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Surveyors of Customs – American Literature as Cultural Analysis - Oxford Scholarship Online
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Surveyors of Customs: American Literature as Cultural Analysis

Joel Pfister


In 1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne, returning to writing from Salem’s Customs House, reconceived his old title, surveyor of customs, as his new one. This book argues that writers from Benjamin Franklin to Louise Erdrich are critical “surveyors” of customs, culture, hegemony, capitalism’s emotional logic, and more. Literary surveyors have helped make possible—and can advance—cultural analysis. In recent decades cultural theory and history have changed how we read literature. Literature can return the favor. America’s achievement as a literary nation has contributed creatively to its accomplishment as ... More

Keywords: American literature, customs, cultural analysis, hegemony, critical work, cultural theory, historical analysis, soft capitalism, personnel culture, critical pleasure

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2016 Print ISBN-13: 9780190276157
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2016 DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190276157.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Joel Pfister, author
Olin Professor of English, Wesleyan University