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Inventing America

After achieving political independence, American confronted a new challenge: defining its national identity. Romantic authors like James Fenimore Cooper idealized nature and heroic frontiersmen, while Washington Irving invented a uniquely American folklore. Novelists like Susanna Rowson and Charles Brockden Brown plumbed the social and personal anxieties of the young nation.

Yet America's writers still looked to English authors like Sir Walter Scott, Jane Austen, and Maria Edgeworth for inspiration. They relied on British publishers, reviewers, and readers for success—indeed, they wrote with the English marketplace firmly in mind. America's literary independence would take time.