Author's Corner with David Greven, author of ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE
All the Devils Are Here

Welcome back to the UVA Press Author's Corner! Here, we feature conversations with the authors of our latest releases to provide a glimpse into the writer's mind, their book's main lessons, and what’s next for them. We hope you enjoy these inside stories.

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Today, we are happy to bring you our conversation with David Greven, author of All the Devils Are Here: American Romanticism and Literary Influence

What inspired you to write this book? 

The desire to read such a book! Very few current works of Americanist literary criticism focus on the intertextual relationships among nineteenth-century US authors and the larger literary tradition. I want to restore not only the importance but also the vitality of exploring these connections, what John Hollander calls “intertextual echoes.” Without considering the dialogue our most revered writers had with other writers, we lose out on a great deal of what drove their creative energies and passions. I also want to expand our understanding of Romanticism in a transatlantic context to include US authors, who mysteriously get left out of discussions of Romanticism that regularly include Germany, England, and France.

What did you learn and what are you hoping readers will learn from your book? 

In order to write this book properly, I delved into the worlds of Shakespeare and Milton, their works and the immense body of criticism devoted to them. It was a joy to read exhilarating scholarship like Simon Palfrey’s Poor Tom, on the character of Edgar in King Lear, and explore the kinds of questions Renaissance scholars currently raise about gender and sexuality and race in this era. It was also wonderful to delve deeply into Lear, Much Ado about Nothing, The Merchant of Venice, Paradise Lost, and to inhabit the heady intertextual spaces where American writers like Cooper, Hawthorne, Melville, and Frederick Douglass felt such galvanizing inspiration.

What surprised you the most in the process of writing your book? 

With justification, the character of the fallen, rebel angel Satan in Paradise Lost has been a celebrated hero, extolled by the British Romantics, and we are still debating whether Milton was truly “of the Devil’s Party.” Milton’s Eve, however, in her account of her nativity and in her encounter with the seductive serpent, was a deeply influential figure for American Romantic writers, male as well as female authors. Milton’s bold reimagining of the biblical Eve through the framework of Ovid’s Narcissus resonates for authors finding their own image in the reflecting mirror of their literary precursors. Eve’s self-contemplation in the lake, an image which pleases her much more than the sight of Adam, has implications for queer as well as feminist interpretation, and more recently has been read in terms of trans and race-related concerns, which make the scene of her nativity and, crucially, her narration of it newly highly charged.

What’s your favorite anecdote from your book?

Writing about Melville’s Pierre inspired me to see Gaspard Marsy's gilt-bronze sculpture (1675–1677) of the Giant Enceladus from Greek mythology, which can be seen at Versailles. As Melville puts it in the novel, the “Not unworthy to be compared with that leaded Titan, wherewith the art of Marsy…enriched the enchanted gardens of Versailles…” I played hooky during an academic conference in Paris one day and visited Versailles, roaming through its mazy groves till I found Marsy’s striking figure, in agonized intransigence still, striking out from the depths of its watery imprisonment, as defiant as ever. I stepped so close to the pond, as if about to wade toward the heroic and abject figure, that a security guard warned me away!

What’s next? 

Since I work in two fields, nineteenth-century American literature and Film Studies, there’s always a great deal of work that engages me. I am currently writing a book on Alfred Hitchcock’s films of the Fifties and their intertextual relationship with American Gothic writing. I’m also writing on Melville, Hawthorne, and their contributions to global Romanticism, focusing on aesthetics and the transition from romance to Realism.

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