The Bird on the Rhinoceros

At the conferences and in the journals of historians, attention to literature of the early republic is more often than not justified by linking that literature to the formation of the polity and the party systems. Literature becomes like the bird who rides around on the rhinoceros — a sweet little creature worthy of attention only by its odd connection to that great beast of early republic history, politics. This sorely limits our understanding of literature’s role in the world, and perhaps also limits, at least in this historiography, our understanding of politics.

Catherine O’Donnell, “Literature and Politics in the Early Republic: Views from the Bridge” (JER 30.2, summer 2010), 290