New Book: Love and Depth in the American Novel

Author: Ashley C. Barnes

Love and Depth in the American Novel from Stowe to James

University of Virginia Press, 2020

Love and Depth in the American Novel seeks to change how we think about the American love story and how we imagine the love of literature. By examining classics of nineteenth-century American literature, Ashley Barnes offers a new approach to literary theory that encompasses both New Historicism and the ethical turn in literary studies.

Couples like Huck and Jim and Ishmael and Queequeg have grounded the classic account of the American novel as exceptionally gothic and antisocial. Barnes argues instead for a model of shared intimacy that connects the evangelical sentimental best seller to the high art of psychological realism. In her reading of works by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Elizabeth Stoddard, Henry James, and others in the context of nineteenth-century Protestant-Catholic debates about how to know and love God, what emerges is an alternate tradition of the American love story that pictures intimacy as communion rather than revelation. Barnes uses that unacknowledged love story to propose a model of literary critical intimacy that depends on reading fiction in its historical context.

Love and Depth in the American Novel offers a fresh, original analysis of the nineteenth-century American novel. Ashley Barnes’s book is a genuinely remarkable study: it is original, insightful, and important. Especially timely are Barnes’s contributions to current debates about differing modes of reading, as well as her consideration of the Protestant nature of scholarly praxis, a contribution that extends the recent study of secularity into the academy itself. The book’s arguments—both broadly defined and within individual chapters—are sophisticated and intricate.” — Claudia Stokes, Trinity University, author of The Altar at Home: Sentimental Literature and Nineteenth-Century American Religion

“Beautifully written, authoritative, and engaging, this important book establishes an original frame for understanding nineteenth-century literature.” — Dawn Coleman, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, author of Preaching and the Rise of the American Novel

This book is available for purchase from the University of Virginia Press in digital and print formats.