Longing for Connection: Entangled Memories and Emotional Loss in Early America (Hardcover)

Longing for Connection: Entangled Memories and Emotional Loss in Early America By Andrew Burstein Cover Image

Longing for Connection: Entangled Memories and Emotional Loss in Early America (Hardcover)


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Untangling the private feelings, ambitions, and fears of early Americans through their personal writings from the Revolution to the Civil War.

Modern readers of history and biography unite around a seemingly straightforward question: What did it feel like to live in the past? In Longing for Connection, historian Andrew Burstein attempts to answer this question with a vigorous, nuanced emotional history of the United States from its founding to the Civil War.

Through an examination of the letters, diaries, and other personal texts of the time, along with popular poetry and novels, Burstein shows us how early Americans expressed deep emotions through shared metaphors and borrowed verse in their longing for meaning and connection. He reveals how literate, educated Americans--both well-known and more obscure--expressed their feelings to each other and made attempts at humor, navigating an anxious world in which connection across spaces was difficult to capture. In studying the power of poetry and literature as expressions of inner life, Burstein conveys the tastes of early Americans and illustrates how emotions worked to fashion myths of epic heroes, such as the martyr Nathan Hale, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln. He also studies the public's fears of ocean travel, their racial blind spots, and their remarkable facility for political satire.

Burstein questions why we seek a connection to the past and its emotions in the first place. America, he argues, is shaped by a persistent belief that the past is reachable and that its lessons remain intact, which represents a major obstacle in any effort to understand our national history. Burstein shows, finally, that modern readers exhibit a similar capacity for rationalization and that dire longing for connection across time and space as the people he studies.

Andrew Burstein is the Charles P. Manship Professor of History (emeritus) at Louisiana State University. The author of numerous books, including Jefferson's Secrets: Death and Desire at Monticello and The Passions of Andrew Jackson, he is also the coauthor of Madison and Jefferson and The Problem of Democracy: The Presidents Adams Confront the Cult of Personality.
Product Details ISBN: 9781421448305
ISBN-10: 1421448300
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication Date: April 23rd, 2024
Pages: 392
Language: English