The Puzzle of Antiurbanism in Classic American Literature

  • Leo Marx
Part of the Environment, Development, and Public Policy book series (EDPC)


Whenever American attitudes toward the city are under discussion we are likely to hear a familiar note of puzzlement. We hear it, for instance, near the end of the influential study by Morton and Lucia White, The Intellectual versus the City: From Thomas Jefferson to Frank Lloyd Wright. After making their case for the centrality of antiurban motives in American thought and expression, the Whites invite us to share their perplexity. “How shall we explain this persistent distrust of the American city?” they ask. “Surely it is puzzling, or should be.”1


American City Dominant Culture Urban Life Industrial Capitalism City Life 
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  1. 1.
    Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1962, p. 221.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    R. Chase, Walt Whitman Reconsidered (London: Victor Gollancz Ltd., 1955), p. 95.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Preface to “Daisy Miller,” in The Art of the Novel: Critical Prefaces,ed. R. P. Blackmur (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1955), pp. 272–274.Google Scholar
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    Consider, especially, D. H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature (1923; New York: Viking Press, 1961); Van Wyck Brooks, Emerson and Others (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1927) and The Flowering of New England (1936; New York: E. P. Dutton, 1952); F. O. Matthiessen, American Renaissance (New York: Oxford University Press, 1941); Charles Feidelson, Symbolism in American Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953); and Richard Chase, The American Novel and Its Tradition (New York: Doubleday, 1957).Google Scholar
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    The Scarlet Letter (1850), Chapter 5, “Hester at Her Needle.”Google Scholar
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    Ibid., Chapter 13, “The Pastor and His Parishioner.”Google Scholar
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    Slbid., “The Custom House, Introductory to The Scarlet Letter.” Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    The Confidence Man (1857), Chapter 33.Google Scholar
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    Preface, The House of the Seven Gables. Google Scholar
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    Henry James,“ in The Shock of Recognition,ed. Edmund Wilson (New York: Modern Library, 1955), 861.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    Chapter 18, “Governor Pyncheon.”Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    Chapter 17, “The Pastor and his Parishoner.” “Nature (1836), Chapter 7, ”Spirit.“Google Scholar
  13. 15.
    Chapter 18, “A Flood of Sunshine.”Google Scholar
  14. 16.
    Although Newman, like the protagonists of James’s later international theme novels, finally goes to Europe, his idea of disengagement from his business vocation initially comes to him when he impulsively leaves Wall Street and drives out to Long Island to contemplate the rustic landscape.Google Scholar
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    The Symbolic Meaning, The Uncollected Versions of “Studies in Classic American Literature, ed. A. Arnold (New York: Centaur Press, 1962).Google Scholar
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    White and White, p. 30.Google Scholar
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    For the concept of pastorals of “success” and “failure,” see H. E. Toliver, Marvell’s Pastoral Vision (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1960), pp. 88–89.Google Scholar
  18. 20.
    The Great Gatsby, Chapter 4.Google Scholar
  19. 21.
    · Ibid., Chapter 8.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leo Marx
    • 1
  1. 1.Program in Science, Technology, and SocietyMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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