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Title:Ghosts of the Pacific: imagined masculinities in British voyage literature, 1697-1818
Author(s):Wear, Jeremy
Director of Research:Markley, Robert
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Markley, Robert
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Pollock, Anthony; Rabin, Dana; Wood, Gillen
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
travel narratives
Abstract:Ghosts of the Pacific: Imagined Masculinities in British Voyage Literature, 1697-1817 argues that Pacific novels and travelogues redefine the parameters of eighteenth-century masculinity. By the end of the century, Pacific voyagers like James Cook were celebrated as national heroes and were popularly thought to embody Enlightenment ideals of reason and civility. Less than fifty years before, however, Pacific mariners were viewed as threatening figures whose transgressive identities flouted the traditional signifiers of polite masculinity like land ownership, marriage, and heredity privilege. Commercial and imperial expansion into the Pacific revealed, I argue, the profound instability of British masculinity, thus rendering the Pacific a site of both anxiety and celebration. The “empty” Pacific represented a laboratory of national and self-identification where Britons critiqued their empire even as they reified the new forms of masculinity necessary to expand and maintain it. By addressing how masculinities were fashioned in relation to Pacific travel, I reframe the “Pacific” as a literary problem. Scholars have discussed how bestselling Pacific novels and travelogues mobilized emerging scientific and economic discourses to rewrite the transgressive actions of voyagers as normative, gentlemanly pursuits, thereby weaving these discourses into the fabric of eighteenth-century social order. I recast this historicist approach, arguing that texts by authors like Daniel Defoe and Jane Austen imagine the Pacific as a rich, discursive field for representing both commercial and domestic subjectivities. Celebrated by polite readers, the novels and narratives of Pacific voyagers were an important means for questioning and reaffirming the unstable conditions of nation and selfhood.
Issue Date:2015-04-15
Rights Information:Copyright 2015 Jeremy Wear
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-07-22
Date Deposited:May 2015

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