Date of Award

2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

English

First Advisor

Amy B. Kaplan

Abstract

Insurgent Remains disturbs the identification of the American Revolution with U.S. national beginnings by tracing it through its literary aftereffects in the period with which it is identified, 1770-1820. While the American Revolution is thought to have concluded with the Treaty of Paris (1783) and the “birth of the United States, Insurgent Remains reads texts produced in the decades following the peace for delineations of ongoing Revolutionary experiences characterized by loss and constraint that demand creative, collective responses without guarantee. In chapters organized around the re-use and re-circulation of “old” forms and formats—allegory, anthology, tragedy, and petition—I propose that the liminal affective states in the texts I examine are sites of insurgent potential in their own right whose politics are inscrutable when the Revolution is conceived as an oppositional conflict of sides whose descriptive vocabulary reduces to a binary formula (American/British, Loyalist/Patriot). Instead, they become legible as “remains”: pending works of grief, yearning, need, and love that offer vibrant possibilities for collective action and ethical commitment obscured by teleologies of national consolidation. Eschewing preconceived identitarian and partisan markers through which Revolutionary history has conventionally been organized, my approach stresses the roles of literary forms in mediating traumatic experiences of Revolutionary history that may otherwise elude representation. I argue that the itineraries along which these forms travel open up new ways of thinking about the cultural politics of the period and the politics of revolution itself. This project thus seeks to enrich our understanding of the Revolutionary period by expanding the narrow field in which politics seem to operate, attending to modes of historical experience debarred from political consideration by traditional Revolutionary histories bound to binary narratives of conflict and progress.

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