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Wieland and Memoirs of Carwin the Biloquist
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Wieland and Memoirs of Carwin the Biloquist

3.39 of 5 stars 3.39  ·  rating details  ·  849 ratings  ·  81 reviews
A terrifying account of the fallibility of the human mind and, by extension, of democracy itself, "Wieland" brilliantly reflects the psychological, social, and political concerns of the early American republic. In the fragmentary sequel, "Memoirs," Brown explores Carwin's bizarre history as a manipulated disciple of the charismatic utopian Ludloe.
ebook, 416 pages
Published February 1st 1991 by Penguin Books (first published 1798)
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I read WIELAND: OR THE TRANSFORMATION for different reasons than I think the majority will read it. I'll bet a lot of people read it because it's a very early example of the "American Novel". Most are probably assigned it for a class. Perhaps some read it because of interest in a particular aspect (religious mania, biloquisim as portrayed in popular culture...God knows). I read it as part of a general overview I've taken on of the Gothic novel and so, being a "root of American Gothic" novel, her ...more
I must note that this one is an acquired taste, as it is pretty dark, but I enjoyed it for its originality. Think 19th century X-files - spontaneous human combustion and all (though not aliens!). Mysterious, sometimes frightening and serious - also must read "Memoirs" as it is critical to "Wieland" and not just an addendum.
Anna Cain
I don't have too much experience with Gothic literature, ("Frakenstein" is pretty much the extent of my exposure) and I don't think anyone outside of an American post-revolutionary literature class has ever heard of "Wieland." I went in with rather low expectations, as the last book the class read was total garbage, but I was pleasantly surprised. "Wieland" is a very nice Gothic tale, and a perfectly spooky read for Halloween!

That being said, I believe "Wieland" is nothing more than a spooky, Go
Without a lot of time for this review, I'll just sort of have to make some quick comments:

The actual events in this book were entertaining enough (if not completely ridiculous, but the author continually resorts to the excuse of these resulting from various "phenomena"). I understand the reasoning behind Wieland's position in the history of American literature, and for that I give credit where it is due. However: I was so frustrated by the characters that during my reading, my "margin notes" wer
One thing which defines the Gothic movement is a ponderous and measured movement. Scenes and events are allowed to unfold minutely, creating tone not with a word, but with a constant and inexorable movement. This allows the author to subtly ease the reader into a strange and consuming world without relying overmuch on symbols and archetypes.

The world of Wieland is strange, and neurotically consuming, but Brown's wealth of words are more overstimulating than engrossing. To paraphrase Mark Twain's
One of the earliest American novels ever written, Charles Brockden Brown's Wieland is a deeply dark novel, at times containing scenes of such terror and violence that I can see why Edgar Allen Poe would find inspiration here. It is Gothic, romantic, is a duel between the spiritual and logical, and if you ask me, I think the author takes the side of logic. Often when the start of the American novel is discussed, James Fenimore Cooper is usually the first name to come up. Why is it ...more
Hilary Scharper
This was a most unusual read in terms of my ventures into the gothic genre—in this case early American gothic—but it was utterly absorbing! Originally published in 1798, it has many of the literary conventions of the period and to contemporary reader, the prose can seem very purple (!), but the story is compelling and indeed disturbing. The story's dark events are based on a true 18th century incident and the scenario is by no means unfamiliar the 21st century. Very chilling!

Additionally, for th
John Pistelli
An early American novel--perhaps the most famous one--about a family destroyed by mysterious voices that come out of the air with warnings and commands. Narrated in plainspoken prose by Clara, the sister of the titular Weiland, the novel depicts a family attempting to devote itself to the reasonable discourse befitting a young republic; they regularly gather in a neo-classical-style temple with a bust of Cicero in the center. (But the temple was designed by their father, a religious fanatic immi ...more
This review is also posted at Pages Unbound Book Reviews.

Wieland may be of interest to students of early American literature or of Gothic novels, but I am going to go out on a limb (actually, forget that; it probably isn’t a risk) and say that the book does not have a lot of mass market appeal. Even avid classics fans may find it a bit dry.

