Neither the Time nor the Place: The New Nineteenth-Century American Studies 9780812298277

Neither the Time nor the Place considers how the space-time dyad has both troubled and invigorated Americanist scholarsh

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Neither the Time nor the Place: The New Nineteenth-Century American Studies

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Neither the Time nor the Place

Neither the Time nor the Place The New Nineteenth-­Century American Studies

Edited by Christopher Castiglia and Susan Gillman

universit y of pennsylvania press phil adelphia

Copyright © 2022 University of Pennsylvania Press All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations used for purposes of review or scholarly citation, none of this book may be reproduced in any form by any means without written permission from the publisher. Published by University of Pennsylvania Press Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-­4112 www​.upenn​.edu​/pennpress Printed in the United States of America on acid-­free paper 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 A catalogue record for this book is available from the Library of Congress Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8122-5366-5 Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8122-2511-2 Ebook ISBN: 978-0-8122-9827-7


Introduction Christopher Castiglia and Susan Gillman


Part I. Citizenship Chapter 1. Roma Redux: The Analogical Nineteenth Century Mark Storey


Chapter 2. African Americans and the Panama Canal Zone as a Third Space Ifeoma C. Kiddoe Nwankwo


Chapter 3. “Something Awful in the Voice of the Multitude”: Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Dred on Power and Social Struggle Dana D. Nelson


Part II. Environment Chapter 4. Uneven Improvement: Swamplands and the Matter of Slavery in Stowe, Northup, and Thoreau Matthew E. Suazo Chapter 5. Vanishing Sounds: Thoreau and the Sixth Extinction Wai Chee Dimock





Part III. Historiography Chapter 6. Beyond Space: The Speculative Dimension of Nineteenth-­Century American Literature Edward Sugden Chapter 7. Exorbitant Optics and Lunatic Pleasures Timothy Marr



Chapter 8. The Other South: Time, Space, and Counterfactual Histories of the Civil War Matthew Pratt Guterl


Chapter 9. Apocalypse Then: Southern Speculative Fiction, Slavery, and Civil War, 1836–1860 Coleman Hutchison


Part IV. Media Chapter 10. Editing Melville’s Pierre: Text, Nation, Time Robert S. Levine


Chapter 11. American Literary Studies @ Scale Caroline Levander


Chapter 12. Place Out of Time: LatinX Studies, Migrant Fictions, and Israel Potter Rodrigo Lazo


Part V. Bodies Chapter 13. Shame and the Emotional Life of the Realist Novel Stephanie Foote



Chapter 14. Ghosts of Another Time: Spiritualism, Photography, Enchantment Dana Luciano Chapter 15. Not to Mention: (the marmorean unconscious) Christopher Looby




Notes 249 List of Contributors


Acknowledgments 287

Introduction Christopher Castiglia and Susan Gillman

Time and place have challenged scholars of nineteenth-­century American literature practically since the field’s inception. Especially over the past several decades, as both problem and possibility, they have troubled and invigorated Americanist scholarship, generating some of the most important “turns” in the field. To sample a few of the time-­based questions that have arisen over the past decade: when the “long nineteenth century” begins and ends; whether periodization is a useful heuristic for studying literature and what other temporal models might serve in its place; how temporal scales and measurement have formed, deformed, and reformed nationhood; how and why time is queered; which temporal models have operated alongside and often in opposition to monumental or national time, sanctioned history, or imperial “destiny”; even the place of historiography as “context” for literary studies. Spatially, “America” as a stable object of study has been expanded, contracted, effaced, and estranged by an analogous set of place-­based questions: the nation’s function in relation to region; the Black Atlantic; oceanic and archipelagic studies; the history of diaspora or borderlands; the transnational movements of people, cultures, languages, and economies; indigenous sovereignty and settler colonization; the place of the singular United States in the plural hemispheric “Americas”; the nation as an empire; the relationship of nation and state; and finally alternatives to the one-­nation, one-­language model. While it would be wrong to say that time and space have never been studied concurrently in recent decades, such studies remain the exception that proves the rule. For the most part critics have turned away from sustained investigations of time or space in



