Garrett Offers First Literary-Historical Analysis of the Episode in New Book

Matthew Garrett

New book by Matthew Garrett.

Matthew Garrett, assistant professor of English, is the author of Episodic Poetics: Politics and Literary Form after the Constitution, published by Oxford University Press in April 2014.

In Episodic Poetics, Garrett merges narrative theory with social and political history to explain the early American fascination with the episodic, piecemeal plot.

Since Aristotle’s Poetics, the episode has been a vexed category of literary analysis, troubling any easy view of the subsumption of unwieldy narrative parts into well-plotted wholes. Episodic Poeticsproposes a new method of reading and a new way of conceiving of literary history. The book combines theoretical reflection and historical rigor with careful readings of texts from the early American canon such as The Federalist, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, and the novels of Charles Brockden Brown, along with hitherto understudied texts and ephemera such as Washington Irving’s Salmagundi, Susanna Rowson’s Trials of the Human Heart and the memoirs of the metalworker and failed entrepreneur John Fitch. Garrett recounts literary history not as the easy victory of grand nationalist ambitions, but rather as a series of social struggles expressed through writers’ recurring engagement with incompletely integrated forms.

Read more about Garrett in this past Wesleyan Connection article.