Transatlantic Nationalisms and Parallel Performances: Afterlife Texts of the Revolutionary Era
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
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This dissertation traces the rise to public prominence of Major John André, J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, and Mary Robinson during the American Revolution, and it examines the ways in which they each inspire an afterlife legacy that takes on public dimensions in Britain and America well into the twenty-first century. My argument is that André, Crèvecoeur, and Robinson—in life, and during their extraordinary afterlives—are used in Britain and America for restorative purposes. Their public personas and works (literary and extraliterary) inspired the transatlantic publics of Britain and America, and they did so at a crucial time in the evolving identities of both nations. Afterlife analysis facilitates an understanding of how their personas and works are used in response to the varied crises brought on not only by the American Revolution, but by subsequent historical moments that have exposed deep uncertainties regarding national identity, good citizenry, male and female propriety, and sensibility. By tracing their afterlives as that which are informed by their wartime utility, I am able to identify patterns (as well as notable deviations) in terms of how, why, and by whom their personas and works are appropriated, reimagined, and remade. This dissertation enriches studies of how eighteenth-century celebrity culture both reflects and responds to periods of national unrest, and it sets out to contribute to the expanding body of afterlife scholarship that focuses on figures of the period and the lasting impact of their works. This dissertation is also concerned with the intersection of celebrity and nationhood—that is, with how the celebrity functions as a mechanism through which national sentiments are negotiated and fostered among a diverse range of people. As such, my contribution to afterlife studies is to illustrate how the afterlives of André, Crèvecoeur, and Robinson reflect the mobilization of imaginations in the process of nation-(re)making.