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Searching for a point d'appui: Constructions of National Identity in Antebellum American Literature
University of Gävle, Faculty of Education and Business Studies, Department of Humanities, English.
2015 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In the decades before the Civil War, American society witnessed the intensification of political and social tensions over issues such as slavery, Irish immigration, laborers’ rights, and women’s rights; the major economic transformations and the drive toward the new order of free enterprise capitalism (especially in the North); the expansionist policies materialized as Indian removal or military aggression against a neighboring country. Such disruptive forces were taking a heavy toll on the national fabric. At least this is what some American literati feared; through all the tumult and vitality of antebellum America, they discerned a sort of moral groundlessness. The America(s) they imagined seem to point to this ethical dimension as their common denominator. Thoreau is one of those antebellum writers who peeped into the American conscience and tried to find a “point d’appui”, a new ethical foundation for the national project that was underway. This paper investigates his and others’ literary re-constructions of America.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
US national identity, antebellum American literature, moral foundation, political vices, progress
National Category
Specific Literatures History
URN: urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-22541OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hig-22541DiVA: diva2:1015112
"American Values: Public Values, Private Vices?" The 24th Biennial NAAS Conference on American Studies, 11-13 May, 2015, University of Oulu, Finland
Available from: 2016-10-04 Created: 2016-10-04 Last updated: 2016-11-07Bibliographically approved

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