Emergent Worlds

Alternative States in Nineteenth-Century American Culture

256 pages

October, 2018

ISBN: 9781479889266



Add to Cart Available: 10/5/2018

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Edward Sugden is Lecturer of American Literature at King’s College London.

All books by Edward Sugden

Reimagines the American 19th century through a sweeping interdisciplinary engagement with oceans, genres, and time
Emergent Worlds re-locates nineteenth-century America from the land to the oceans and seas that surrounded it. Edward Sugden argues that these ocean spaces existed in a unique historical fold between the transformations that inaugurated the modern era—colonialism to nationalism, mercantilism to capitalism, slavery to freedom, and deferent subject to free citizen. As travellers, workers, and writers journeyed across the Pacific, Atlantic, and Caribbean Sea, they had to adapt their political expectations to the interstitial social realities that they saw before them while also feeling their very consciousness, particularly their perception of time, mutate. These four domains—oceanic geography, historical folds, emergent politics, and dissonant times—in turn, provided the conditions for the development of three previously unnamed genres of the 1850s: the Pacific elegy, the black counterfactual, and the immigrant gothic.
In telling the history of these emergent worlds and their importance to the development of the literary cultures of the US Americas, Sugden proposes narratives that alter some of the most enduring myths of the field, including the westward spread of US imperialism, the redemptionist trajectory of black historiography, and the notion that the US Americas constituted a new world. Introducing a new generic vocabulary for describing the literature of the 1850s and crossing over oceans and languages, Emergent Worlds invokes an alternative nineteenth-century America that provides nothing less than a new way to read the era.  


  • “Sugden has the rare gift of being able to synthesize complex conversations and formulations and then to intervene within them generously and wisely. His archive of texts is rich, bringing together an unusual grouping of authors ranging from Melville to the first Haitian novelist, Émeric Bergeaud. Emergent Worlds considers these texts as a collective ‘archival form’ that does more than merely preserve the interstitial states of emergent political thought that existed precariously in the time of their original production; it also protects a kind of seedbed for unknown futures: emergent forms of political imagining that might one day be called upon to remake a precarious world.”

    —Anna Brickhouse, University of Virginia

  • “An astute, surprising, and inventive study of the experiential and aesthetic possibilities that became imaginable during moments of historical and geographical irresolution in the ‘long nineteenth century,’ as older world-systems receded before new ones cohered. In those liminal ‘folds,’ Sugden remaps oceanic geoculture through a series of richly illuminating and refreshingly original interpretations of a host of texts, canonical and understudied. Emergent Worlds is, like the worlds it examines, full of possibilities and pleasures.”

    —Christopher Castiglia, author of Practices of Hope (NYU Press, 2017)