Showing posts with label River of Dreams. Show all posts
Showing posts with label River of Dreams. Show all posts

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Monday, February 04, 2013

Gods of the Mississippi

Great news for anyone with even a passing interest in the social and cultural history of the Mississippi River: Michael Pasquier's Gods of the Mississippi is just about to be released by Indiana University Press. I'm delighted to say that I have a chapter in the collection. It's an exploration of a number of antebellum American new religious movements (the Vermont Pilgrims, Mormons, Millerites), their relationship with the Mississippi, and the ways in which echoes of these groups lived on in the writings of early Midwestern realists like Mark Twain, William Dean Howells and Edward Eggleston who grew up around them. But beyond that, this looks to be a very compelling set of essays which should very fruitfully extend our understanding of the river's role in national life.

I'm doubly delighted to say that River of Dreams also gets a kind hat-tip in Michael Pasquier's introduction - alongside Thomas Buchanan's wonderful Black Life on the Mississippi (that I reviewed here). This is what he has to say:

Gods of the Mississippi is available from Amazon.com here, Amazon.co.uk here, and can be previewed on Google Books here.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Kindle Editions


The release of Southern Queen might be just around the corner, but Kindle editions of my other two books have just been added on Amazon. Click on the covers above to buy or for a free preview. And stay tuned for more updates soon.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Review: Gateway: The Magazine of the Missouri History Museum

River of Dreams was reviewed in issue 28 of Gateway, the magazine of the Missouri History Museum. David Lobbig writes:
"Thomas Ruys Smith vividly connects his readers to an important time in the explosive peopling of our nation [...] which taken together is like the relearning of a favourite story or song long forgotten [...] What we know in more modern terms as our "strong, brown god" has a rich, important history and myth hardly known. It is a river flowing with archetypes. Perhaps it is not possible for us to see the river with the same eyes as those who once strove against its strength and unpredictability to be sustained by its life. But those people saw their dreams reflected in the Mississippi, and this accounting gives a proper perspective so that readers today, sitting on its banks, may see themselves more clearly."

Friday, February 11, 2011

Review: Year's Work in English

River of Dreams got a nod in Year's Work in English Studies 89 (2010):
"In recent years, Twain's travel writing has received renewed attention in scholarship. Especially strong examples of this trend are Thomas Ruys Smith's River of Dreams: Imagining the Mississippi Before Mark Twain..." 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

River of Dreams: 75 Great Literature Books Published by LSU Press

As part of their 75th anniversary celebrations, Louisiana State University Press has put together a series of lists highlighting "75 great LSU Press titles in various subjects." I'm very proud to say that River of Dreams was selected as one of their 75 great literature books.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Review: Louisiana History

River of Dreams: Imagining the Mississippi Before Mark Twain has been reviewed by Daniel Claro in Louisiana History (50:2, Spring 2009). He writes, "this book succeeds in depicting the wonderfully rich literary context that inspired and informed Twain's career."

For a sneak preview of what I'm currently working on, click here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Review: Journal of Southern History

River of Dreams: Imagining the Mississippi Before Mark Twain has been reviewed by James E. Seelye in the Journal of Southern History (May 2010). He writes:
"River of Dreams: Imagining the Mississippi before Mark Twain by Thomas Ruys Smith is an engaging guide to changing conceptions of the Mississippi River during the antebellum period. Smith's accessible and well-written narrative catalogs the variety of views and commentary about the "American Nile" from a range of individuals, including writers, foreign visitors, and U.S. presidents. One of the work's biggest strengths is the wide spectrum of views that Smith examines [...] Smith uses an impressive array of primary sources by those with firsthand knowledge of or associations with the Mississippi River [...] Cultural historians will find the book to be a solid portrait of antebellum life along the Mississippi River; those interested in historical memory will find the study especially useful."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Review: Journal of the Early Republic

River of Dreams: Imagining the Mississippi Before Mark Twain has been reviewed in the Journal of the Early Republic. Ann Ostendorf writes:
"Thomas Ruys Smith examines the meaning of the river in the antebellum American imagination. Using literary analysis, Smith unpacks the multitude of written and visual representations of the river as it flowed through American culture and consciousness [...] Smith shows how Twain's postbellum fascination with the literary Mississippi emerged out of decades of prior cultural appropriations [...] Smith's extensive uses of primary-source quotations are often delightfully expressive of contemporary worldviews [...] Ultimately, this work is a creative expression of the nineteenth-century American mind and culture through the ways people of that era viewed this iconic natural resource."

Friday, February 12, 2010

Review: Southern Literary Journal

River of Dreams has been reviewed by Scott Romine in the Southern Literary Journal, as part of a longer essay, "The Nature of the South" (42:1, Fall 2009). He writes:
River of Dreams is a rich study, splendidly researched and elegantly written. Although its subtitle and blurb from Louis Budd position it relative to Mark Twain, the book’s true achievement lies in its nuanced account of the “countless [antebellum] stories . . . told in countless ways about the giant river that bisected America” (194). If, as Budd suggests, River of Dreams should be required reading for readers of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, it is equally valuable to students of antebellum culture [...] archivally and synthetically rich—indeed, it is quite dazzling.
You can read the full review here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Journal of Illinois History

River of Dreams has been reviewed in the Journal of Illinois History by James Hurt. Hurt says:

River of Dreams is an impressive achievement that will interest not only students of the American landscape (or riverscape) and the cultural uses to which it has been put but also "general readers" [...] the book as it stands is an intelligent, original, and imaginative contribution to American cultural studies.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies

River of Dreams has been reviewed by Luther Brown in Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies. He writes: "This is a valuable book and should be in the collections of anyone concerned with re-presenting place, early Americana, The River, and certainly Mark Twain."

