American legends: Nation, nature, natives and others, 1608 to 2001
AdvisorBabcock, Barbara 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.
AbstractIn this dissertation, I explore the complex layers of the dynamic American cultures that inform personal experiences, shape national identities, and impinge upon the global order. Situating this project within recent explorations of cultural globalization within American Studies, Cultural Studies, and the Environmental Justice Movement, I examine cultural narratives united by one colonial trope: the colonial conquest of natural resources through the subjugation of feminine body and feminized land (noble savage), and the retreat of the primitive ignoble savage in the face of civilization and progress. These narratives include Henry Adams and Everett Emerson's opposing representations of Captain John Smith, the articulation of America as 'nature's nation' in Thomas Cole's art and the PBS program Frontier House, the Broadway show Miss Saigon, and the now infamous Wen Ho Lee case. These disparate narratives, at the intersection of discourses of nation, nature, race, and gender, accumulate a collective force even in their separate moments. Adams and Emerson demonstrate a linear view of American history that upholds progress in terms of industrialization and expansionism at the cost of nature, and racialized and gendered others. Cole and Frontier House romanticize subjugation in terms of nature, race and gender, which is construed as an inevitable and necessary step towards progress. In the Broadway musical Miss Saigon and media and political representations of the Wen Ho Lee case, such progress contributes to an American identity that plays a leading role within the current the globalized order. The ancient colonial trope remains alive today through these narratives, I argue, because the apparatuses of global capitalist development and environmentalism have created new global regimes of governmentality that continue, under new guise, the structures and relationships under colonialism. These narratives are part of a cultural process productive of a new 'common sense,' an understanding that helps people grasp cultural representations, solve social conflicts, and negotiate political realities. As such, cultural texts are integral aspects of history and politics.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Comparative Cultural and Literary Studies