English Language and Literature ETDs

Publication Date

8-27-2009

Abstract

"'My dissertation is a study of the travel writings of three nineteenth-century American authors, Herman Melville, Bayard Taylor, and Charles Warren Stoddard. I argue that these writers evinced a rebellion encompassing literary as well as political and social subversion. In order to succeed in their rebellion, they relied upon genre transgression, the violation of the traditions and conventions of a particular genre, to convey defiant social opinions. They were demonstrative in voicing their critiques of American sexual, religious, and racial dogmas in their travel fiction and poetry. These three authors violated genre boundaries in most of their works, but especially their travel narratives, several of which have come to be call 'travel fiction,' texts that are loosely autobiographical. In order to convey my arguments, I have viewed these works, in part, in the context of literary hybridity, the combination of elements from separate genres or literary styles to create a new combined genre; heteroglossia, an inherent human trait of using dissimilar media and vocabularies; and intertextuality, the introduction of a peripheral text into the main narrative of a text. In addition to their disregard for the boundaries of genre, these authors displayed genuine affection for males and an appreciation of the male physique in ways that would be considered 'homosexual,' 'gay,' or 'queer' in current American society. Consequently, each of these men disregarded religious and moral constraints against same-sex affection and non-aggressive physical contact. As a result of their unconventional beliefs, they wrote against form, violating boundaries of gender and genre, mixing genres in their writing, and disregarding the usual Euro-American gender barriers. In my study of the texts of these writers, I apply the idea of "queer," the sexual and gender outsider, and "post-colonial," the examination of disparate cultures in the context of Western imperialism. An important aspect of their writings is what occurs in their texts at the intersection of queer and postcolonialism. I demonstrate that Melville's, Taylor's, and Stoddard's genre bending in their travel writings is a reflection of their rebellion against the sexual and imperialist beliefs of the nineteenth century.

Degree Name

English

Level of Degree

Doctoral

Department Name

English

First Advisor

Scharnhorst, Gary

First Committee Member (Chair)

Jussawalla, Feroza

Second Committee Member

Power, Mary

Third Committee Member

Szabo, Joyce

Language

English

Keywords

Melville, Herman, 1819-1891--Criticism and interpretation, Taylor, Bayard, 1825-1878--Criticism and interpretation, Stoddard, Charles Warren, 1843-1909--Criticism and interpretation, American literature--19th century--History and criticism, Travel writing--History and criticism, Gender identity in literature, Postcolonialism in literature, Queer theory

Document Type

Dissertation

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