Jefferson and the politics of nineteenth-century southern pastoral
thesisposted on 24.04.2013, 08:41 by Peter Templeton
This thesis examines a number of literary texts from and about the nineteenth-century American South through a transatlantic lens, in order to consider mutations and alterations in the pastoral tradition importantly fostered in the region by Thomas Jefferson. Due to the turbulent political and, eventually, military situation in the United States during the period under discussion, detailed attention is given here to the many ways in which literary pastoral was adapted in response to shifting regional needs. The thesis begins by considering the pastoral influences on the political philosophy of Jefferson, specifically his notion of America as a pastoral New Jerusalem . It establishes the emergence of American pastoralism through the colonization process, and examines how an English yeoman ideal came to exist in the colonies. Part Two maps and evaluates alterations to the Jefferson ideology in several Southern novels of the antebellum period (especially John Pendleton Kennedy s Swallow Barn and Nathaniel Beverley Tucker s The Partisan Leader), such as a focus less on the small farmer than on the land more generally, that emerged in the face of the political threat from Northern abolitionism. This section of the thesis also considers plantation literature s idyllic tropes in a new light by utilizing the American travel writing of British authors particularly Charles Dickens and Anthony Trollope so as to establish a parallax interpretive position. In Part Three, the thesis provides detailed examination of Southern texts of the postbellum period, with especial focus upon writings by Mark Twain and the lesser-known Virginian writer Mary Tucker Magill s novel, The Holcombes. This section investigates the reimagining of and by the South following defeat in the Civil War. Focused on returns to, and further divergences from, the original Jeffersonian ideal of the pastoral, it also emulates Part Two in turning to selected English writing here, Thomas Hardy s own fictional negotiations of significant rural change so as better to identify and assess the politics of the Southern literary imagination.
- The Arts, English and Drama
- English and Drama