The corrupting city: Environmentalism in the mystery and misery tales of the 1840s and 1850s (George Lippard, George Foster, Ned Buntline, George Thompson)
Haskell, Thomas L.
Master of Arts
Several popular authors of antebellum urban fiction, particularly George Lippard, George Foster, Ned Buntline, and George Thompson, articulate in novels written in the 1840s and 1850s the argument that urban paupers and criminals are products of a corrupt society. The prostitute, pauper, and thief, rather than being depicted as depraved or lazy, are shown to be blameless laborers compelled into degradation on account of physical circumstances and economic exploitation. Having found the primary causes of poverty and crime to reside in society, these authors recommend solutions that entail changing society. The authors' secular conception of the causes of society's ills led them to recommend secular solutions, which several attempted to put into practice. The authors' "material environmentalism" differentiates them from the vast majority of antebellum reformers who were informed by Protestant, particularly evangelical, theology.
American history; Sociology; Public & social welfare; American literature