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Virtuous Citizens, Virtuous Citizens, 0817320814, 0-8173-2081-4, 978-0-8173-2081-2, 9780817320812, , , Virtuous Citizens, 0817393374, 0-8173-9337-4, 978-0-8173-9337-3, 9780817393373,

Virtuous Citizens
Counterpublics and Sociopolitical Agency in Transatlantic Literature

Trade Cloth
2021. 192 pp.
Price:  $54.95 s
E Book
2021. 192 pp.
Price:  $54.95 d

Demonstrates how contemporary manifestations of civic publics trace directly to the early days of nationhood

 The rise of the bourgeois public sphere and the contemporaneous appearance of counterpublics in the eighteenth century deeply influenced not only how politicians and philosophers understood the relationships among citizens, disenfranchised subjects, and the state but also how members of the polity understood themselves. In Virtuous Citizens: Counterpublics and Sociopolitical Agency in Transatlantic Literature, Kendall McClellan uncovers a fundamental and still redolent transformation in conceptions of civic identity that occurred over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Literature of this period exposes an emotional investment in questions of civic selfhood born out of concern for national stability and power, which were considered products of both economic strength and a nation’s moral fiber. McClellan shows how these debates traversed the Atlantic to become a prominent component of early American literature, evident in works by James Fenimore Cooper, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Sarah Josepha Hale, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, among others.

Underlying popular opinion about who could participate in the political public, McClellan argues, was an impassioned rhetorical wrestling match over the right and wrong ways to demonstrate civic virtue. Relying on long-established tropes of republican virtue that lauded self-sacrifice and disregard for personal safety, abolitionist writers represented loyalty to an ideals-based community as the surest safeguard of both private and public virtue. This evolution in civic virtue sanctioned acts of protest against the state, offered disenfranchised citizens a role in politics, and helped usher in the modern transnational public sphere.

Virtuous Citizens shows that the modern public sphere has always constituted a vital and powerful space for those invested in addressing injustice and expanding democracy. To illuminate some of the fundamental issues underlying today’s sociopolitical unrest, McClellan traces the transatlantic origins of questions still central to the representation of movements like Black Lives Matter, the Women’s March, and the Alt-Right: What is the primary loyalty of a virtuous citizen? Are patriots those who defend the current government against attacks, external and internal, or those who challenge the government to fulfill sociopolitical ideals?
Kendall McClellan is lecturer in the Department of English at California State University Channel Islands. Her peer-reviewed scholarship has appeared in MP: An Online Feminist Journal and the edited collection Nineteenth-Century British Travelers in the New World.
“By placing political and economic philosophy in dialogue with popular literature, and particularly sentimental novels by women, Virtuous Citizens uncovers transformations in conceptions of civic identity that preceded and enabled the political activism of our own time. McClellan offers a captivating literary history, written in lucid and accessible terms, of the moment when liberalism became central to Anglo-American notions of citizenship.”
—Juliet Shields, author of Nation and Migration: The Making of British Atlantic Literature, 1765–1835
“McClellan’s Virtuous Citizens is an ambitious and vital contribution to our literary and political conversations. Especially given the turbulent world in which we live, this book is a reminder that for every attempt to limit our understanding of the public or marginalize voices out of it, we can also find resistance to those injustices and efforts to expand democracy. This is a welcome and timely book.”
—Scott Henkel, author of Direct Democracy: Collective Power, the Swarm, and the Literatures of the Americas
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