ways that leave unexamined one category or even have reinforced one over the other. The goal of this collection, in contrast, is to make explicit how time and place are structurally joined, are most productively analyzed in critical relation to each other. Different questions proliferate when these terms interrogate each other, as the variety of objects, methodologies, and perspectives represented by these essays demonstrates. How does the expansion of “America” to a hemispheric scale produce different temporal models or challenge the relation of “text” to “context” itself? What are the geopolitical locations in which disruptions of national temporalities occur, and what spatial logics do those disruptions involve? How is the queerness of time impacted by the integrity of bodies, or what different chronologies are produced on the commons? We also bring time and place into the same critical frame to challenge the conventional coordinates that have separately and unequally organized scholarship in our own and allied fields, making collaborative conversations institutionally difficult. Two disciplines most clearly adjacent to literary and cultural studies are history (well known and the sometime object of field envy from literary critics) and geography (less well known, deserving of greater familiarity from literary perspectives). Historians have produced a substantial literature on the relations between the spatial and temporal turns in cultural and social history, while geographers have supplied their own critical self-­reflection on the field’s engagement with emerging work on the interrelation of time and place from the 1960s to the present. Historians have repeatedly changed methodological practices in relation to seriatim turns (beyond the “linguistic turn”), whereas geographers, perhaps ironically, continually approach the place-­time relation historically, as a simultaneity. Both disciplines are thus positioned to provide those in literary studies with instructively compatible rather than competing models of field self-­criticism that respond differently to the same body of space-­time theorists, from Henri Lefebvre, Edward Soja, and David Harvey to Fernand Braudel. Historians, for example, have debated the ubiquitous turns (cultural, linguistic, transnational, spatial) and their influence on social and cultural history while also engaging with big history and big data as parallel phenomena, counterpoints to the more intimate microhistories produced by the various turns.1 Until relatively recently, traditional historical and geographic place/ space, the grounds on which histories usually take place—nations, regions, and localities—had fixed borders defined by land, with human history written in relation to that place. But the limiting function of place remained for



the most part unacknowledged, making temporal limitations seem to be coming from geographical fact, rather than the other way around. Now historians at the forefront of field innovation are engaged in a push for different geographical scales as measures of historical change, shifts that make clear how new spatial metrics generate different temporal ranges. Historians in Atlantic, hemispheric, and transnational studies have particularly taken up the challenge to define and defy the borders of a national place in tandem with changing concepts of historical time. Steven Hahn’s A Nation Without Borders: The United States and Its World in an Age of Civil Wars, 1830–1910 (2016) argues, for example, that the imperative for conquest of places at home and abroad shaped the porous borders of the United States over a more extended time line, punctuated by what he calls the War of Rebellion (a.k.a. the Civil War) and defined by intervention in other civil wars, extending from the western hemisphere to the Pacific.2 The downsides to this push beyond nationalism have not been ignored, among them the risks of assuming the advantage of global-­sized spatial scales, characteristic of the capitalist present, as corrective to the artifice of the national and the imperial.3 Although one response from literary scholars to all this is to lament the “trade gap” with history, the contributors to our volume see far greater potential in making literary-­historical use of this series of reflections on disciplinary methods in our field, nineteenth-­century American studies, explicitly defined by its relations to time and place. Geographers have produced an even more striking body of retrospective scholarship that looks critically and historically at the changing ways that place and time have been handled—together, separately, in tandem, at odds—in both physical and human geography. Increasingly, territoriality is recognized as a relational process, mutually constituted by spatialities and temporalities. Feminist geographer Doreen Massey’s oft-­cited 1999 essay “Space-­Time,”4 for instance, takes off from a speculative proposition: “the possibility that there may be commonalities between physical geography and human geography in emerging ways of conceptualizing space, time and space-­time” (Massey 261). While human and physical geographies were long held apart, she says, by their relationship to physics as an assumed model of “science” (“‘science’ and physics envy”), “the urge to think ‘historically’ is now evident in both physical and human geography” (Massey 261). Massey’s essay was an overture to geographers working in fields very different from her own, an overture specifically made through the work of Jonathan Raper and David Livingstone, geomorphologists focused on the digital representation of complex coastal phenomena such



