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Wieland, the story of religious delusions and horrific violence on the eve of the American Revolution, is the first gothic novel in America and a cornerstone of the Early American literary canon. A family living on an estate outside Philadelphia is visited first by a set of mysterious voices, seemingly coming out of thin air, followed soon after by an itinerant rustic named Carwin. Violence erupts when the family’s young patriarch believes he hears God’s voice demanding a human sacrifice as a sign of faith. Testing the limits of religious and literary authority in the new United States, Brown’s novel has for more than two centuries kept readers debating questions of agency, accountability, and revolutionary politics as the story’s moral chaos unfolds. The editor provides explanatory annotation throughout the volume.
This Norton Critical Edition also reprints Memoirs of Carwin the Biloquist, Brown’s fragmentary sequel to Wieland. “Sources and Contexts” presents inspirations for Brown’s work, including an account of the real-life Yates family murders, an excerpt from Christoph Martin Wieland’s The Trial of Abraham, as well as religious and medical accounts of delusion, spontaneous combustion, and ventriloquism. Brown’s outline for Wieland and his letter to Thomas Jefferson are also reprinted.
“Criticism” includes contemporary responses to the novel from both the United States and the United Kingdom along with fourteen essential modern critical approaches. Recent contributors include Shirley Samuels, Christopher Looby, Nancy Ruttenberg, Laura Korobkin, David Kazanjian, Bryan Waterman, and Stephen Shapiro, among others.
A Chronology and a Selected Bibliography are also included.