Date of Thesis

2016

Thesis Type

Masters Thesis (Bucknell Access Only)

Degree Type

Master of Arts

Department

English

First Advisor

Michael J. Drexler

Keywords

Nineteenth-century Literature, Transnationalism, Regionalism, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Sherwood Bonner, Henry James, Reconstruction, Fugitivity

Abstract

This project explores what it means to be “transplanted” for nineteenth-century literary characters and writers, and what and how that transplantation signifies. How does crossing the shifting border between “North” and “South” mark characters in certain ways? And, moreover, how could those border crossings reveal suppressed national and racial concerns? I am interested in how movement between regions or “sections” of the nation becomes racialized in nineteenth-century literature, especially in the wake of popular fugitive narratives and anti-slavery novels such as Frederick Douglass’s autobiography and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. How do these starkly sectionalized antebellum topographies translate in postbellum texts? In the first chapter, I reconsider Harriet Beecher Stowe’s depictions of border crossing in Uncle Tom’s Cabin alongside a contemporary editorial response to the fugitive character of George Harris that was published in a Canadian abolitionist newspaper, The Provincial Freeman. The second chapter moves into the postbellum era and provides a comparative reading of two novels that invoke and invert the generic conventions of Reconstruction romances: Henry James’s The Bostonians and Sherwood Bonner’s Like Unto Like. This popular subgenre of the novel allegorized abstract and ideological debates over the maintenance of the nation through uniting sectional representatives in matrimony. The precarity of moving through regional and national space—the physical and political implications of fugitive border crossings—drives my interest in subsequent depictions of what I am calling “transregionalism.” If the demarcation lines between North and South resonate in antebellum texts as negotiable, contested, and embattled, they register perhaps even more foundationally as geopolitical, racial boundaries.

Available for download on Monday, May 22, 2023

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