as sea-­level rise (where physicality and the sociopolitical intercept). Massey quotes Raper and Livingstone, specifically citing their argument against the traditional spatial modeling of environmental problems, dominated by more or less unthinking “timeless,” geometrically indexed (absolute) space, and the argument for a more self-­conscious, object-­oriented relative space in which “time is a property of the objects” (Massey, 262). Massey embraced Raper and Livingstone as physical geographers and fellow travelers alike, doing the kind of work with connections to “my neck of the geographical woods”: “trying to rethink space as integrally space-­time and to conceptualize space-­time as relative . . . , relational . . . , and integral. . . . Sometimes it can make your head hurt to think in this way” (Massey 262). Self-­mocking and at times strategically comic, Massey’s essay was followed by other, retrospective pieces that made it a touchstone in the developing disciplinary argument for reconceiving geography around a reconceiving of space-­time. Raper and Livingstone themselves took on the Massey mantle two years later in an exchange written from their perspective as practitioners of geographical information systems (GIS) and designed to join the disciplinary debate through the history of the GIS community, looking back to earlier key figures (Henri Lefebvre, for example) just as geographers writing later (Robert Dodgshon’s 2008 essay, “Geography’s Place in Time,” reprinted in 2015, for example) also trace their roots to Massey.5 This geographical literature shares a self-­reflective view, systematically brought to bear through a series of open-­ended reflections, tracing an unfinished history “from timeless space to spacetime” in human and physical geography. Geography thus provides literary studies with a model of deep, disciplinary consciousness, “disciplinary” defined through the contours of the field itself and extending, capaciously, to cognate disciplines, most often a group of literary and cultural theorists, from Fredric Jameson to Edward Soja, among others, whose work is consistently engaged. Other recent disciplinary innovations have involved explicit engagement with literature, language, and narrative, exchanges that have pushed conventional assumptions about time and space. Jane Bennett, for example, has brought together political science, environmentalism, and literature to explore eco-­temporalities and spaces of “vibrant matter” often overlooked by humans. Bruno Latour has crossed disciplinary boundaries between literary studies, anthropology, and sociology to advocate for descriptive practices alert to emerging assemblages that don’t necessarily adhere to conventional sociological assumptions about space and time. The medical humanities have



joined together the humanities, the social sciences, and medicine to imagine, through acts of storytelling and narration, new ways of training physicians through alternative models of caregiving. The “new materialisms,” arising from disciplines as diverse as philosophy, anthropology, and literary studies, have drawn attention to ontologies, (post)embodiments, and agencies existing apart from anthropocentric spatiotemporal concepts. These and other interdisciplinary explorations have used literature, language, and narration to explore new epistemologies of space and time. These interdisciplinary conversations offer, by way of contrast, insight into a genealogy of literary studies, one that offers opportunities for disciplinary self-­reflection. Theories of reading in the past—like those of geography and history—have involved conjoined temporal and spatial assumptions and practices rarely brought to the surface, much less interrogated. The New Critical ideal of the well-­wrought urn, centered on the work of art disconnected from biographical and other historical contexts, produced a model of reading divorced, or freed, from particularities of time and place. When critics did address dimensions of time and place—as when René Wellek and Austin Warren claimed, “Time and space in a novel are not those of real life,” since fiction’s “reference is to a world of fiction, of imagination”6—the point was to separate the text from anything, even those most basic coordinates, outside itself. When history returned to criticism full throttle with the New Historicism of the 1980s and 1990s, literature again had a context in both macro-­and microhistories, or, in the case of American New Historicists primarily influenced by Foucault, in the flexible temporal acts of genealogy. The point of such criticism, as Gregory Jay has asserted, was “not simply to describe the past, but to change it (and so the present and future, too).”7 Textual production moved away from authorial intent to the sociopolitical unconscious, while the temporal axis, as Jay’s comment suggests, shifted from the given teleology, the assumed progress of the Enlightenment male subject, to what geographers would call a world of multiple temporalities. The return to (new) history coincided with the “canon wars,” in which authors forgotten due to race, class, sexuality, and gender entered, either “expanding” or “busting,” depending on one’s political perspective, curricula and philosophy of criticism. Yet the spatial locations of New Historicism frequently faded to the background. While a text’s historical moment became politically significant, where it was produced, although addressed, was rarely the featured player. And important recovery work often occasioned, as Jay’s comment makes clear, a problematic temporal assumption that not only did



