On the Threshold: Hospitality and the Idea of England in Late Romantic Writing.
Abstract: This dissertation puts hospitable discourse at the center of the
crises of representation agitating England during the 1820s and 1830s. I begin with a
detailed account of the literary, philosophical, and historical tradition of hospitality,
including Enlightenment paradigms that assigned it a key role in securing world peace. Here
Derrida's reading of Kant provides a vocabulary for m... read morey argument that threshold encounters
between host and guest figure prominently in the construction of England as an imagined
community. I also pursue the transatlantic mobility of hospitable discourse in the late
Romantic period, for William Cobbett, among others, asserted that hospitality was
specifically a matter between England and America and might serve as a powerful catalyst
for reform. After constructing the conceptual framework for my study, I consider Walter
Scott's Waverley and its reanimation of hospitable
convention as a means of performing the nation. I then turn to three writers to elaborate
my argument that hospitable discourse was deployed in the late Romantic period to disrupt
tropes of national organicism. In Chapter Two, I discuss Mary Shelley's
Lodore as a series of versatile reformulations of
hospitable discourse, and I argue that the novel's fractured structure gives formal
expression to the alienation that is manifested on both sides of the Atlantic. Chapter
Three reads across a broad range of Felicia Hemans's poetry to demonstrate that through
specific poetic strategies, home and hospitality are de-coupled in her work. I show also
that by representing the threshold as a site of foreclosure, this work constructs an
inhospitable England, which significantly adjusts how we read her as a national poet.
Chapter Four reverses the tide of English emigration to America to argue that James
Fenimore Cooper's The Pilot puts displacement at the
heart of both nation-building and generic innovation. Cooper's text constructs an elaborate
threshold zone along the coast of England in which all claims of belonging are provisional.
Together and with critical force, these texts reanimate hospitable discourse to express a
pervasive instability that prophesies an alienated metropole.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2012.
Submitted to the Dept. of English.
Advisor: Sonia Hofkosh.
Committee: Joseph Litvak, Elizabeth Ammons, and Elizabeth Fay.
Keywords: British and Irish literature, and American literature.read less