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Title:The English in America: National Identity and the Transatlantic Book Trade, 1620--1688
Author(s):Mylander, Jennifer
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Guibbory, Achsah
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, English
Abstract:This dissertation challenges the traditional division between English and American literatures by illuminating the ways the transatlantic book trade accelerated the production of fantasies of Englishness in the early modern era. Literary scholarship has tended to divide English and American literature too sharply at this early period, seeking distinctive national literatures from these cultures before they were distinct nations. The same instability and social change that produced the British civil wars spurred colonization and mass migration; thus, Atlantic study underscores the mutuality of nation- and empire-building in the seventeenth century. Books are, arguably, the most culturally significant luxury items regularly traded across the ocean in the period, and yet, book ownership was so fundamental for colonists that one man was accused of being an atheist because he did not have a Bible. While American literary studies usually emphasize the products of the Massachusetts presses, this project focuses on the consumption of books in England and throughout English America because the vast majority of books in colonial America were produced in England. English imprints functioned as valuable markers of identity in the unfamiliarity of the "New World"; in this role they were instrumental to colonists determined to self-identify not as Americans but as the English in America. Driven by fear of degeneration due to exposure to "savage" lands and peoples, colonists sought to fix a stable, invulnerable English identity, and these attempts to articulate an Englishness that spans the Atlantic world ultimately promoted the development of national identity at home. Beginning from material, rather than textual, circulation, this project balances the important contributions of post-colonial criticism to early modern studies. Chapters offer detailed readings from a variety of genres---including practical manuals, devotional books, colonial promotional writing, and fictional "histories"---together highlighting ideas of Englishness, godliness, and civility as they shift over the course of the seventeenth century. Rather than focusing on English identity as a singular product marketed across texts, this study explores transatlantic book circulation as a significant process that intensified developments in religious and early national community formation for English readers throughout the Atlantic world.
Issue Date:2006
Description:266 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2006.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3242949
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-25
Date Deposited:2006

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