Divisible Pasts: Nostalgia and Narrative in American Literature and Culture, 1848 ? 1900

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Divisible Pasts: Nostalgia and Narrative in American Literature and Culture, 1848 ? 1900
Funchion, John R. (creator)
Gould, Philip (director)
Burrows, Stuart (reader)
Nabers, Deak (reader)
Brown University. English (sponsor)
Copyright Date
This dissertation maintains that nostalgia played a formative role in animating several competing diasporic American nationalisms in the nineteenth century. Nostalgia is often dismissed as a facile affective reaction to the conditions of modernity and the rise of a monolithic American nation-state. By contrast, I argue that nineteenth-century writers used nostalgia to produce social spaces that united disparate populations through a shared sense of exile from a past, place, or people. In other words, temporal discontinuity and spatial estrangement?what critics generally have seen as obstacles to nationalism?actually served as the necessary preconditions for creating a national community based on nostalgia. While classified as a disease of the imagination in eighteenth-century medical literature, nostalgia came to define sectional feeling and created competing accounts of the past in the nineteenth century. Instead of imagining the nation and its past in homogeneous and contiguous terms, writers like William Wells Brown and Herman Melville participated in this sectionalist discourse and used tropes of diaspora to suggest that U.S. identity could be imagined from a place of exile where nostalgia binds one to a particular place or nation through a sense of longing. Since the Civil War only brought about a tenuous political resolution to the sectional conflict, I read work by Augusta J. Evans and MarĂ­a Amparo Ruiz de Burton to argue that Reconstruction-era writers used nostalgia to imagine the U.S. as a loose confederation of sectional cultures produced by mutual regional intolerances. In the 1880s and 1890s, I demonstrate, Walt Whitman and Hamlin Garland employed nostalgia to redefine sectional antagonisms along economic lines of interest in the service of Populism. I conclude by examining L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), which creates a technologically reproducible nostalgia emptied of its content to make every place like home, so that at the same time "there is no place like home."
Nineteenth-Century American Literature
History of the Novel
American Studies
Cultural Theory
Thesis (Ph.D.) -- Brown University (2008)
vii, 230 p.


Funchion, John R., "Divisible Pasts: Nostalgia and Narrative in American Literature and Culture, 1848 ? 1900" (2008). English Theses and Dissertations. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library. https://doi.org/10.7301/Z0TD9VNX