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Beneath the American Renaissance:
In this landmark work, the seven great writers of the American Renaissance--Emerson, Thoreau, Writman, Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, and Dickinson--are examined together in their cultural contexts. David Reynolds reveals how these authors broadly assimilated the themes and images of popular culture. Their classic works--among them Moby Dick, The Scarlet Letter, Leaves of Grass, Walden, and the tales of Poe--are given strikingly original reading when viewed against the rich, often startling background of long neglected popular writings of the time.
Reynolds also explores a whole lost world of sensational literature, including grisly novels, openly sold on the street, that combined intense violence with explicit eroticism. He demonstrates as well how common concerns with issues of religion, slavery, and workers' (as well as women's) rights resonate in the major writings.[via]