Nighan adds to Nathaniel Hawthorne and Washington Irving scholarship

Nighan adds to Nathaniel Hawthorne and Washington Irving scholarship

[“Washington Irving and His Literary Friends at Sunnyside.” Irving seated in center dressed in black, Nathaniel Hawthorne circled. From Washington Irving Crosses the Genesee]

Readers of Talker know Michael J. Nighan for his carefully researched essays on political and culture figures who visited, or at least passed through, Rochester. Nighan contextualizes the visits to explore the historical moment. Recently, Nighan’s work has been recognized in the scholarship of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Washington Irving.

In the Fall, 2021 issue (expected February 2022) of The Nathaniel Hawthorne Review, editor Professor Monika Elbert will feature Nighan’s Hawthorne and the Pandemic Visit the Instantaneous City in her concluding essay.

Hawthorne portrait by Henry Inman (1835); Peabody Essex Museum. From Hawthorne and the Pandemic Visit the Instantaneous City

View of Rochester’s Market Bridge (1838) From Washington Irving Crosses the Genesee

Recently, the Washington Irving Society added Nighan’s Washington Irving Crosses the Genesee to its list of Irving scholarship from 2007 – present.

As described by Christopher Apap and Tracy Hoffman in “Prospects for the Study of Washington Irving.” (2012), scholarship on Irving (1783 – 1859) is experiencing a period of remarkable growth, only increasing since 2012. As Apap and Hoffman show, Irving studies have taken new and productive turns:

Recent scholarship on Irving has compellingly contextualized his writing, particularly in terms of historiography, generational change, early American imperialism, and gender and masculinity.

Previous scholars found it difficult to categorize Irving, generally considered a transitional writer. Often labelled a manifestation of the culmination of the 18th century British literary tradition, Irving lived long enough to experience the flowering of American literature and the dawning of modernity. Throughout, Irving resisted the changing world. His last major work, The Life of George Washington (1856-1859) was self-conscious myth making aimed at reverting the dreadful political upheavals of the 1850s.

Today, Irving’s transitional stature makes him more interesting. For example, “Rip Van Winkle” is often interpreted through an economic lens.

“Rip Van Winkle,” from The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Volume One, Second Edition, 1994 [David Kramer’s collection]

The story begins in the pre-Revolutionary War colonial era with semblances of feudalism. When Van Winkle awakens, the United States has been born as dynamic, market republic, a precursor to Jacksonian America. Irving had one leg in each world.

Of the essays listed, I found Nan Z. Da’s “Transnationalism as Metahistoriography: Washington Irving’s Chinese Americas.” (American Literary History, 2013) the most intriguing.

From Da, Nan Z. “Transnationalism as Metahistoriography: Washington Irving’s Chinese Americas.” American Literary History 25.2 (2013): 271-93.

Da begins with a little know literary fact: in China in 1872, a loose translation of “Rip Van Winkle” was published as a “Sleep of Seventy Years, possibly the first piece of American fiction in China. Da uses this relative literary oddity and the apparent invocation of Irving as a starting point for examining transnational parallels.

Most of the works listed are from peer reviewed journals. At the same time, Derek Mong’s cleverly titled “Rip Van Winkle Gets Woke.” (Kenyon Review Online 2020) is highly accessible. In a reader friendly, personal and colloquial style, Mong infuses Irving scholarship with his own musings, especially on his students reaction to Van Winkle over the years. You’ll end up wanting to take Mong’s course at Wabash College.


Irving Scholarship 2007-Present [Images added by David Kramer]

Apap, Christopher, and Tracy Hoffman. “Prospects for the Study of Washington Irving.” Resources for American Literary Study 35 (2012): 3-27.

Benton, Steve. “ ‘Pinioned by a Chain of Reasoning’?: Anti-Intellectualism and Models of Rationality in Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow.” The Philosophy of Tim Burton. Ed. Jennifer L. McMahon, UP of Kentucky (2014): 111–30.

Bernhardt, Mark. “Washington Irving’s Western Adventure: Masculinity, Race, and the Early American Frontier.” Journal of the West 52.1 (2013): 17-24.

Burstein, Andrew. The Original Knickerbocker: The Life of Washington Irving. New York: Basic, 2007.

