This introductory chapter describes how the book addresses the disciplinary confusion brought upon by the phenomenon of Founders Chic. Rather than treating the Founders as actual agents who need to be more aggressively historicized with empirical data, the book assumes that they are primarily imaginative, phantasmatic phenomena best explored from a broadly literary perspective. The book explores the first steps in an extimate history of the Founders, along the lines of what John Adams called “Character[s] of Convention.” The chapter also insists on the significance of periodization. Scholarship of the early republic has remained firmly focused on the 1790s, which has been particularly understood as the pivotal moment of intense ideological division between left and right, a brief moment of radicalism, and a literary boom period. Such a focus fits well with the field's recent emphasis on nationalist anxieties and circumatlantic exchange.
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