Author

Ellen H. Ryan

Date of Award

Summer 8-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Todd Thompson, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

David Downing, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Christopher Orchard, D.Phil.

Abstract

In this study, I use a blended-genre approach to reading canonical literature and art in the United States during the antebellum period. Acknowledging that the mediums of art and literature are both narrative-driven and dependent upon techniques of visualization, I examine works that show marked hybridity of form, identifying artists and writers practiced in synthesizing media and genres to create hybridized texts. I suggest that reframing the aesthetic canon to include a blended-genre paradigm provides an alternative mode of analysis for understanding the cultural work of American Romanticism.

I focus my study on canonical American Romantic art and literature for its powerful narrative voice in the construction of national identity, locating convergent practices in three major works: The Course of Empire paintings by Thomas Cole, The Crater by James Fenimore Cooper, and The Marble Faun by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I also identify blended-genre practice in Cole’s poetry and prose, Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans, and selected short stories by Hawthorne. I consider how convergences circulated from one text to another and recover a submerged discourse of the time period.

Connecting Cole, Cooper, and Hawthorne through The Course of Empire, I suggest their use of the cyclical theory of history as a foundation narrative for the establishment of American identity, and Cole’s paintings as an influence used to explore the projected fate of the United States. I also suggest that an unexpected outcome of antebellum American Romantic art and literature was the suppression of a unique American national identity even as Cole, Cooper, and Hawthorne eagerly sought to provide a national art and literature for the emergent nation.

I consider the interdiscursivity of blended-genre practices and its production of discourses that challenged a “master narrative” of Manifest Destiny during the antebellum period. Reading beyond traditional genre boundaries, I re-envision the cultural work of writers and artists of American Romanticism, illuminate submerged discourses, and provide a new understanding of historical and cultural conditions within which art and text were created.

Available for download on Friday, September 28, 2018

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