Clarke, Norma. ” ‘More National (to Ireland) than Personal’: James Prior’s Life of Oliver Goldsmith (1837).” Biography 41.1 (2018): 48-70.

Da, Nan Z. “Transnationalism as Metahistoriography: Washington Irving’s Chinese Americas.” American Literary History 25.2 (2013): 271-93.

Edgecombe, Rodney Stenning. “Washington Irving: the ‘Almighty Dollar’ and Little Dorrit.” Dickens Quarterly 31.3 (2014): 229-34.

Einboden, Jeffrey. “Washington Irving in Muslim Translation: Revising the American Mahomet.” Translation & Literature 18.1 (2009): 43-62.

Hankens, LV. “The Art of Retreat: Salmagundi‘s Elbow-Chair Domesticity.” Nineteenth-Century Literature 71.4 (2017): 431-56.

Haspel, Paul. Berlin’s Own Rip Van Winkle: The Washington Irving Connection in Wolfgang Becker’s Good Bye, Lenin!Seminar: A Journal of Germanic Studies 53.4 (2017): 382-406.

Hoffman, Tracy. “Irving’s ‘Adventure of the German Student’ ”The Explicator 67.4 (2009): 233-36.

Hurst, C. Michael. “Reinventing Patriarchy: Washington Irving and the Autoerotics of the American Imaginary.” Early American Literature 47.3 (2012): 649-78.

“Ichabod Crane Is Alive!” 16 Feb. 2016. Accessed 6 Oct. 2021.

“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” from The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Volume One, Second Edition, 1994 [David Kramer’s collection]

Insko, Jeffrey. “Diedrich Knickerbocker: Regular Bred Historian.” Early American Literature 43.3 (2008): 605-41.

Jones, Brian Jay. Washington Irving: An American Original. New York: Arcade, 2008.

Jones, Catherine. “Romantic Opera in Translation: Carl Maria von Weber and Washington Irving.” Translation & Literature 20.1 (2011): 29-47“

The Kindle Discovers Christopher Columbus.” 9 Oct. 2011. Accessed 6 Oct. 2021.

McGann, Jerome. “Washington Irving, ‘A History of New York,’ and American History.” Early American Literature 47.2 (2012): 349-76.

From A History of New York, The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Volume One, Second Edition, 1994 [David Kramer’s collection] In-text and marginalia annotation notes by Joseph Volpe, Esq. See An eerie quiet at St. John Fisher College

Mong, Derek. “Rip Van Winkle Gets Woke.” Kenyon Review Online. 6 Oct. 2020. Accessed 27 Jan. 2021.

From “Rip Van Winkle,” The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Volume One, Second Edition, 1994 [David Kramer’s collection]

Nighan, Michael J. “Washington Irving Crosses the Genesee.” Talker of the Town. 16 Nov. 2021.

Pellérdi, Márta. “My Idleness has Led me Aside: Forms of Attention in Washington Irving’s Sketch Book.” In: Katalin G. Kállay, Mátyás Bánhegyi et al. ed. The Arts of Attention. Budapest: L’Harmattan, 2016, 295-307.

Schlueter, John P. “Private Practices: Washington Irving, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the Recovery of Possibility.” Nineteenth-Century Literature 66.3 (2011): 283-306.

Scraba, Jeffrey. “Quixotic History and Cultural Memory: Knickerbocker’s History of New York.” Early American Studies 7.2 (2009): 389-425.

—. “ ‘Dear Old Romantic Spain’: Washington Irving Imagines Andalucia.” Romanticism and the Anglo-Hispanic Imaginary (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2010).

Sizemore, Michelle R. ” ‘Changing by Enchantment:’ Temporal Convergence, Early National Comparisons, and Washington Irving’s Sketchbook.” Studies in American Fiction 40.2 (2013): 157-83.

Wingate, Jordan. “Irving’s Columbus and Hemispheric American History.” American Literature 89.3 (2017): 463-96.


Hawthorne and the Pandemic Visit the Instantaneous City

Washington Irving Crosses the Genesee

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


Like what you see on our site? We’d appreciate your support. Please donate today.

Featured Posts