Not Quite Hope and Other Political Emotions in the Gilded Age

  • ISBN 13:


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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 02/13/2019
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

Note: Not guaranteed to come with supplemental materials (access cards, study guides, lab manuals, CDs, etc.)

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Not Quite Hope and Other Political Emotions in the Gilded Age argues that late nineteenth-century US fiction grapples with and helps to conceptualize the disagreeable feelings that are both a threat to citizens' agency and an inescapable part of the emotional life of democracy--then as now. In detailing the corruption and venality for which the period remains known, authors including Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry Adams, and Helen Hunt Jackson evoked the depressing inefficacy of reform, the lunatic passions of the mob, and the revolting appetites of lobbyists and office seekers. Readers and critics of these Washington novels, historical romances, and satiric romans a clef have denounced these books' fiercely negative tone, seeing it as a sign of cynicism and elitism. Not Quite Hope argues, in contrast, that their distrust of politics is coupled with an intense investment in it: not quite apathy, but not quite hope.

Chapters examine both common and idiosyncratic forms of political emotion, including 'crazy love', disgust, cynicism, 'election fatigue', and the myriad feelings of hatred and suspicion provoked by the figure of the hypocrite. In so doing, the book corrects critics' too-narrow focus on 'sympathy' as the American novel's model political emotion. We think of reform novels as fostering feeling for fellow citizens or for specific causes. This volume argues that Gilded Age fiction refocuses attention on the unstable emotions that continue to shape our relation to politics as such.

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