the past exist for our benefit but that its politics, cultures, and identities could without many contortions become reflections of ours. Criticism throughout the canon wars might well have benefited from interactions with temporal theorists working in the same period on the social construction of time (Lefebvre’s unevenness, Koselleck’s simultaneity of the nonsimultaneous, Fabian’s time and the other, Harootunian’s use of the Blochian idea of contemporary noncontemporaneity).8 In the wake of New Historicism and the canon wars, what Frederick Crews called the New Americanism produced myriad geopolitical analyses sensitive to time and place, with the added benefit, still to be fully harvested, of taking account of the languages in which texts are written, translated, and circulated. As transnational scholarship and its critique of the sovereign, exceptional, and imperial nation became hemispheric, oceanic, regional, and settler colonial studies, among others, history remained central. Revisionist accounts of the hemisphere, for example, were sparked by two centennials, the 1992 Columbian quincentenary of the renamed conquest (a.k.a. discovery) of America and the 1998 anniversary of the Spanish-­American War (variously renamed to include Cuba). These commemorative events reflected and produced decades of borderlands scholarship by literary critics and historians working not only to dislodge 1865 from its centrality in U.S. national history but also to insert the alternate years of 1848 and 1898 as heuristics for fundamentally redefining what counts as “American.” And for the third and perhaps least appreciated dimension, American studies produced its own “linguistic turn,” bringing into view, if not always into the canon, a body of American literature written in languages other than English, which moves through multiple translations, adaptations, and significant editions and republications, each instantiation punctuated along the scales of time and place.9 For U.S. literary studies in particular, the potential three-­dimensionality, operating simultaneously along axes of space, time, and language, is striking. These revisions of nineteenth-­century American studies have opened numerous opportunities for examining the productive yoking of temporal, spatial, and linguistic analysis. From this perspective various historicisms have jostled for field dominance, with postwar New Criticism and 1980s New Historicism joined in American literary studies by the way they link temporal thinking with spatial underpinnings. The theoretical timelessness of the New Critics runs counter to their intensely local identification with a place in time, the regionalism of the southern agrarians defining the genres worthy of study, the well-­wrought urns of what has become the global South. The



New Americanists tested their Foucauldian theories of social power through a set of privileged genres, the old reliable spatially oriented regional, urban, and travel novels of the nineteenth century. Yet as the New Americanism has become institutionalized to the point of seeming synonymous with “the field” itself, its spatial, not primarily its temporal, theories have been most prominent. Looking at the titles of influential books in this period—Cultures of United States Imperialism, The Black Atlantic, The Anarchy of Empire in the Making of U.S. Culture, Writing to Cuba, Hemispheric American Studies, The Unsettling of America (and the list could go on)—one would easily see where, but not necessarily when, the study’s analysis is aimed. Paradoxically, the priority of place might itself be a function of time. Henri Lefebvre observes that the temporal disciplining of labor (and, one might add, biological reproduction) meant that other, non-­work-­related phenomena became associated with space. That separation of time and space—and the correlation of space and culture—was, for Lefebvre, a function of modernity, accelerated by nineteenth-­century industrialization. The “spatial turn” of New Americanism might be said to reproduce modernity’s disciplinary hierarchy of time and place, as Harry Harootunian contends, in the process of critiquing other modern social constructions. As this spatializing of American studies developed, a different critical movement, the mirror reflection of the one just described, analyzed time, often at the expense of place. Appropriately, given Lefebvre’s equation of space and modernity, queer temporal theory has shaped what Elizabeth Freeman calls “a turn to the ‘premodern,’ not only to moments in time before the consolidation of homosexual identity in the West but also to how the gaps and fissures in the ‘modern’ get displaced backward into a hypersexualized or desexualized ‘premodern.’ ”10 From that perspective, queer temporal theorists have shown how the somatic operations of time have been experienced, in Freeman’s words, as “something felt on, with, or as a body, something experienced as a mode of erotic difference or even as a means to express or enact ways of being and connecting that have not yet arrived or never will” (159). Conventional concepts of time—those underlying the periodization of national literary studies—have left queers “feeling backward,” in Heather Love’s phrase: belated, untimely, delayed, nostalgic, anachronistic, immature, or simply timeless.11 From that alienated position (queer theory, unlike, say, hemispheric studies, is rarely mistaken for “the field itself ”), queerness might form the basis of a temporal field imaginary stretching from F. O. Matthiessen and Constance Rourke (the former conceived nineteenth-­century



