Medieval America: Feudalism and Liberalism in Nineteenth-century U.S. Culture

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University of Georgia Press, 2020 - Feudal law - 216 pages

Medieval America analyzes literary, legal, and historical archives that help tell a new story about the formation of American culture. Against Cold War-era studies of U.S. culture that argued, following political scientist Louis Hartz's "liberal consensus" model, that the United States emerged from the Revolutionary era free from Europe's feudal institutions and uninterested in the production of its medieval culture productions, Robert Yusef Rabiee contends that feudal law and medieval literature were structural components of the American cultural imaginary in the nineteenth century.

The racial, gender, and class formations that emerged in the first era of U.S. nation building were deeply indebted to medieval social, political, and religious thought-an observation that challenges the liberal consensus model and allows us to better grasp how American social roles developed. Far from casting off feudal tradition, the early United States folded feudalism into its emerging liberal order, creating a knotted system of values and practices that continue to structure the American experience. Sometimes, the feudal residuum contradicted the liberal values of the Unites States. Other times, the feudal residuum bolstered those values, revealing deep sympathies between so-called "modern" and "premodern" political thought. Medieval America thus aims to reorient our discussions about American cultural and political development in terms of the long arc of European history.

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About the author (2020)

ROBERT YUSEF RABIEE is an assistant professor at Temple University where he teaches general education courses in the humanities, political philosophy, and critical race studies in the Intellectual Heritage Program. His scholarly work has appeared or is forthcoming in J19, Comitatus, ESQ: A Journal of Nineteenth-Century American Literature and Culture, and Emerson Society Papers.

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