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The Sensational Republic

The Sensational Republic

Catholic Conspiracy and the Battle for the Great West

(p.214) 6 The Sensational Republic
Apocalyptic Geographies
Jerome Tharaud
Princeton University Press

This chapter descends into the profane depths of antebellum literary culture to probe the ways religious difference haunts the sensational public sphere. It traces a neglected body of popular fiction that circulated in the “Great West” in the 1840s and 1850s. It also argues that the violent, quasi-pornographic novels stage vivid scenes of vision across the landscape that articulate a regional strain of republican ideology. The chapter mentions Catholic conspiracies and corrupt Protestant elites who constantly threaten the body politic in fiction that dramatize the dilemmas of political mediation in an expanding federal republic. It cites Talal Asad's critique of secularism's fictions of “direct access,” which exposes the roots of the convulsions that grip Western liberal democracies today as a crisis of mediation.

Keywords:   antebellum literary culture, Great West, republican ideology, Catholic conspiracies, Protestant elites, federal republic

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