fraternity of White Men

“Richly informative and conceptually sophisticated, Paul Gilmore’s book argues that antebellum white male writers appropriated racialized body images from mass culture to market their antimarket manhood. Gilmore shows how unstable images of raced authenticity helped to stabilize literary manhood’s ‘impossible ideal,’ to be in and above market culture.” — David Leverenz, University of Florida


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Paul Gilmore is Assistant Professor of English at Bucknell University.

Table of Contents Back to Top



Prologue: Staging Manhood, Writing Manhood: Cultural Authority and the Indian Body

2. The Indian in the Museum: Henry David Thoreau, Okah Tubbee, and Authentic Manhood

3. A “Rara Avis in Terris”: Poe’s “Hop-Frog” and Race in the Antebellum Freak Show

4. Inward Criminality and the Shadow of Race: The House of the Seven Gables and Daguerreotypy


Epilogue: Electric Chains




Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2764-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2754-7
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