By James B. Salazar
From the patricians of the early republic to post-Reconstruction racial scientists, from fin de siècle progressivist social reformers to post-war sociologists, personality, that interestingly formable but both bold “stuff,” has had an extended and checkered background giving form to the yankee nationwide identity.Bodies of Reform reconceives this pivotal type of nineteenth-century literature and tradition through charting the advance of the idea that of “character” within the fictional genres, social reform pursuits, and political cultures of the us from the mid-nineteenth to the early-twentieth century. through studying novelists akin to Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Pauline Hopkins, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman along a various choice of texts desirous about the challenge of establishing personality, together with child-rearing courses, muscle-building magazines, libel and naturalization legislation, Scout handbooks, and luck manuals, James B. Salazar uncovers how the cultural practices of representing personality operated in tandem with the character-building techniques of social reformers. His cutting edge interpreting of this archive deals a thorough revision of this defining classification in U.S. literature and tradition, arguing that personality was once the keystone of a cultural politics of embodiment, a politics that performed a severe function in determining-and contesting-the social mobility, political authority, and cultural that means of the raced and gendered physique.
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Extra info for Bodies of Reform: The Rhetoric of Character in Gilded Age America (America and the Long 19th Century)
The establishment of the novel as a popular yet controversial commodity in the early to mid-nineteenth century has in particular been tied to the role novelistic character was imagined to play in the building of character itself. 93 By experiencing the private thoughts and feelings that lie behind the public lives of fictional characters, these accounts argue, readers cultivated a sense of their own private interiority, as distinct from, yet oriented toward, the social forms and economic transactions of the public sphere.
Reclaiming the Question of Character The antebellum period has commonly been described as a period in which the ideological assumptions and representational forms that governed character’s regulatory function in the early national period were increasingly undermined by a particular set of political, economic, and social transformations, transformations that rapidly accelerated in the decades following the Civil War. 66 More broadly speaking, the antebellum period has also been described as a period in which a consumption-oriented mass culture, increasingly organized around the conspicuous desires, affective sentiments, and embodied performances of a salaried middle class, began to eclipse the more localized, production-oriented economy centered on the thrift and hard work of the property-owning bourgeoisie of the early national period.
Introduction 19 actions could be taken as an authentic manifestation of its own determinate intentions. Such an individual who was seen to “have” character was thus one who reliably was just what he or she appeared to be. Because having character meant taking possession of the motivational mechanism of action and appearance itself, one proved one “had” character, in this retroactively circular logic of character, simply by forcefully and “distinctly” making one’s appearance through acts of will in the public sphere.