The Inverted Compass: Geography and the Ethics of Authorship in Nineteenth-Century America
AdvisorDryden, Edgar A.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
EmbargoDissertation Not Available (per Author's Request)
AbstractThe Inverted Compass traces the influence of geography on early American writing. Maps, quadrants, and compasses are at the heart of America’s most celebrated stories, and these geographic tools shaped how Americans understood themselves and their relationship to the landscape in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. But the emerging discipline also provided writers a way to address the young Republic’s most pressing political and ethical problems. The word geography itself - from the Greek geo (earth) and graphia (writing) - articulates the central paradox. Mapping, even as it claims to represent the world, continuously produces it. Literary works follow a similar logic. The Inverted Compass argues that certain early American writers recognized the parallels between mapping and writing and confronted their political implications through narrative fiction. These writers imagined counter-spaces. They created alternate geographies. They inverted the compass. Their allegories, hoaxes, and satires sharpened readers’ awareness of the role of writing and rhetoric in law and government, directing attention to the often-obscured ethical responsibilities related to Westward expansion and the treatment of minority bodies in nineteenth-century America. The Inverted Compass examines the work of Jefferson, Poe, Melville, and Twain alongside exploration narratives, maps, journals, ship logs, field manuals, land surveys, city plans, political cartoons, spelling primers, court cases, land laws, and Congressional documents to uncover the patterns of reading that guide the spatial imagination and its material products.
Degree ProgramGraduate College