Click for bigger images:

American Literature

River of Dreams has received mention in American Literature:

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Booklist Review





Writing in Booklist (May 1, 2007), the publication of the American Library Association, George Cohen described River of Dreams as "a lively and wide-ranging account of this majestic body of water."

Sunday, April 29, 2007

River of Dreams - Update

As the release date for River of Dreams approaches, a preview of the dust jacket (click a section for a larger image):




Plus, some advance praise for the book. The first comes from Louis J. Budd:
"River of Dreams pulled me along as irresistibly as the Mississippi itself, deep into the South's past. Mark Twain, I think, would have read it as closely as he read and enjoyed the actual river in his piloting days. Though this book deserves rapt (not raft) attention for its own insights and appreciativeness, explicators of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should absorb it before traveling further with or into Huck, on the river or on shore."
The next, from John Seelye:

"I read Thomas Ruys Smith's book in one day's sitting (with a two hour break) a testimony to the author's graceful and lucid style, yet what he has given us is a detailed anatomy of writing inspired by North America's greatest river and the crowded scene of humanity in all its nefarious forms associated with the Mississippi during the first century of the republic. Smith's canvass starts with the post-Revolutionary period and ends with the years immediately following the Civil War. What emerges from his account is an iconography dominated by a heavy chiarasco, at the center of which is his lengthy account of gamblers, swindlers, and river pirates that gave such dark coloration to the river's chronicles: 'crooked letter, crooked letter' indeed.

"At the start, Jefferson associated the Mississippi with national unity, progress, and prosperity, but Britain's John Law had already given its name to a monstrous bubble of stock manipulation. It figured large in the obscure imperial schemes of General Wilkinson and Aaron Burr and later became associated with the horrific explosions of the steamboats that were Robert Fulton's gift to American progress. Travelers like Frances Trollope associated it with the intolerably boorish aspects of democracy, Harriet Stowe associated it with the horrors of slavery, and eastern hack writers created a mythical Davy Crockett whose crude energies seemed the river incarnate rising up as a buckskin-clad grotesque giving form to the perceived threat of Jacksonian democracy.

"Samuel L. Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, whose boyhood experiences in Hannibal gave us Tom Sawyer and whose apprenticeship to southwestern humor gave us Huck Finn, receives his due but this books' chief value is as a mural approximating those three miles of canvas rolled out as panoramas before the wondering gaze of audiences who knew a lot more about the Mississippi River after the show was over. And so will you."

Friday, December 08, 2006

River of Dreams - Update

Release date for River of Dreams: Imagining the Mississippi Before Mark Twain has been slated for June 2007. As you can see from the sidebar, it's already available for pre-order on Amazon.com - and numerous other reputable bookstores around the internet.

LSUP has also released its publication list for Spring 2007, which means that River of Dreams now has its own website
here.

ISBN: 0-8071-3233-0 cloth

ISBN13: 978-0-8071-3233-3
272 pages, 26 Halftones, 1 Map, 6 x 9

Sunday, October 01, 2006

River of Dreams - A First Glimpse

A first glimpse of the cover of River of Dreams: Imagining the Mississippi Before Mark Twain (Louisiana State University Press, Spring 2007). This is a first draft and subject to change before publication, but it gives a hint of what's to come. The background is a detail from Herzog Friedrich Paul Wilhelm von W├╝rttemberg's lithograph, Die Balize an der M├╝ndung des Missisippi (1828-1835).

And to go along with the cover, here's the promotional copy for the book, soon to appear in the LSU Press Spring 2007 catalogue:

River of Dreams: Imagining the Mississippi before Mark Twain
Thomas Ruys Smith

The Mississippi River’s cultural role in antebellum America

Even in the decades before Mark Twain enthralled the world with his evocative representations of the Mississippi, the river played an essential role in American culture and consciousness. Throughout the antebellum era, the Mississippi acted as a powerful symbol of America’s conception of itself - and the world’s conception of America. As Twain understood, “The Mississippi is well worth reading about.” Thomas Ruys Smith’s River of Dreams is an examination of the Mississippi’s role in the imagination of the times, and explores its cultural position in antebellum literature, art, thought, and national life.


Presidents, politicians, authors, poets, painters, and international celebrities of every variety experienced the Mississippi in its Golden Age. They left an extraordinary collection of representations of the river in their wake, images which developed as America itself changed. From Thomas Jefferson’s vision for the Mississippi to Andrew Jackson and the rowdy river culture of the early nineteenth century, Smith charts the Mississippi’s shifting importance in the making of the nation. In contrast, he examines the accounts of European travelers, including Frances Trollope, Charles Dickens, and William Makepeace Thackeray, whose notorious views of the river were heavily influenced by the world of the steamboat and plantation slavery.

As the antebellum period progresses, Smith discusses the importance of visual representations of the Mississippi, exploring the ways in which views of the river, particularly giant moving panoramas that toured the world, echoed notions of manifest destiny and the westward movement. He evokes the river in the late antebellum years as a place of crime and mystery, especially in popular writing, and most notably in Herman Melville’s The Confidence-Man. An epilogue discusses the Mississippi during the Civil War, when possession of the river became vital, symbolically as well as militarily. The epilogue also provides an introduction to Mark Twain, a product of the antebellum river world who was to resurrect its imaginative potential for a post-war nation and produce an iconic Mississippi that still flows through a wide and fertile floodplain in American literature.


From empire building in the Louisiana Purchase to the trauma of the Civil War, the Mississippi’s dominant symbolic meanings tracked the essential forces operating within the nation. As Smith shows in this groundbreaking work, the story of the imagined Mississippi River is the story of antebellum America itself.

Thomas Ruys Smith is a lecturer in American literature and culture at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom.