By James B. Salazar

From the patricians of the early republic to post-Reconstruction racial scientists, from fin de siècle progressivist social reformers to post-war sociologists, personality, that apparently formable but both bold “stuff,” has had a protracted and checkered background giving form to the yankee nationwide identity.Bodies of Reform reconceives this pivotal classification of nineteenth-century literature and tradition by means of charting the advance of the idea that of “character” within the fictional genres, social reform pursuits, and political cultures of the U.S. from the mid-nineteenth to the early-twentieth century. via studying novelists reminiscent of Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Pauline Hopkins, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman along a various selection of texts serious about the undertaking of creating personality, together with child-rearing publications, muscle-building magazines, libel and naturalization legislation, Scout handbooks, and good fortune manuals, James B. Salazar uncovers how the cultural practices of representing personality operated in tandem with the character-building techniques of social reformers. His cutting edge studying of this archive bargains a thorough revision of this defining class in U.S. literature and tradition, arguing that personality used to be the keystone of a cultural politics of embodiment, a politics that performed a severe position in determining-and contesting-the social mobility, political authority, and cultural that means of the raced and gendered physique.

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Extra resources for Bodies of Reform: The Rhetoric of Character in Gilded Age America (America and the Long 19th Century)

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Reputation thus acquired by the nineteenth century an important yet peculiar legal status. L. ”60 The paradox of reputation, however, was that it was situated within a domain of legal protections afforded not to the classical liberal subject invested with certain inalienable rights but rather to a form of legal personhood that confounds the distinction between person and property. 62 It was, however, in the broader tradition of defamation law that these paradoxes within liberal conceptions of character were most pronounced.

In delineating the literary dynamics of Melville’s novel, this chapter ultimately aims to make visible the racializing effects of the confidence man’s spectacular self-constitution as both a social agent and a literary character. In the opening pages of the novel, Melville portrays the Fidèle and the many characters it conveys as representative of the demographic diversity of the Jacksonian era: [On it] there was not lack of variety. Natives of all sorts, and foreigners; men of business and men of pleasure.

103 Rather than appealing to the base pleasures and imitative modes of sympathetic identification, realists thus sought to appeal to the more elevating, interpretive faculties of aesthetic judgment as a way of cultivating character. Such a historical narrative positions realism as a final fleshing out of the complex interiority of character, a method of characterization that has been either celebrated for its ability to challenge the racial, gender, and class “stereotypes” through which the rhetoric of character had long sustained its discriminatory work, or condemned as a liberal fantasy whose function is to obscure the disciplinary work of modern commodity capitalism.

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