Conspiracy and Romance: Studies in Brockden Brown, Cooper, Hawthorne, and Melville

Cambridge University Press, 2008

Paperback edition; hardback published 1989.

Robert Levine has examined the American romance in a historical context. His book offers a fresh reading of the genre, establishing its importance to American culture between the founding of the republic and the Civil war. With convincing historical and literary detail, Levine shows that anxieties about various subversive elements - French revolutionaries, secret societies, Catholic immigrants, African slaves - are central to the fictional worlds of Brockden Brown, Cooper, Hawthorne and Melville. Ormond, The Bravo, The Blithedale Romance, and Benito Cereno are persuasively explicated by Levine to demonstrate that the romance addressed many of the same conflicts and ideals that gave rise to the American republic. Americans conceived of America as a romance, and their romances dramatised the historical conditions of the culture, The fear that conspiracies would subvert the order and integrity of the new nation were recurrent and widespread; Levine makes us see that these fears informed the works of our major romance writers from the turn of the century until the Civil War.