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Title:Losers in the isthmus: Central America in American literature
Author(s):Harrison, Brady Avard
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Nelson, Cary
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):History, United States
Literature, American
Abstract:As a means of exploring the relationship between literary production and the discourses of interventionism, my dissertation studies American literature set in Central America from the era of the Monroe Doctrine to the end of the Nicaraguan contra war. Since the 1860's, American writers like Bret Harte, Richard Harding Davis, Paul Bowles, Joan Didion, Robert Stone, and others, have been writing and rewriting the same novel about Americans in Central America. How and why this is so is not so much a matter of a literary tradition as it is of the relationships between politics, history, and literature. As fiction has changed over the last one hundred years and more, novels about Central America have adopted new rhetorical and formal devices; they have evolved from romances and actioners to existential thrillers and B-movie narratives. Nonetheless, their vision of the isthmus and the kind of Americans that go there, and ultimately of the US itself, has remained remarkably similar--almost immutable--for all this time. This vision and its renewal has had its stimulus in the US' aggressive management of its backyard; the continuity of US foreign policy has inspired novelists to write the same story over and over again. These narratives, drawing their initial inspiration from William Walker, the American soldier of fortune who conquered Nicaragua in 1856, offer variations of the same American character: the loser. The loser embodies the consequences of the extreme asymmetry of power between the US and the isthmus, and his or her many incarnations--the drifter, junkie, lost soul, or mercenary--point to a profound American ambivalence about interventionism. The trope of the loser in an isthmian wasteland transforms, after World War II, into the figure of the loser in Southeast Asia. My project explores the figure of the loser not only in American literature about Central America, but about Vietnam as well.
Issue Date:1994
Rights Information:Copyright 1994 Harrison, Brady Avard
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9512388
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9512388

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