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Title:Entangled mobility in nineteenth-century American literature
Author(s):Sunia, Patricia
Director of Research:Murison, Justine S.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Murison, Justine S.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Freeburg, Chris; Koshy, Susan; Loughran, Trish
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):nineteenth-century American literature
Abstract:My dissertation, “Entangled Mobility in Nineteenth-Century American Literature,” refocuses studies of nineteenth-century U.S. slavery and expansion on impaired mobility and bodies. As I show, both pro-imperial and anti-imperial writers as diverse as Robert Montgomery Bird, Herman Melville, Harriet Jacobs, and Harriet Beecher Stowe find in impairments avenues to resist the dominant narrative of unimpeded mobility inherent in Manifest Destiny. Across their works we see how a cast of characters including frontiersmen, renegade sailors, and enslaved peoples are often trapped when they reach the margins of the Western frontier, colonial outposts, and plantations. Rather than “lighting out to the territory” or running toward freedom, these characters become entangled with other bodies, objects, and nature, thereby revealing the crippling effects of modernity on both those who resist and those who advance empire. My dissertation draws from transnational studies, new materialism, and ecocriticism to rethink the ableist, anthropocentric, and teleological studies of Manifest Destiny within American studies. Through four concepts of mobility I call “settler,” “renegade,” “fugitive,” and “maroon,” my dissertation describes how impaired bodies move elusively, surreptitiously misusing antebellum spaces to either impose the tyrannies of white supremacy or gain freedom from them. I argue that although these forms of resistance do not fully overturn the system of power, the entangled mobility they describe imagines escape from imperialist relations such as slaveowner-slave by reinventing connections with the spaces and structures of slavery. Ultimately, my project demonstrates how representations of impairment uncover minoritarian deviations from liberal agency in the era in which the liberal subject became ascendant.
Issue Date:2018-12-06
Rights Information:Copyright 2018 Patricia Sunia
Date Available in IDEALS:2019-02-08
Date Deposited:2018-12

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