John Cullen Gruesser’s and Christopher Freeburg’s studies attend to the pressure that race applies, and that is applied to race, in literary texts authored by US writers responsive to expansionism and imperialism. While both studies expand our understanding of how race figures in imperial contexts, they do so in markedly distinct ways. For Freeburg, plumbing the depths of Herman Melville’s corpus suggests a paradigm shift in how we estimate his achievement, whereby blackness operates in postidentitarian ways. Conversely, Gruesser applies more recognizable strategies for thinking about race in relation to identity in order to engage the ways African American literature generates pro- and antiexpansionist sentiment at the turn of the century. In tandem, these two studies raise important questions about race and literature in relation to the variable and shifting scales of US empire building across the long nineteenth century.

Heeding the...

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