Magazine
Latest Issue

Can the Great American Novel survive?

The end of a centuries-old dream

By Elaine Showalter   February 2014

Hunting the big one: great American novels such as Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick aim to capture the essence of American culture and history  BRIDGEMAN ART LIBRARY

In the aftermath of the Civil War, the novelist John William DeForest suggested that while a national epic—“the Great American Poem”—could not be written until centuries of democracy had passed, “the Great American Novel” could be produced much sooner. Its task would be to “paint the American soul” and to give a “picture of the ordinary emotions and manners of American existence.” Before too long, of…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to letters@prospect-magazine.co.uk

More From Prospect