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Wieland; or The Transformation, and Memoirs of Carwin, The Biloquist (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 5 Nov 1998

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; New edition edition (5 Nov. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192836803
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192836809
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 1.8 x 12.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,511,352 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Emory Elliot is Professor of English at the University of California, Riverside - and the author of numerous publications on the Colonial American period and on Puritan Literature. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Eleanor TOP 500 REVIEWER on 23 Mar. 2011
Format: Paperback
Published in 1798, "Wieland" is one of the earliest American novels. The narrator Clara Wieland lives an idyllic life in the Pennsylvania countryside. Intelligent and independent, she spends her days in the company of her beloved brother and his family who live nearby. One day a mysterious stranger, Carwin, enters their lives and soon inexplicable events threaten their happiness and sanity.

This is an original novel with an engaging narrator and I was completely gripped by Clara's story. The novel contains many strange and terrifying episodes in which the suspense is built up to an unbearable level. Having read the blurb of this book (which gives too much of the plot away), I thought I knew which way the story was heading, but the truth, when it emerges, is even more sinister and unsettling, raising issues which seem ahead of their time. Thus the novel works well as a whole, with the philosophical themes being complemented by the action.

As one would expect from a work of this period, the vocabulary and syntax does at times require concentration. The characters also have a tendency to use archaic diction (e.g. 'thou', 'thee', verbs ending '-est', etc.) at periods of high emotion, lending a melodramatic feel to some of the dialogue.

This OUP edition also includes an unfinished novel of about sixty pages told from the point of view of Carwin (the title unfortunately gives away a key plot device in "Wieland"). So far as it went this extract was interesting, exploring ideas in ethics and political philosophy and including a wonderful passage on the unfairness of marriage to women (Brockden was also the author of various feminist works). I would not say, however, that this was essential reading with regards to one's enjoyment or opinion of "Wieland".
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A challenge worth taking on.... 14 Oct. 2010
By Dennis Hendrix - Published on
Format: Paperback
First, let me say that this is not the type of thing I tend to read. I've read reviews of this book by people who were assigned this text for a class -- and they hated or did not finish it because it's written in a somewhat old and advanced type of prose. I was actually surprised how much I enjoyed it once I kept reading and got into it.

As a work of horror fiction, it does have some genuinely creepy moments here and there, and plenty of suspense, but to me at least, it satisfies much more as a kind of "cozy" rural mystery. There's also some romance thrown in toward the middle. "Wieland" does grab you eventually, and it has a thick atmosphere of Gothic doom over the characters, but from a source that stays well-hidden until the end.

I have to agree with the prime criticisms thrown at this book; that the explanations given for the events were essentially too far flung, too amazing to be believed. I would also say that more of a tie should have been made between the prelude about the father and the later events that happen to his son and daughter. I would recommend this book only to those who are truly committed to reading older Gothic tales, or what some consider "America's earliest novel."
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
the early beginnings of american literature 31 Dec. 2000
By Michel Aaij - Published on
Format: Paperback
Having to rate a book like this is no easy task. I give it four stars as a sort of average. The edition itself, with a solid introduction by Emory Eliot, is very good. The novel, like all of Brown's works, is a somewhat unsatisfying effort.
That said, let me add quickly that this novel is a must-read, without a doubt. This truly Gothic tale will keep you in suspence from start to finish--and guess what, Brown even claims a historical precedent for the narrator's brother slaughtering his wife and children. This is Real TV!
It is not a great novel (although superior to, for instance, "Edgar Huntly" and "Stephen Calvert") but it is a fascinating one. Brown was quick to jump on the bandwagon of female fiction that proved to be the bestseller in 19th century America, and this semi-epistolary tale by a female narrator is fascinating if only for the problems its form poses. For instance, its epistolary character, meant to create a sense of urgency and directness, never convinces due to its pretentious literate (read, latinate) diction and syntax. Moreover, Brown's choice of a female narrator--a man writing like a woman writing like a man--, while marketable in 1798, shows that he always bites off much more than he can chew. A much better (and earlier, 1797!) example of a female epistolary novel is Hannah W. Foster's "The Coquette," available in a wonderful edition also by the Oxford UP.
Unlike what some would have you believe, Brown is not the earliest American novelist. It is interesting to note that some of his fans claim Brown instead of Cooper, completely forgetting the books put out by female authors and read mainly by women. I might add that Brown had a male predecessor also, a namesake, William Hill Brown ("The Power of Sympathy," 1789): one shouldn't try to simplify the history of early American literature. However, to come to grips with American literature, and especially its love for the Gothic (mystery, murder, incest), "Wieland" is a great start, and this is a very good edition.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Suspenseful, dramatic, and insightful, even today 2 Sept. 2013
By gammyraye - Published on
Format: Paperback
Back in the olden days when I was in high school and college, I am pretty sure we were taught that James Fenimore Cooper was the first American novelist. Now a younger and more well educated friend tells me that Brown is considered America's first professional novelist. Internet research tells me that there were indeed novelists previous to Brown, but they were all women, so I guess they don't count. (Being snarky; actually the ladies were evidently not very proficient at the craft.) At any rate, Brown was indisputably America's first Gothic writer, following an English/European trend of the time.

Written in 1798, Wieland is a most intriguing and passionate account of strange and deadly events in the family of Clara, an intelligent and perceptive young lady who is telling the story in a letter to a friend. As a participant in the tragedy, she would automatically be suspected of being an unreliable narrator. She even says, "What but ambiguities, abruptnesses, and dark transitions, can be expected from the historian who is, at the same time, the sufferer of these disasters?" Included in her "letter" are two even more suspect accounts, being told second hand, explanatory of the mysterious happenings. We are purposefully left a bit unsure about whether events are explainable, of supernatural origin, or a product of a diseased mind---or a combination of all three.

Included in the catalog of bizarre happenings: a spontaneous combustion, apparently disembodied voices heard by several participants, and the murder of his entire family by a father. Ventriloquism and a suggestion of mesmerism also figure into the inventive plot. The psychological aspect must have been especially innovative at the time, examining as it does a man who truly believes that he has received commands from God to sacrifice his loved ones.

Brown has included more here than just a suspenseful story. The novel also cautions about the perils of religious fanaticism, as well as the perils of trusting entirely to one's senses.

This novel will be slow at times for a modern reader, as is common for the writing of the time. But when Brown gets going on actual events, he really gets going. If the reader will read slowly, re-reading as necessary, the tension and suspense is equivalent to watching the movie Psycho, for example. Recommended. It beats the heck out of James Fenimore Cooper.
New 14 Sept. 2013
By CollegeGirl2015 - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was new when I got it. It's proving to be an interesting read, and I like that it's in great condition.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
American Gothic 10 Mar. 2010
By Frank Gorshin - Published on
Format: Paperback
One of the earliest American authors--and guess what, our literature starts with horror! A fun window onto the uncertainty and dread that were a part of this country's beginnings. Spooky voices, impersonation, and religious fanaticism always equal quality entertainment.
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