Drawn Into Unknown Lands: Frontier Travel and Possibility in Early American Literature
Type of DegreeDissertation
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This dissertation explores the symbolic meanings contained in literary depictions of journeys to the American frontier written during the late 1700s and early 1800s. I argue that these depictions work to create and advance the multifaceted concept of the American frontier—what exactly the frontier is, what possibilities are available to the frontier traveler, what role the frontier plays in the life of the nation, and what cultural values are and are not compatible with life on the frontier. While an author’s description of a journey to the frontier writes these aspects of the frontier, the frontier itself affects a traveler’s preconceived notions about it and thus influences the written text. Individual and collective possibilities regarding warfare, westward expansion, history, religion, and community are explored in texts of different genres and written in different times and places in order to better understand the scope of the different ways that British colonists and citizens of the young United States thought about the frontier.