As is typical with much early American writing, Wieland is lacking the type of strong, fast-paced plot that we often associate with good modern literature. Wh
Title: Wieland: or, The Transformation: An American Tale

Author: Charles Brockden Brown

Published: 1798

Year I read it: 2009, 2011

One sentence summary: An epistolary, gothic, Colonial-American novel, this is the tragic story penned by Clara Wieland, detailing her father and, later, brother's descent into religious fanaticism and of the voices they hear - voices from the divine, from madness, or from the strange, visiting Carwin?

Interesting fact: Considered by many to be the first significant novel
I'm not good at star ratings, if you haven't figured that out by now. Does this book warrant a five star rating in the way that I feel Cloud Atlas, or the Interpreters, or Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, would? Probably not, but in context, I think it does.

Few people whom I have met or talked shop (about books) with have even heard of Charles Brockden Brown, or Wieland, and The Transformation and Memoirs of Carwin the Biloquist. It's a long title because it's actually two works in this volume. The f
Peter Law
Absolutely mind-blowing. Generally considered the first novel written by a native-born American. An amazing metaphor for the nature of democracy (written about 20 years after the American Revolution) and whether or not it can actually work, in the guise of a Gothic novel. A mysterious ventriloquist (or "biloquist," as the word was then) seems to wreak havoc amongst a highly intelligent family. The inference: In a democracy, do the people essentially give up their "voices" to an elected politicia ...more
Brown's American gothic novels should be so much better known than they are and he could easily lay claim to being the US's first novelist of distinction. Wieland is possibly his strongest novel though the excellent Arthur Mervyn was my introduction to him.

The book poses the question of how far rational, Enlightenment principles can prevail when we are always pray to our inner demons and darkness, especially in the new country known as America. Lest this sound too philosophical the book begins w
The language of this story, as well as the narrator's (& author's?) need to share every little detail, made this story a slow read. The story is a little skewed since the narrator gives every detail about Latin pronunciations or plays the group puts on, but glosses over the scary parts of who's hiding in her closet. The ending is a deus ex machina, and a major letdown as far as whodunit goes. I guess this can be looked past, since it IS the first American mystery, but it's not worth the read ...more
Nov 10, 2007 Liz rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Wieland is a surprisingly good gothic fiction. One of the better reads encountered in a university setting. A well off family encounters an unknown of supernatural proportions. Unique psychological interpretations of otherwise rational individuals prove interesting and destructive. The female narrator is a far cry from your typical female in distress associated with a gothic horror piece, especially in the period it was written. There are many ways to interpret Browns book but I can't help but c ...more
Chris Herdt
I have no idea how I acquired this book. The only reason I kept it around it because I thought it was Byron's Werner, which I had further mistaken for Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther. It's all of the W's, you see, that had me confused.

Set on the Schuylkill banks just outside Philadelphia, Wieland is apparently one of America's earlier novels. It is filled with horror, mystery, and suspense--much of which is spoiled by both the back cover of the book and the introduction. Perhaps they expec
Jan 27, 2008 Amy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Goths, Gothic readers, Literature lovers, everyone!
Recommended to Amy by: my professor years ago
Shelves: past-read
At the tail end of my college career, I took a class in Gothic Lit.. This was I think the first book I read in the class, and it absolutely changed my life.

It sucked me in with its delicious eeriness. I just love the melodrama and spooky images of night in the woods, the lightning, the psychological paved the way for the thrillers in print and on screen to come.

Now, every chance I get to read anything Gothic, I go out of my way. There are a bunch of really good websites, one i
Not many people will be into this novel because it's written in that awkward, over-wrought, melodramatic late 18th-century English style (like William Godwin or Horace Walpole). But I love it because its the forebear of all the great 19th century gothic novels, especially those written by American authors like Hawthorne, Poe, Melville, etc. Brockden-Brown was the "Father of the American Novel," so this one sets the stage for a lot of what comes later. It's a story of shameful passions, religious ...more
Feb 08, 2008 Christine rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who enjoy psychological suspense
Recommended to Christine by: Offering for a class in American Lit
This novel is part of American Gothic fiction, but unfortunately is not as well known as it should be. It is especially interesting for its interest in the natural landscape as it impacts the human psyche. Unlike Uncle Silas, it retains elements of the supernatural that are never explained. Why it is particularly interesting is that the influence of the unknown wilderness of America is used to capture the most instinctual fears of the reader. Read it along with Uncle Silas and the Moonstone and ...more
Published in 1798, 'Wieland; or, the Transformation' is one of the earliest novels written in the U.S., and is an unusual twist on the Gothic novel, utilizing 'actual' phenomena instead of the usual 'fantastic' phenomena like ghosts.

