Cover: Alone in America: The Stories That Matter, from Harvard University PressCover: Alone in America in HARDCOVER

Alone in America

The Stories That Matter

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Product Details


$40.00 • £32.95 • €36.00

ISBN 9780674066762

Publication Date: 01/14/2013


296 pages

5 x 7-1/2 inches


Ferguson presents a scholarly study of how aloneness has been treated in American fiction over several centuries. He points out that being alone is experienced in different ways, drawing distinctions between feelings of loneliness, vulnerability, and solitude.—Stacy Russo, Library Journal

Illuminating… Ferguson argues persuasively that loneliness has been a dominant theme in American literature virtually since Americans began writing. Concentrating on what he (by way of Emerson) refers to as ‘the lords of life’ (failure, betrayal, change, defeat, breakdown, fear, difference, age, and loss), he offers close readings of works from the early 19th century through the late 20th century, showing how these recurring issues, reflecting each era’s zeitgeist, alienate characters from society and themselves. Rip Van Winkle awakens from his alcohol-induced slumber to find himself 20 years out of time. The heroines of Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God suffer estrangement within their poorly made marriages. Ferguson is particular edifying in his chapter on immigrant novels, which acutely show the loss ofhome that he finds at the center of all manifestations of loneliness in American literature. Age, gender, race, and illness are presented as agents of isolation in the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, Mark Twain, Saul Bellow, Don DeLillo, and others. Ferguson invites the reader to look at classic fiction in a new light, and ponder the irony of so much loneliness in the literature of a country that champions self-reliance and the self-made man.Publishers Weekly

Ferguson offers a sweeping panoramic account of his chosen fictions. Alone in America is well worth the price of admission.—Lawrence Buell, Harvard University

Alone in America captures the tension between individualist ideal and the experience of loneliness that the opening presents so powerfully. Reading Ferguson’s book sets up a contagious way of thinking afresh about American literature and culture, so that each reader will probably think of additional works in which this tension operates.—Werner Sollors, Harvard University

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