Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2001 Paul Giles traces the paradoxical relations between English and American literature from 1730 through 1860, suggesting how the formation of a literary tradition in each national culture was deeply dependent upon negotiation with its transatlantic counterpart. Using the American Revolution as the fulcrum of his argument, Giles describes how the impulse to go beyond conventions of British culture was crucial in the establishment of a distinct identity for American literature. Similarly, he explains the consolidation of British cultural identity partly as a response to the need to suppress the memory and consequences of defeat in the American revolutionary wars. Giles ranges over neglected American writers such as Mather Byles and the Connecticut Wits as well as better-known figures like Franklin, Jefferson, Irving, and Hawthorne. He reads their texts alongside those of British authors such as Pope, Richardson, Equiano, Austen, and Trollope.
Taking issue with more established utopian narratives of American literature, Transatlantic Insurrections analyzes how elements of blasphemous, burlesque humor entered into the making of the subject.