I found it creepy and intense and suspenseful and evocative, and muchly enjoyed it. The setting and time period also render it engaging if you're interested in early U.S. life. Most versions include 'The Memoirs of Carwin the Biloquist', which gives you a behind the
Lauren Albert
Despite the fact that I think Brown is a terrible writer, I wrote my dissertation on him. The reason is simple--his novels are fascinating in how they reflect the time he lived in. I was writing about him almost exactly 200 years after he wrote his novels. and the parallels between the two periods are amazing--a desperate seeking for a foundation to build trust on, a fear of strangers, a doubt about the truthfulness of appearances and experiences. I found it all strangely fascinating and his nov ...more
Jen Mcinnes
Charles Brockdon Brown has quickly become one of my favorite authors. His stories are captivating and unpredictable. Should everyone read him? No way. But for those who like a little darkness and a psychological mind-f@$k, hell yea, you should read it. Wieland, a story of self-destruction, is definitely that. My only complaints are that
Louisa's story was kind of out of nowhere and mostly forgotten throughout the book and thrown back in awkwardly at the end and that Carwin being the savior in the
So Charles Brockden Brown might be the first American novelist. You'd think he'd be a bit better known, but with a book like Wieland, I can see why I hadn't even heard of him until taking an American Literary Traditions class in college. I have to admit that his way with descriptions is admirable, but entirely too wordy to keep my attention, even with the spontaneous human combustion, disembodied voices, and mysterious deaths. It was too much for my taste.
Grania O' Malley
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Shane Glass
Charles Brocken Brown is a horrible writer. How he made a living writing I don't know. His gothic story is filled with pages of mindless rambling that does nothing to progress or develop the story.

The most interesting part of the narrative is the fact he wrote from a female point of view. The notion that he did this to relate to Carwin's proficiency in misleading others by false voices is intriguing.

The plot is a good one, but horribly written.
Bethany Kimble
Absolute BEST display of American Literature available. British Literature has always and will always hold my heart, but this book, I sit next to the likes of Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice on my shelf. The fast-paced plot and elements of terror make for an experience like any of the best classic horror films around. It's hard to believe this book was published in 1798. Almost as hard as believing it's from an American. Enjoy.
For being one of the first Early American works of fiction, I am impressed by the amount of connectivity I felt to the terror in this novel. It was palpable, real. The reason I rated it for less than four stars is my disappointment in the lack of answers by the conclusion. Maybe it is just reader's remorse for picking up a book that did not satiate my thirst for a solid book.
Jess Michaelangelo
Oct 07, 2008 Jess Michaelangelo rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jess by: 1
Shelves: classics, fiction, mystery
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. For being one of the first American novels, Charles Brockden Brown did a wonderful job in breaking out of the European mold of the novel. Not only did he include an emerging element in literature (suspense), but he also made an interesting point about the advantages and disadvantages of religious fanaticism versus empiricism.
Jun 13, 2007 James rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who likes a good mystery
Considering the time this novel was written, the most interesting aspect of it is the female narrator. She is extremely intelligent and unflinching in the face of danger. This is an old book that is suited for a modern audience. Plus, it has the added benefit of being written during a period of our country's history when language was still respected and it shows.
Wonderful! Not only does this book enable the reader (and characters) to question the validity of their senses, it forces the reader to question the validity of a self-professed confused and hazy narrator. Does Clara use this self-profession as a crutch to sway the reader into believing her often fantastic story, or is she just telling the truth?
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Charles Brockden Brown (January 17, 1771 – February 22, 1810), an American novelist, historian, and editor of the Early National period, is generally regarded by scholars as the most ambitious and accomplished US novelist before James Fenimore Cooper. He is the most frequently studied and republished practitioner of the "early American novel," or the US novel between 1789 and roughly 1820. Althoug ...more
More about Charles Brockden Brown...
Wieland Edgar Huntly or, Memoirs of a Sleep-Walker Wieland: or, The Transformation: An American Tale and Other Stories Arthur Mervyn Ormond

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