|Chapter 1:||Romantic Antiquarian Literature|
While their writing is often cloaked in the guise of scholarship and appears to use the tools of reason, Romantic Antiquarian discourse is profoundly irrational, relies heavily upon generating imaginative reveries, and borrows from the themes and modes of both European and American Romanticism. Antiquarian narratives are filled with lush descriptions of fantastic landscapes—ruined cities, temples, and tombs—and of great battles reconstructed not by meticulous sifting of the earth but by flights of the imagination, analogous to the work of Romantic writers who flourished in the eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. Josiah Priest’s prose ruminations upon Ohio’s tree-covered earthworks bear a striking similarity in theme and tone to the morbid compositions of the British Graveyard Poets. Thomas Gray published “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” (89–97) in 1751, which characterizes this melancholy verse.
Illustration 4. Romantically influenced rendering of mounds in the U.S. interior from Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley (21).