Crèvecoeur: Concealing and Revealing the Secret Self
One of the most perplexing critical problems in assessing the man generally known as Michel-Guillaume-Jean de Crèvecoeur involves his literary and real-life masquerades. In a perceptive discussion of Crèvecoeur’s many masks, Grantland Rice argues for a complex matrix of identities lying beyond the simplistic dichotomies of British Loyalist and American Patriot and of a writer and his literary voices. “Crèvecoeur extended this self-fashioning to extraliterary concerns,” Rice observes, “constructing different surnames, nationalities, political and philosophical affiliations, and private and public roles throughout his life. … Crèvecoeur’s life is often wholly characterized by his skill at adapting (often simultaneously) to opposing religious, philosophical, political, and national groupings” (108). Refocusing the famous question from letter 3 of the Letters from an American Farmer—“What, then, is the American, this new man?”—we might well ask, with Rice (among others): “What then is this Crèvecoeur?” (114). [excerpt]
Myers, James P., Jr. “Crèvecoeur: Concealing and Revealing the Secret Self.” Early American Literature 49.2 (2014): 357-401.