Nation and Migration: The Making of British Atlantic Literature, 1765-1835

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Abstract

This book provides a literary history for a nation that still considers itself a land of immigrants. Most studies of transatlantic literature focus primarily on what Stephen Spender has described as the “love-hate relations” between the United States and England, the imperial center of the British Atlantic world. In contrast, this book explores the significant contributions of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales to the development of a British Atlantic literature and culture. It argues that, by allowing England to stand in for the British archipelago, recent literary scholarship has oversimplified the processes through which the new United States differentiated itself culturally from Britain and underestimated the impact of migration on British nation formation during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Scottish, Irish, and Welsh migrants brought with them to the American colonies and early republic stories and traditions very different from those shared by English settlers. Americans looked to these stories for narratives of cultural and racial origins through which to legitimate their new nation. Writers situated in Britain’s Celtic peripheries in turn drew on American discourses of rights and liberties to assert the cultural independence of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales from the English imperial center. The stories that late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Britons and Americans told about transatlantic migration and settlement, whether from the position of migrant or observer, reveal the tenuousness and fragility of Britain and the United States as relatively new national entities. These stories illustrate the dialectical relationship between nation and migration.

Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationNew York, NY
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780190272555
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes

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