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The Grammar of Good Intentions: Race & the Antebellum Culture of Benevolence Hardcover – June 1, 2003

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Editorial Reviews

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"In this stimulating, well-written book, Ryan argues that the pre-Civil War 'culture of benevolence' (both private and institutional charity and various forms of 'uplift' for those considered 'needy,' whether 'foreign,' Irish, American Indian, or black) was a 'contest of moral authority at the core of which lay a conflict over the character of the nation as well as the 'conditions and prospects' . . . of its constituent racial groups. . . . Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above."―Choice Magazine, Dec. 2003.

"The antebellum United States was awash with projects to do good. Indeed, a commitment to benevolence was vital to the Protestant middle class's confidence that it exemplified the nation's goodness. . . . Ryan explores an impressive range of texts spanning the period from Indian removal to the Civil War. . . . Ryan's interpretations of the etiquette of charity and the meanings of literacy . . . are insightful, and she makes connections that are often original and occasionally startling."―Lori D. Ginzberg, Pennsylvania State University, Journal of American History 91.2

"In the field of new literary historicism, the intersection in antebellum America of sentimentality, masculinity, and citizenship has received rich and renewed attention in recent years. Susan M. Ryan's first book contributes to this growing field of study, building on the work of . . . others, even as she sets herself apart from certain tendencies in the field. As she does so, Ryan also makes a substantial contribution to the historiography of antebellum reform movements, investigating racial dynamics that historians have long recognized but seldom examined."―Jeffrey Mullins, Journal of the Early Republic 24:1

"Ryan's treatment of Harriet Beecher Stowe's novels Uncle Tom's Cabin and Dred is the strongest and most penetrating part of the book. With incisive and nuanced readings of these texts, Ryan illustrates how, for Stowe, benevolent agency became the marker of American citizenship and how her fiction worked to advance and 'energize' that confluence'. Ryan's analytical agility is exemplified here by solid, small-scale readings of pro-slavery novels written in response to Uncle Tom's Cabin. . . . The Grammar of Good Intentions is a valuable study of a cultural transformation that recast the terms of national unity and American citizenship. . . . This book will reward the attention of every student of antebellum culture."―Woody Holton, University of Richmond, New England Quarterly, December 2004

"Ryan's focus on benevolence as a primary project of antebellum culture is a compelling one and accomplishes many things at once. It brings together a range of activities that are most often treated separately in order to view them as part of the larger humanitarian gesture that characterized this period. The Grammar of Good Intentions effectively breaks down rigid distinctions between public and private spheres, challenges traditional notions of male and female activities, and allows for a discussion of benevolence in the forms of both activism and representation."―Carla L. Peterson, University of Maryland

"The Grammar of Good Intentions is a marvelous book. It offers a way of reframing issues that have become central to the study of nineteenth-century literature and culture, and productively and importantly challenges how they can be seen. Susan M. Ryan makes it clear that the habits and anxieties of benevolence affected how nineteenth-century Americans thought about race."―Karen Sánchez-Eppler, Amherst College --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

"Ryan's focus on benevolence as a primary project of antebellum culture is a compelling one and accomplishes many things at once. It brings together a range of activities that are most often treated separately in order to view them as part of the larger humanitarian gesture that characterized this period. The Grammar of Good Intentions effectively breaks down rigid distinctions between public and private spheres, challenges traditional notions of male and female activities, and allows for a discussion of benevolence in the forms of both activism and representation."—Carla L. Peterson, University of Maryland

"The Grammar of Good Intentions is a marvelous book. It offers a way of reframing issues that have become central to the study of nineteenth-century literature and culture, and productively and importantly challenges how they can be seen. Susan M. Ryan makes it clear that the habits and anxieties of benevolence affected how nineteenth-century Americans thought about race."—Karen Sánchez-Eppler, Amherst College

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 235 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press (June 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801439558
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801439551
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,841,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By A Customer on July 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is an oustanding example of what's right with academia today. Prof. Susan Ryan has written an eminently readable account of "good intentions" in relation to race in the 19th century. This is a very compellingly written story of how people related to the issue of race, and the crime of slavery, during this period. Although it is the kind of book you might read in a college course, it is also fun and enlightening reading for anyone interested in history and American literature in the 19th century.
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