Cover image for Imagining Boston : a literary landscape
Imagining Boston : a literary landscape
O'Connell, Shaun.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Beacon Press, 1990.
Physical Description:
xvi, 405 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
PS255.B6 O25 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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O'Connell (English, U. of Mass., Boston) discusses not only the familiar Boston/Cambridge/Concord literary figures (from Emerson, Thoreau and Hawthorne to Updike, Cheever and Robert Lowell) but also authors of other roots and regions, including Edwin O'Connor, WEB Dubois, John Greenleaf Whittier, Norman Mailer, Robert Frost, and Emily Dickinson. Annotation(c) 2003 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

A solid contribution to the small but burgeoning genre of criticism that places literature in its geographical-historical context. O'Connell's thesis states that the increasing ethnic and religious heterogeneity of Boston has not diminished its writers' sense of place. In reviewing the literature in the field, he organizes his chapters chronologically--beginning with Hawthorne, then moving through Henry James, William Dean Howells, Frank O'Connor, W. E. B. DuBois, to writers not usually associated with the region (Malcolm X). Later he moves to subthemes--the concern with manners, for instance. The chapters on Irish and African American writers validate the contemporary critical focus on cultural diversity. This book should be considered seriously by regional libraries as well as those with large collections of literary criticism. Notes, bibliography; to be indexed. ~--Roland Wulbert

Library Journal Review

An exhaustive but not exhausting survey of Boston-oriented writers from Hawthorne to Updike, this book examines how each writer, no matter how obscure, helps perpetuate or otherwise responds to Puritan John Winthrop's 17th-century vision of Boston as a moral beacon, a ``City upon a Hill.'' Treatments of some writers may read like Cliffs Notes, but O'Connell pays serious attention to such relatively neglected figures as Santayana, Marquand, and Edwin O'Connor. Chapters on Henry James, William Dean Howells, and Robert Lowell are particularly illuminating. Recommended for American literature collections.-- Charles C. Nash, Cottey Coll., Nevada, Mo. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

O'Connell's absorbing examination of the cradle of American culture offers a series of "images and ideas. . .emblems and visions of place created by Greater Boston's writers." Although his scope extends beyond Greater Boston (Salem and Concord, etc.) to Amherst and the western border of Massachusetts, readers cannot lose sight of Boston, whose "central, recurrent image" from its founding in 1630 to the present has been the "city upon a hill," as Governor John Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony termed it. O'Connell is at his best in dealing with Boston's geography and topography as background, with "feminist" issues, and with such writers as Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau, Henry James, Frost, Eliot, Marquand, and Robert Lowell. E.E. Cummings, sadly, is given only an incidental reference. O'Connell treats certain writers having some significant relation with Greater Boston, categorically: Irish, black, Jewish. O'Connell has a rich sense of Boston history, and his handling of Boston's manners and morals, its sphere of influence, and its spiritual and fleshly tendencies greatly enhances our understanding of this memorable city. Extensive notes and bibliography are included. Strongly recommended for all libraries. -S. I. Bellman, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona