In “That Damned Mob of Scribbling Siblings: The American Romance as Anti-Novel in The Power of Sympathy and Pierre,” Elizabeth Dill discusses the eruption of genre chaos in early and mid-nineteenth century American works of fiction. In order to do so, she considers the connections between two much-disputed incest romances, William Hill Brown's The Power of Sympathy (1789) and Herman Melville's Pierre; or, The Ambiguities (1852). Dill's interpretations show how both books refuse to fit into any genre category. The romantic yearnings of the sibling lovers in both books, Dill suggests, constitute a radical love that requires a radical language, so radical, in fact, that silence is often portrayed as the most rebellious of all forms of communication. In her readings of the two texts, then, Dill analyzes how silence in aberrant scenes of romance articulates an unspoken and unspeakable language of love. Dill thus presents the silences of these texts as revolutionary spaces. Within those spaces, Brown and Melville locate an erosion of certainty that the texts posit as an American ideal.
Elizabeth Dill; That Damned Mob of Scribbling Siblings: The American Romance as Anti-novel in The Power of Sympathy and Pierre. American Literature 1 December 2008; 80 (4): 707–738. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-2008-036
Download citation file: