296 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 33 illus., notes, bibl., index
Temporality and Social Imagination in Nineteenth-Century America
The development of the American nation has typically been interpreted in terms of its expansion through space, specifically its growth westward. In this innovative study, Thomas Allen posits time, not space, as the most significant territory of the young nation. He argues that beginning in the nineteenth century, the actual geography of the nation became less important, as Americans imagined the future as their true national territory.
Allen explores how transformations in the perception of time shaped American conceptions of democratic society and modern nationhood. He focuses on three ways of imagining time: the romantic historical time that prevailed at the outset of the nineteenth century, the geological "deep time" that arose as widely read scientific works displaced biblical chronology with a new scale of millions of years of natural history, and the technology-driven "clock time" that became central to American culture by century's end. Allen analyzes cultural artifacts ranging from clocks and scientific treatises to paintings and literary narratives to show how Americans made use of these diverse ideas about time to create competing visions of American nationhood.
"An interesting literary analysis and material cultural investigation into how elite antebellum northern narratives depicted and understood time."
--Journal of American History
"Offers a vivid and often provocative window into nineteenth century American perceptions of time. . . . Unique both in its scope and questions addressed."
"Makes its important case by reconstructing the rich history of debate and negotiation that the American national project has entailed."
--Journal of Interdisciplinary History
"[A] pioneering interdisciplinary approach. . . . By integrating time, politics, and national identity, [Allen] deepens and shifts the scholarship of time and timekeeping, adding new variations, subtleties, and dimensions."
--Technology and Culture
"Learned and wide-ranging . . . a revisionist project filled with illuminating and timely surprises. . . . Fresh and revealing. . . . A brilliant contribution."
"A provocative and suggestive read. . . . Not only provides illuminating and original approaches to the study of nineteenth-century culture, but actually challenges some of the trends currently doing the rounds in American Studies."
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