Frontier Modernisms: Form, Race, and Rupture in 1920s Novels.
Abstract: Frontier Modernisms: Form, Race and Rupture in 1920s
Novels Working toward a definition of American modernism that recognizes the
necessity of including Asian American, Native American, and noncanonical African American
texts for understanding the full range of subjectivities that create and are created by the
modernist moment in America--the years between the World Wars, but especia... read morelly the decade of
the 1920s--my dissertation argues that American modernism emerged at an overdetermined,
ruptural moment in U.S. history when racial tensions transformed the national identity and
subjugated citizens represented their lived experiences in fiction. Current definitions of
modernism, I show, therefore must be revised to position the American frontier as a
central, contested site where writers voice differing perspectives on imperialism,
community, and heterogeneity. Chapter One outlines the history of the period and various
materialist approaches to the field of modernism. Chapter Two posits Mourning Dove's
Cogewea (1927) as a modernist text that struggles with
contradictions brought on in missionary boarding schools and finds resolution in a return
to Okanogan tradition. Chapter Three shows the ways in which Langston Hughes'
Not Without Laughter(1930) grapples with the concept of
primitivism, using African American sounds to disrupt white power structures. Chapter Four
explores Willa Cather's The Professor's House's(1925) reaction
to changing racial dynamics on the American frontier and reliance on a mythical connection
between white American identity and an indigenous past. Chapter Five argues that Winifred
Eaton's Cattle(1924) envisions a utopian, heterogeneous space
outside of the dominant culture and the constricting social construction of race, creating
a fictional vantage point from which to criticize United States' imperialism. These four
novels offer a view of modernism more diverse than traditional readings of the field and
call for a re-envisioning of modernism as an early twentieth-century literary movement that
expresses in a wide variety of forms--sometimes detached and experimental, at other times
revisionist and appropriative--the struggle to resolve the contradictions that determine
them. To understand those resolutions and their contradictions, I emphasize, it is
paramount that we take a materialist approach and consider each text in its historical
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2013.
Submitted to the Dept. of English.
Advisors: Elizabeth Ammons, and Modhumita Roy.
Committee: Emilio Sauri, and Ichiro Takayoshi.
Keywords: American literature, and Literature.read less