History as Literature

Ed White

in The Oxford Handbook of Early American Literature

Published in print March 2008 | ISBN: 9780195187274
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

History as Literature

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  • Literature
  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)
  • Literary Theory and Cultural Studies



This article ends up analyzing how history is canonized as literature in the American culture. What is the significance of early American historical writing, and for whom or what should this body of writing be important? Traditionally, early historiography has been the domain of historians rather than a resource for literary critics. The preeminent historian J. Franklin Jameson, in a series of lectures in the 1880s, staked the historians' claim in examining “the development of our science from its half-conscious infancy down to the present time.” Early American historiography has conventionally inspired what little interest it has as a troubled information bank for historians. Few studies have ventured assessments of the construction of a uniquely colonial historiographical practice, and rare are the attempts to link these works with more belletristic productions, save on thematic or referential levels. A detailed analysis of provincial histories and microhistories conclude this article.

Keywords: American culture; history; literature; historiography; provincial histories; microhistories; J. Franklin Jameson

Article.  9954 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800) ; Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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