Mapping Region in Early American Writing

Edited by Edward Watts, Keri Holt, and John Funchion

Drawing attention to the geographical and literary diversity of American writers before the Civil War


"Demonstrating that the antebellum US sustained a vibrant tradition of regional literature, these essays collectively argue that local writing complicated and/or contended with a federalist narrative of nation building. Throughout, the contributors draw attention to how early American literature was shaped by such local factors as overlapping legal imperatives, methods of crop production, and sustained race prejudice. The essays reveal impressive archival work that frequently unearthed interesting regional issues across a diverse collection of locales." 
—G. D. MacDonald, Choice

Mapping Region attends carefully to the relationships between race and place…the volume includes an impressive range of essays that give it a strong topical and methodological scope.”
—Molly Ball, Early American Literature Book Review


Mapping Region in Early American Writing is a collection of essays that study how early American writers thought about the spaces around them. The contributors reconsider the various roles regions—imagined politically, economically, racially, and figuratively—played in the formation of American communities, both real and imagined. These texts vary widely: some are canonical, others archival; some literary, others scientific; some polemical, others simply documentary. As a whole, they recreate important mental mappings and cartographies, and they reveal how diverse populations imagined themselves, their communities, and their nation as occupying the American landscape.

Focusing on place-specific, local writing published before 1860, Mapping Region in Early American Writing examines a period often overlooked in studies of regional literature in America. More than simply offering a prehistory of regionalist writing, these essays offer new ways of theorizing and studying regional spaces in the United States as it grew from a union of disparate colonies along the eastern seaboard into an industrialized nation on the verge of overseas empire building. They also seek to amplify lost voices of diverse narratives from minority, frontier, and outsider groups alongside their more well-known counterparts in a time when America’s landscapes and communities were constantly evolving.

Page count: 320
1 b&w photo, 1 map
Trim size: 6 x 9


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Edward Watts is professor of English at Michigan State University.

Keri Holt is associate professor of English at Utah State University.

John Funchion is associate professor of English and American Studies at the University of Miami.