In his “Sketch of American Literature” Charles Brockden Brown (1807: 174) declared that “the American states are, in a literary view, no more than a province of the British empire. In these respects we bear an exact resemblance to Scotland and Ireland.” Citing this backward-looking stance that was characteristic of Brown’s Federalist politics (63), Juliet Shields’s new book analyzes how transatlantic literary studies have tended to neglect “the significant contributions of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales to the development of American literature and culture” (3). One of the book’s principal aims, as Shields explains in her epilogue, is “to decenter the Anglo-American focus” typical of transatlantic studies and hence to extend “the reach of archipelagic criticism to include the literature of the early American republic” (139).

In general terms, this is a valuable project, and Shields is right to be skeptical...

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