'Clotel': The Life Cycle of a Great American Novel

October 14, 2014 1:36 PM

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'Clotel': The Life Cycle of a Great American Novel

Great books have their lives as surely as do their authors. Sometimes they correspond; sometimes not. Which one has the stranger life is often unpredictable.

Take Walt Whitman and his "unkillable work," Leaves of Grass. It had multiple nineteenth-century lives, as Whitman brought out edition after edition in attempting to give the fullest possible depiction of modern American life. None, however, gained much traction with the general public until well in...

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