Document Type

Contribution to Book

Source Publication

A Companion to American Literature, Volume 1

Publication Date



Theresa Strouth Gaul


Wiley Blackwell


Hoboken, New Jersey







Publisher Statement

Volume One is an inclusive and geographically expansive examination of early American literature, applying a range of cultural and historical approaches and theoretical models to a dramatically expanded canon of texts. Volume Two covers American literature between 1820 and 1914, focusing on the development of print culture and the literary marketplace, the emergence of various literary movements, and the impact of social and historical events on writers and writings of the period. Spanning the 20th and early 21st centuries, Volume Three studies traditional areas of American literature as well as the literature from previously marginalized groups and contemporary writers often overlooked by scholars. This inclusive and comprehensive study of American literature:

  • Examines the influences of race, ethnicity, gender, class, and disability on American literature
  • Discusses the role of technology in book production and circulation, the rise of literacy, and changing reading practices and literary forms
  • Explores a wide range of writings in multiple genres, including novels, short stories, dramas, and a variety of poetic forms, as well as autobiographies, essays, lectures, diaries, journals, letters, sermons, histories, and graphic narratives.
  • Provides a thematic index that groups chapters by contexts and illustrates their links across different traditional chronological boundaries

A Companion to American Literature is a valuable resource for students coming to the subject for the first time or preparing for field examinations, instructors in American literature courses, and scholars with more specialized interests in specific authors, genres, movements, or periods. -- publisher


This essay reviews recent scholarship about Haiti and the early United States to situate the study of the Haitian Revolution in U.S. literary studies. I next turn to Leonora Sansay’s Secret History; or, The Horrors of St. Domingo (1808), the first American novel to focus on events in pre-independent Haiti. Despite Sansay’s considerable attention to social life at Cape Français, I will argue that domestic politics, especially surrounding the trial of Aaron Burr for treason, best illuminate the imaginary function of Haiti for early Americans. Finally, I will briefly look at further resonances of the Haitian Revolution in American culture. I will demonstrate that confusion and misinformation about Haiti have had lasting effects that cannot be dismissed once factually corrected by historiography. Not only were early Americans looking through a distorted lens at current events in the Caribbean basin, but they were also, perhaps primarily, looking not abroad, but at themselves. -- Michael Drexler, chapter author