Philip F. Gura's Truth's Ragged Edge is perhaps the first comprehensive study of the early American novel since Richard Chase's 1957 classic, The American Novel and Its Tradition. Gura opens with the first truly home-grown genre of fiction: religious tracts, short parables intended to instruct the Christian reader. He then turns to the city novels of the 1840s, which depicted with mixed feelings the rapid growth and modernization of American society. He concludes with fresh interpretations of the introspective novels that appeared before the Civil War, such as those by Hawthorne and by Melville, from whom Gura takes his title. The grand narrative sweep of the book is balanced by Gura's great insight that the early novel never fully left its origins behind, even as it evolved - it remained a means of theological and philosophical dispute, and reflected the oldest and deepest divisions in American Christianity, politics, and culture. In addition to discussing novels that are considered classics, Gura recovers many novels - by authors as diverse as the evangelical writer Susan Warner, the African American novelist Frank J.Webb, and the early feminist novelist Elizabeth Stoddard - that will be revelations to the contemporary reader. Panoramic and original, Truth's Ragged Edge is an indispensable guide to the origins and development of the American novel and will become a standard book on its subject.