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Title: In search of 'the American, this new man' : the literary quest for an American national character, 1760-1826
Author: Pollard, A. F.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2006
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Abstract:
The American Revolution attempted to create both a separate American polity, and to differentiate the character of the American people constituting that polity from the rest of the world. But at the moment of Revolution, Americans were deeply divided over that character. Those divisions persisted through the republic’s formative period. My thesis explores the literary dimensions of those divisions from the moment political developments first gave them significance during the Seven Years War, to 1826, the year of the deaths of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. While some writers espoused the glorious dreams symbolised by The Declaration of Independence, a neglected strain challenged the prevailing optimism, persistently questioning who the Americans were. Key issues in this on-going discussion included the place of excluded groups in the new nation, African-Americans, Amer-Indians, Loyalists; whether the democrat or the aristocrat were to rule; whether America was savage or civilised; whether it was British or American. These questions were contained in a broader quest for a summation of American character, for an answer to Crevecoeur’s famous question, “What then is the American, this new man?” Chapter one discusses the Revolution through St John de Crèvecoeur and Benjamin Franklin; chapter two, the political struggles of the 1790s, through Hugh Henry Brackenridge; chapter three, the Jeffersonian Ascendancy, through Washington Irving; chapter four, the muddle of the Era of Good Feelings, through John Neal, Jonas Clopper and James Kirke Paulding; and chapter five, the fashioning of a fresh myth, through James Fenimore Cooper. Revolutionary necessity required Americans to speak in very positive terms concerning whom they were and where they were going. The fragility of the early republic required a similar forcefulness. Yet the literature of the period shows an abiding uneasiness. Necessity buried that uneasiness and those questioners who expressed it; this study seeks to recover them.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.660658  DOI: Not available
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