Dr. Gabriella Vöő (University of Pécs, Hungary): "The Languages of Expansion in America: Imperial Policies and the Antebellum Novel"

27.06.2012, 12:15Uhr, U9/01.11

From the outset, the United States was engaged in nation-building and imperial expansion at the same time. The antebellum American novel contributed to both processes by tailoring its settings, plots and character dynamics to include the salient issues of the westward expansion. Authors not only reflected on, but also facilitated the integration of conquest and settlement, Indian removal, and racial slavery into the national imagination.

This presentation will discuss the American frontier novel in the contexts of the discourses related to the transatlantic passage, the Monroe Doctrine, and the ideology of Manifest Destiny, which also mark the transatlantic, hemispheric and global phases of imperial expansion. By referring to James Fenimore Cooper's Pioneers (1823), Catharine Sedgwick's Hope Leslie (1827), and Herman Melville's Moby-Dick (1851), Dr. Gabriella Vöő will point out common themes in US political, cultural, and literary discourses. Narratives of national identity, domesticity, and racial superiority permeated all areas of antebellum American culture, producing a language of expansion that combined the issues of nation making, peace, and protection with those of expansion, conquest, and control. The lecture examines the national imperial novel from a historical perspective, by referring to Benedict Anderson's and Eric Hobsbawm's approaches to nationalism, national tradition and the novel, as well as to the work of the cultural critics and historians Amy Kaplan, Jane Tompkins, and Edward Larkin.

Dr. Gabriella Vöő works at the Institute of English Studies, the Department of English Literatures and Cultures at the University of Pécs, Hungary. She specializes in nineteenth-century American literature and culture. She has published essays on American empire building, the novel, as well as on the works of Herman Melville and Edgar Allan Poe. Her research interests also include Reception Studies: she is the author of the book From the East Looking West: British and Irish Literature and National Self-Definition in Interwar Hungary (2011).