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Sensational Internationalism

The Paris Commune and the Remapping of American Memory in the Long Nineteenth Century

J. Michelle Coghlan

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Remaps the borders of transatlantic feeling and resituates the role of international memory in U.S. culture in the long nineteenth century and beyond

In refocusing attention on the Paris Commune as a key event in American political and cultural memory, Sensational Internationalism radically changes our understanding of the relationship between France and the United States in the long nineteenth century. It offers fascinating, remarkably accessible readings of a range of literary works, from periodical poetry and boys’ adventure fiction to radical pulp and the writings of Henry James, as well as a rich analysis of visual, print, and performance culture, from post-bellum illustrated weeklies and panoramas to agit-prop pamphlets and Coney Island pyrotechnic shows. Throughout, it uncovers how a foreign revolution came back to life as a domestic commodity, and why for decades another nation’s memory came to feel so much our own. This book will speak to readers looking to understand the affective, cultural, and aesthetic afterlives of revolt and revolution pre-and-post Occupy Wall Street, as well as those interested in space, gender, performance, and transatlantic print culture.

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Introduction: Revolutionary Preoccupations: Or, Transatlantic Feeling in a Radical Sense
1. Framing the Pétroleuse: Postbellum Poetry & the Visual Culture of Gender Panic
2. Becoming Americans in Paris: The Commune as Frontier in Turn-of-the-Century Adventure Fiction
3. Radical Calendars: The Commune Rising in Postbellum Internationalism
4. Tasting Space: Sights of the Commune in Henry James’s Paris
5. Re-staging Horror: Insurgent Memories of the Commune in the 1930s
Epilogue: Barricades Revisited: the Commune on Campus from FSM to SDS

About the Author

J. Michelle Coghlan teaches American literature at the University of Manchester, UK. Her work on cultural memory, sensation, queer economies of desire, and American literature of the long nineteenth century has appeared in journals and edited books, including Arizona Quarterly, The Henry James Review, Transforming Henry James and Must Read: Rediscovering American Bestsellers. She recently guest edited the “Tasting Modernism” special issue of Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities.


In the wake of recent world-turning instances of public assembly and occupation from Cairo to St. Louis, the Paris Commune has once again declared its political urgency. Michelle Coghlan’s remarkable and virtually unprecedented study—methodologically rich, archivally vast, textually acute—explores the Commune’s U.S. afterlives, a longue durée of transatlantic feeling, with far-reaching and field-changing results. I’ve been waiting a long time for such a book.

- Eric Lott, Graduate Center, City University of New York

Skillfully researched and beautifully written, Sensational Internationalism broadens the contours of American cultural and political memory by bringing to life the profound reverberations produced in the States by what was on one level just a very brief moment in someone else’s history: the Paris Commune. Michelle Coghlan’s stunning archive lends her account breadth and authority missing in those that would minimize those effects or limit them to a solely labor phenomenon.

- Kristin Ross, New York University

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