Delivered as a plenary lecture at the fifth Symbiosis biennale, in Thessaloniki, 2005, this essay was originally published in Symbiosis: A Journal of Anglo-American Literary Relations, Volume 10.1.
An extract from the opening of this essay:
Was there, or might there be, a specifically American “˜national character”? A century before this question enlivened post-Revolutionary debates on cultural independence, a highly developed discourse of “˜character” and its alternatives was being explored in British literature in relation to gender and class. ... Observers of America such as Hector St John de CrÃ¨vecoeur and Alexis de Tocqueville argued that mobility or even rejection of “˜character” had become an ideologically sanctioned option for self-representation in America, a means of turning away from the mirror of British identity. “¦ Attending to a series of ... Anglo-American works involving focal figures whose “˜character” is to be characterless, or which discuss the opportunities of character-denial, the essay will consider some continuities and transformations involved between texts across time and space.
About the author
Susan Manning is Grierson Professor of English Literature at the University of Edinburgh and author of The Puritan-Provincial Vision (CUP, 1990), and the transatlantic study Fragments of Union (Palgrave, 2002.