Canon Formation, the Sentimental Novel and the Idea of America e term ‘American Renaissance’ for the period of American Romanticism (183765) was established in 1941 with the publication of F. O. Matthiessen’s book Th e American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Whitman and Emerson.4 Matthiessen called the period American Renaissance because he saw it as ‘America’s way of producing a renaissance, by coming to its rst maturity and a rming its rightful heritage in the whole expanse of art and culture’.5 At a time when Fascism pervaded Europe and other parts of the world, Matthiessen sought to de ne and promote a liberal humanist subject as well as American democracy, which he saw represented in the texts of select American Romanticists like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman or Henry David oreau. Matthiessen picked these authors as representative of the period because of ‘their devotion to the possibilities of democracy’.6 Authors whose texts did not display this devotion to (American) democracy were excluded from Matthiessen’s selection, and as his book became the founding text for the discipline of American Studies, from the literary canon at large. e rst generation of American Studies following Matthiessen was the ‘Myth and Symbol School’, called so because it was interested in recurring images, patterns and themes in American literature that would testify to America’s national and cultural distinctiveness. e period of the American Renaissance was de ned in retrospect in the 1940s and 1950s, at a time when a canon of genuinely American literature rst took shape. Such a canon, among other things, wanted to stress that the United States was the oldest democracy of modern times and embodied values like liberty, self-reliance and independence, values which, in the eyes of 1950s critics, were palpable in the aforementioned male authors’ texts but not in women writers’ sentimental novels, which had been highly popular among contemporaries.