Spectatorship in the crowd in American literature, 1880-1920
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] This dissertation examines spectatorship in nineteenth and early twentieth century American literature, focusing on lesser-known texts by Irvin S. Cobb and Miriam Michelson, and the more canonical works of William Dean Howells, Theodore Dreiser, and Charles Chesnutt. I consider how the spectator functions as a lens to view the relationship between violence and social change as depicted in the politically-charged crowds of fictional labor strikes and lynch mob scenes. I analyze how the tensions between the individual and the community inherent in democracy have played out in American fiction, expanding on Nicolaus Mills's examination of “what happens when the crowds of American literature . . . challenge the hegemony of the pastoral and timeless images traditionally used to define the meaning of America.” While this vision of America has dominated our study of American literature in the undergraduate classroom, I argue for a reassessment of fiction that takes into consideration that the way our country defines itself collectively is as significant as the way we define ourselves individually. The literary analysis of my first four chapters is followed by a pedagogy chapter which links my research and teaching. I outline three courses which draw upon some of the themes explored in the previous chapters. Since the majority of the students I teach come from semi-rural or suburban backgrounds, they are unfamiliar with the history and evolution of cities and towns; by using the familiar yet complex concept of spectatorship, I can make literature of the crowd more accessible to my students and help them better comprehend the economic and racial issues at the turn of the century in order to more clearly make connections to our current economic and cultural situation.
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