Enthusiast!

Essays on Modern American literature
Author(s): 
Herd, David
ISBN: 
9780719095849
Date published: 
June 2014
Paperback
Price: 
£16.99

Enthusiast! is a polemical history of American literature told from the point of view of six of its major enthusiasts. Complaining that his age was ‘retrospective’, Emerson injected enthusiasm into American literature as a way of making it new. ‘What,’ he asked, ‘is a man good for without enthusiasm? and what is enthusiasm but the daring of ruin for its object?’ This book takes enthusiasm to be a defining feature of American literature, showing how successive major writers – Melville, Thoreau, Pound, Moore, Frank O’Hara and James Schuyler – have modernised and re-modeled Emerson’s founding sense of enthusiasm. The book presents the writer as enthusiast, showing how enthusiasm is fundamental to the composition and the circulation of literature. Enthusiasm, it is argued, is the way literary value is passed on. Starting with a brief history of enthusiasm from Plato to Kant and Emerson, the book features chapters on each of Melville, Thoreau, Pound, Moore, O’Hara and Schuyler. Each chapter presents an aspect of the writer as enthusiast, the book as a whole charting the changing sense of literary enthusiasm from Romanticism to the present day. Lucidly written and combatively argued, the book will appeal to readers of American literature or modern poetry, and to all those interested in the circulation of literary work.