By Mary Esteve
Mary Esteve offers a examine of crowd representations in Americanliterature from the antebellum period to the early 20th century. Asa principal icon of political and cultural democracy, the gang occupiesa well-known position within the American literary and cultural landscape.Esteve examines a number of writing via Poe, Hawthorne, Lydia MariaChild,Du Bois, James, and Stephen Crane between others. those writers,she argues, distinguish among the aesthetics of immersion in acrowd and the mode of collectivity demanded of political-liberal subjects.In their representations of daily crowds, ranging fromstreamsof city pedestrians to swarms of educate travelers, from upper-classparties to lower-class revivalist conferences, such authors grab on thepolitical difficulties dealing with a mass liberal democracy – difficulties such asthe conditions of citizenship, country formation, mass immigration,and the emergence of mass media. Esteve examines either the aestheticand political meanings of such city crowd scenes.
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Extra resources for The Aesthetics and Politics of the Crowd in American Literature
He illuminates the parallels between nineteenth-century “classic American novel[s]” and Tocqueville’s well-known concern about the tyranny of the majority. ”4 Mills thereby suggests that the central conﬂict made visible by crowd representations is between the individual and the group. 6 Members of such crowds have abandoned the ethical principles of propriety, public reason, and justice as fairness that render popular sovereignty an acceptable form of governance. When Tocqueville warns against the tyrannous capacity of a majority, he aims his criticism at that which embodies interests and opinions, which is to say, a body politic distinctly unmoored from liberal justice.
Invocations of the crowd often served to drive home the point. In one of his Junius Tracts (1844), for instance, the Whig spokesperson and Henry Clay supporter Calvin Colton stated in no uncertain terms that what was wrong with Jackson was his mob appeal. ”23 In his concomitant effort to show that Whigs were democrats, not elitists, Colton reclaimed Jefferson as the party ideal: “Jeffersonian democracy . . was the power of the people. Jackson ‘Democracy’ was the Antebellum aesthetics and the contours of the political 31 ascendant star of one m an.
Whitman’s aesthetics of democratic goodness, in which reﬂective judgment is elided and replaced by all-encompassing affect, delivers to radical democratic theory its nearest poetic correlative. ” In other words, rather than making, as in Kant’s theory (to which Larson refers), the abstract possibility of everyone’s agreement the basis for reﬂective judgment, which in turn assumes the non-negotiable separation of the poem or poet-object from the beholder or reader-subject, Whitman imagines an empirical agreement wherein everybody simply feels the same way.
The Aesthetics and Politics of the Crowd in American Literature by Mary Esteve