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The American claimant theme in the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James and Mark Twain

Boren, Holly Lynn; (1998) The American claimant theme in the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James and Mark Twain. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The notion of Americans laying claim to British titles and estates has been widely treated by authors on both sides of the Atlantic, a literary conceit often imagined as a legal phenomenon but seldom pursued beyond the pages of imaginative literature. This dissertation considers the aesthetic, psychological and historical resonance of the American 'claimant' theme in the published and abandoned work of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James and Mark Twain, with reference to other nineteenth-century authors who explored the same thematic ground. In Hawthorne's writing, the revolutionary's aspiration to transcend cultural determinism and establish a new cultural tradition frequently vies with the conservative enticement of the Old World's apparently timeless certainties and rich cultural heritage In The American Claimant Manuscripts, The Elixir of Life Manuscripts, English Notebooks and in Our Old Home, Hawthorne depicts and reveals the New World's crises of originality and identity. Similar dilemmas identified with the American condition would imaginatively engage both James ("A Passionate Pilgrim", The Sense of the Past) and Twain (the Colonel Sellers fictions from The Glided Age to The American Claimant, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Is Shakespeare Dead?: From My Autobiography) and persist as a recurrent trope of Anglo-American fiction. Travel is central to the claimant trope, and the trope in turn may be seen to shape many narratives of transatlantic journeys: Hawthorne's Our Old Home, James's The American Scene and Twain's The Innocents Abroad are considered in this context as 'claimant' narratives. The questions of cultural inheritance and legitimacy raised in these texts continue to resound in the heated contemporary debates surrounding the construction of national identities, multicultural studies and the traditional canon. The thesis interrogates the intertextual relationships among these works and considers the position of each in relation to the discourse and dynamics of national identity current in mid-to-late nineteenth-century British and American culture.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The American claimant theme in the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James and Mark Twain
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Language, literature and linguistics; Hawthorne, Nathaniel; James, Henry; Twain, Mark
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10097429
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