Pedagogical Gothic: education and national identity in early American sensational fiction, 1790-1830

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Pedagogical Gothic: education and national identity in early American sensational fiction, 1790-1830

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Title: Pedagogical Gothic: education and national identity in early American sensational fiction, 1790-1830
Author: Hale, Alison Tracy
Abstract: This project explores a peculiar intersection between education and violence in early American sensational fiction, and traces that conjunction, in part, to the pervasive tensions surrounding the emerging ideal of American citizenship. Initially, the study asserts that the model of citizenship developed during the early decades of American independence can be termed "pedagogical," in that its rights, privileges, and obligations cohered around the conception of the nascent citizen as educable. This "pedagogical model" of citizenship, however, contains a paradox that is explored further in the fiction of the period; that is, that a citizenship that can and must be taught is by definition artificial, a reminder that impedes the naturalization of the American political identity it attempts to serve. The bulk of the study explores how the political and psychological anxieties occasioned by pedagogical citizenship are registered through a preponderance of literary scenes that identify the results of education with physical violence. By associating pedagogy and horror, these sensationalist novels participate not only in imaginatively "constructing" the citizen of the early republic, but also in exaggerating the anxieties that attended the process. The first chapter establishes the centrality of educational projects to the ideal of American citizenship in the early years of independence and demonstrates the disjunctions between a pedagogically-inflected notion of citizenship and early national desires for political stability. Subsequent chapters offer specific readings of the following novels as they consider the implications of pedagogical citizenry for different sub-classes of early Americans: the prototypical white male citizen (Charles Brockden Brown's Wieland [1798]), the white republican woman (Brown's Ormond [1799] and Hannah Webster Foster's The Coquette [1797] and The Boarding School [1798]); and the Native American (Catharine Maria Sedgwick's Hope Leslie [1827]).
Description: Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Washington, 2005.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1773/9393

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