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dc.contributor.advisor Wald, Priscilla en_US
dc.contributor.author Bigsby, Shea William en_US
dc.date.accessioned 2012-05-25T20:09:32Z
dc.date.available 2013-05-20T04:30:05Z
dc.date.issued 2012 en_US
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10161/5438
dc.description Dissertation en_US
dc.description.abstract <p>This dissertation explores the significance of Africa (both as a literal geographic space and as an imagined or symbolic space) in 19th century American intellectual and literary culture. I argue that when nineteenth-century intellectuals grappled with the institution of slavery, the significance of slave revolt, and the extent of black intellectual capacities, they dealt not only with a set of domestic social and political concerns, but also with a wider epistemological crisis surrounding the very idea of Africa and Africanness. The paradoxical legacy of the transatlantic slave trade, which produced unthinkable dislocation and suffering even as it created new diasporic networks of black affiliation built around a common African origin, forced a reexamination of conventional thinking about history, nationalism, cosmopolitanism, education, and civilization. </p><p><italic>Diasporic Reasoning</italic> traces the impact of the idea of Africa on specific American intellectual outlets, including popular historiography, the novel, and the university. I contend that in each of these cases, the engagement with the idea of Africa enriches the possibilities of thought and leads to a fruitful reframing or refinement of established ideas, genres, and institutions. I begin with an exploration of the different historiographic uses of "representative men" in Ralph Waldo Emerson's <italic>Representative Men</italic> and William Wells Brown's <italic>The Black Man</italic> (Chapter One). I argue that Brown's contribution to the genre of collective biography complicates the apparent "universalism" of Emerson's earlier text, and forces us to rethink the categories of the universal and the particular. In Chapter Two, I continue to examine the impact of the African diaspora upon historical consciousness by arguing that the encounter with the specter of slave insurrection produces cognitive (and in turn, formal) ruptures in two historical novels, Herman Melville's <italic>Benito Cereno</italic> and George Washington Cable's <italic>The Grandissimes</italic>. Chapter Three focuses not on a literary genre, but on the circulation of knowledge through the institution of the modern university. Building from a comparative reading of the educational philosophies of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Edward Wilmot Blyden, I argue that Blyden's provocative conception of an "African university" draws out and extends upon the implications of Emerson's thinking on education. Finally, in the Epilogue, I look at the syncretic uses of "Ethiopianism" in Pauline Hopkins' <italic>Of One Blood</italic>, J. A. Casely Hayford's <italic>Ethiopia Unbound</italic>, and W. E. B. Du Bois' <italic>Darkwater</italic> in order to explore the new paths that Pan-African and diasporic thought would take in the twentieth century. I argue that these works reflect the degree to which an evolving anthropological understanding of the idea of "culture" and the specific political contexts of anti-colonial struggles across the African continent would complicate the kinds of intertextual possibility available in the nineteenth century. This dissertation thus traces the often-surprising intellectual interrelations of America and the African diaspora, and in so doing, opens up a more nuanced approach to the study of nineteenth-century literary and intellectual culture.</p> en_US
dc.subject American literature en_US
dc.subject African studies en_US
dc.subject African American studies en_US
dc.title Diasporic Reasoning: The Idea of Africa and the Production of Knowledge in Nineteenth-Century America en_US
dc.type Dissertation en_US
dc.department English en_US
duke.embargo.months 12 en_US

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