An examination of literary nationalism in the letters and selected criticism of William Gilmore Simms



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In the first half of the nineteenth century, the newly formed United States experienced a surge of nationalism in literature, as well as in politics. Some writers, including William Gilmore Simms, spoke out for "mental independence" from Great Britain, and for a development of a truly American literature. Moreover, Simms Joined the Young Americans In asserting that an International Copyright Law was necessary to a national literature. Soon, however, Simms defined his idea of a national literature as being that made up of various sectional literatures. He insisted that the Southern periodicals, in which he encouraged the cultural development of the South, were truly national when they were truly Southern, Simms's attitude toward national literature underwent a subtle and gradual change as the political conflict between the North and South grew more turbulent. He continued to speak for a Southern literature, but he became more narrowly sectional, and he rarely connected his campaign for a Southern literature to the need for a national one. After the Civil War, Simms added little to his national ideas, but he continued his periodical endeavors to gain recognition for Southern literature. And he collected Southern war poetry, saying it belonged not Just to the South, but to the nation.