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Title: Remembering to forget : Native American presences and the U.S. national consciousness in nineteenth-century Euro-American fiction
Author: McDonnell, Alex James
ISNI:       0000 0004 5990 0169
Awarding Body: Durham University
Current Institution: Durham University
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis interrogates the part played by the figure of ‘the Indian’ in the formation of the U.S. national consciousness as reflected in the nineteenth-century fictional works of James Fenimore Cooper, Robert Montgomery Bird, Lydia Maria Child, Helen Hunt Jackson and Herman Melville. I propose that new understandings can be reached concerning Indian representations and national identity in the selected texts via an approach that combines postcolonial and psychoanalytic theories, in particular as detailed by Ranjana Khanna in Dark Continents (2003). I explore how the national ideals articulated by Cooper, Bird, Child and Jackson are predicated on repression identifiable in historical revisionism, disavowal, ideological rhetoric, generic conventions and so forth, which reflects a melancholic nationalism more generally concerning the colonial subjugation of Native Americans. I demonstrate that where the national origins mythology of The Last of the Mohicans is ‘haunted’ by inassimilable historical memories associated with frontier conquest and displacement, the Indian-hating premise of Bird’s Nick of the Woods is yet more melancholic in being overwhelmed by the genocide it seeks to justify. In contrast, Ramona and Hobomok effectuate their own forms of epistemic violence in assimilating the Indian into the national body. However these novels also allow for the principle of an autonomous Indian perspective, which jeopardises the idea of state legitimacy that is crucial for their national ideals. In Melville’s The Confidence-Man a historically recuperative national vision is absent and this allows indirect recognition of the Indian ‘phantoms’ of the nation’s past. These works encompass psychological, ideological and cultural patterns of negotiation with a Native American presence that reflect different facets of the nineteenth-century American psyche and its evolution. My readings of these patterns provide a new perspective on how the nineteenth-century American national consciousness is unable to reconcile its history of imperialist, frontier expansion to its ‘ego-ideal’ as a democratic institution distinguished from its European predecessors.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available