“Dreaming up a Nation Forever on the Move: The Strange Quest for the ‘Great American Novel’”
By Lawrence Buell
Co-sponsored by the Franklin M. Loew Lecture Series at Becker College
There have been hundreds of candidates for the Great American Novel in the nearly 150 years since John William DeForest first introduced the idea, but why have these books been contenders for this title? What do claims of being the GAN really mean? In this lecture based upon his recently published book The Dream of the Great American Novel (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press), lecturer Lawrence Buell charts the history of the quest to write the Great American Novel and then uses this history as a platform for exploring some of the characteristic ways that GAN candidates have acted as explorations and reference points for imagining a national identity. The concept of this book originated with Buell’s 1994 James Russell Wiggins Lecture in the History of the Book in American Culture.
Lawrence Buell is Powell M. Cabot Research Professor of American Literature at Harvard. He has written and lectured worldwide on American fiction, on the Transcendentalists and their legacies, and on the environmental humanities. His books include Literary Transcendentalism (1973), New England Literary Culture (1986), The Environmental Imagination (1995), Writing for an Endangered World (2001), and Emerson (2003). Before coming to Harvard in 1990, he taught for two decades at Oberlin College. He has held fellowships from the Mellon and Guggenheim foundations and from the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2007, he received the Modern Language Association’s Jay Hubbell Award for lifetime contributions to American Literature scholarship. Buell was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2008.