The American frontiersman in Fin-de-Siecle Britain : texts and contexts

De Beer, Lauren Elizabeth, English, University of Virginia
Arata, Stephen, AS-English (ENGL), University of Virginia
Booth, Alison, AS-English (ENGL), University of Virginia

This dissertation explores the transatlantic reception and cultural appropriation of the American frontiersman in a variety of late nineteenth-century British texts. In 1886, William "Buffalo Bill" Cody and his troupe of Wild West entertainers arrived in London in honor of Queen Victoria's Jubilee. Although the American frontiersman had long figured in Britain's literary imagination, Cody's arrival thrust the figure into the forefront of fin-de-siecle mass culture. This dissertation considers textual representations of the US frontiersman and the ways those representations manipulate popular political and racial discourses to incorporate the American into narratives of national crisis.
Much of the project focuses on the Westerner's appearances m late nineteenth-century British adventure fiction. In these works, the Anglo-American frontiersman is often portrayed as the transatlantic emissary of a New World martial race. Yet, these fictions reveal a range of reactions to his arrival, with a variety of implications for the state of the British Empire and British manhood. This dissertation specifically considers visions of the American frontiersman in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet (1887); Bram Stoker's Dracula (1896), and Rider Haggard's She (1886-1887). In these works, the Westerner's violent proclivities and primitive lifestyle could be construed as signs of the United States' racial and national inferiority (thus affirming British preeminence), or they could be markers of a new, combative virility.
In Britain, the American frontiersman was drawn into national conversations about racial degeneration, evolution, the rise of the New Woman, and the fate of the imperial project. He appears in popular periodicals, like Punch magazine, essays of social criticism, and radical "slum" novels. In the final chapter, this dissertation explores the American frontiersman's influence on Eliza Lynn Linton's "Wild Woman" essays (1891- 1892) and his appearance in Margaret Harkness's slum novel, In Darkest London (1891). Study of these works provides an opportunity to consider the frontiersman's inclusion in a wider variety of fin-de-siecle British discourses, and his perceived relevance to a spectrum of social problems.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
frontier, martial race theory, social criticism
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