Reimagines the American 19th century through a sweeping interdisciplinary engagement with oceans, genres, and time
Emergent Worlds re-locates nineteenth-century America from the land to the oceans and seas that surrounded it. Edward Sugden argues that these ocean spaces existed in a unique historical fold between the transformations that inaugurated the modern era—colonialism to nationalism, mercantilism to capitalism, slavery to freedom, and deferent subject to free citizen. As travellers, workers, and writers journeyed across the Pacific, Atlantic, and Caribbean Sea, they had to adapt their political expectations to the interstitial social realities that they saw before them while also feeling their very consciousness, particularly their perception of time, mutate. These four domains—oceanic geography, historical folds, emergent politics, and dissonant times—in turn, provided the conditions for the development of three previously unnamed genres of the 1850s: the Pacific elegy, the black counterfactual, and the immigrant gothic.
In telling the history of these emergent worlds and their importance to the development of the literary cultures of the US Americas, Sugden proposes narratives that alter some of the most enduring myths of the field, including the westward spread of US imperialism, the redemptionist trajectory of black historiography, and the notion that the US Americas constituted a new world. Introducing a new generic vocabulary for describing the literature of the 1850s and crossing over oceans and languages, Emergent Worlds invokes an alternative nineteenth-century America that provides nothing less than a new way to read the era.
“Sugden has the rare giftof being able to synthesize complex conversations and formulations and then tointervene within them generously and wisely. His archive of texts is rich,bringing together an unusual grouping of authors ranging from Melville to thefirst Haitian novelist, Émeric Bergeaud. Emergent Worlds considersthese texts as a collective ‘archival form’ that does more than merely preservethe interstitial states of emergent political thought that existed precariouslyin the time of their original production; it also protects a kind of seedbedfor unknown futures: emergent forms of political imagining that might one daybe called upon to remake a precarious world.”-Anna Brickhouse,University of Virginia
“An astute, surprising, and inventivestudy of the experiential and aesthetic possibilities that became imaginableduring moments of historical and geographical irresolution in the ‘longnineteenth century,’ as older world-systems receded before new ones cohered. Inthose liminal ‘folds,’ Sugden remaps oceanic geoculture through a series ofrichly illuminating and refreshingly original interpretations of a host oftexts, canonical and understudied. Emergent Worlds is, likethe worlds it examines, full of possibilities and pleasures.”-Christopher Castiglia,author of Practices of Hope (NYU Press, 2017)