literature in temporal terms, a “renaissance,” and the latter brought American literary studies to the temporal circulations of regional folkways) to critics today, well versed in queer theory, who have offered incisive analyses of “national time.” Yet for the most part, queer temporal theory, at least as it has been anthologized, debated, and incorporated into graduate classrooms, has often addressed time detached from place (except for that of the body or a very generalized nation) and might well benefit, as several of the essays in this volume do, from the kinds of queer convergences promised by Jack Halberstam’s In a Queer Time and Place and by recent studies of queers in colonial, racialized, regional, and impoverished settings.12 Our collection is committed to engaging this work in order to make clear the varieties of scale and methodology involved in such challenges to a variety of orthodoxies and sacred cows, even as we acknowledge our intellectual debt to critics who, often in devastating circumstances, have made urgently clear the stakes in and possibilities arising from revising temporal-­ spatial-­linguistic conventions. One striking example is C. L. R. James, who examined the revolutionary implications of historical time before, famously, taking up Melville to analyze state violence as he experienced it during his 1953 detainment at Ellis Island. James theorized the possibilities for transnational movements using the figures of Melville’s mariners, renegades, and castaways, whom James calls “a miniature of all the nations of the world and all sections of society,” a picture from a hundred years ago of the world we live in today.13 Melville’s insights, a powerful example of the politics of place and time, were, for James, true of his own condition and arguably are just as relevant in ours. That temporal folding—the fluid and multidirectional exchanges of 1855, 1953, and beyond, time traveling backward as well as forward—aided James’s prescient speculations, which might be described as a mapping of immeasurable yet thoroughly material futurity. Another revolutionary simultaneity is evident in James’s 1938 The Black Jacobins, where he brings the Haitian Revolution across the three dimensions of place, time, and language, from 1790s Saint-­Domingue to 1930s England, to the world of postwar decolonization. James’s book translates not only between French, Spanish, and English and between France, Haiti, the United States, and Cuba but also between past events (the revolution-­as-­lived), a present that has already been inscribed as the past (“the history of our time”), and a speculative future (the unfinished revolution that might yet be).14 As James wrote, “Firm as was his grasp of reality, old Toussaint looked beyond San Domingo with a boldness of imagination surpassed by no contemporary”



(265). In The Black Jacobins, revised in 1963 after his encounter with Melville in Mariners, Renegades and Castaways, James plumbs the necessity of “speculative thought” to seeing the failed revolutions of the past as proleptic, Haiti in 1804 predicting Cuba in 1959, both forms of as yet unfulfilled, or untimely, history and at the same time waiting, to come into existence as “event” by virtue of future reckonings of the past. In telling this conjectural history, time running simultaneously forward, backward, and sideways, James explained temporally the colonial and postcolonial spatial logics of “what was bound to happen” in Africa and the rest of the colonized world.15 Today we might see James’s account of society, politics, and language as a kind of queer temporality. In so doing, we would recognize how he shows the far-­reaching (as the spatial/temporal phrase would have it, the “world historical”) conditions most fully understood not only through time or place but through the revolutionary “third dimension” visible in their interconnections. In a different register than James, but aspiring to similar speculative ends, the essays in this volume collectively suggest that we’re in another chapter in the history of American studies, centered in this space-­time on recent theories of material and environmental agency, ontology, assemblage, and affect.16 Environmental criticism reminds us not only of places (the arctic, the ocean, the galaxy, the environments of biodiversity) that in many cases emerged as areas of critical interest in the nineteenth century, but of alternative temporal scales—the anthropocene, the sixth extinction, “deep” time— familiar to biologists, oceanographers, geologists, among others, and once again useful to those who study nineteenth-­century literature and culture. Nonanthropocentric understandings of agency, furthermore, involve different concepts of place (“networks,” “assemblages,” “ontologies”) and related shifts in temporal scales (Over what span do climates change or species go extinct? Can the actions of objects be measured by conventional metrics of movement? When have we moved into the “posthuman”?). Although wonder and enchantment involve encounters with the spatiality of objects, phenomena, or nature, they also freeze time, form the stopped clock of epiphany, arrest the temporal orders of business as usual. Whether through environmental, materialist, or affect theory, new questions arise around language as well, including those centered on nonhuman modes of communication, signs circulating through the whole of the sensorium, translation and the transnational movements of information, writing from the realm of the dead, and the expressive possibilities of social media. Finally, a renewed interest in speculation, fantasy, and counterfactuals, signal features of many essays



collected here, offers the possibilities for imagining a field organized around places and times currently off the map. We get a glimpse of pasts that are different from what we thought we knew, prematurely foreclosed—and it almost goes without saying, out of these worlds not to be, futures yet to come. These interests show—and the essays here demonstrate—how bringing time and place into interpretive proximity might produce not only productive analysis in nineteenth-­century American studies but also promising challenges to the concept of the field itself. Together, the essays in this volume challenge depictions of place and time as bounded and linear, fixed and teleological, assumed ideological constructions underlying the nation-­state, the determined outcomes of historiography, and normative sexuality and bioknowledge, as well as language and its stable locations within global movements of texts, readers, and hermeneutics. They address both familiar and strange objects and texts: a born-­digital Melville, a performance at Valley Forge, speculative historical fiction, the realist novel, textual editing, marble statuary, science fiction, labor records, the sound of frogs, spirit photography, twentieth-­century Civil War fiction. They draw on an equally wide variety of critical methodologies, integrating affect studies, queer theory, book history, information studies, sound studies, environmental humanities, new media studies, and genre theory, to interact with multiple concepts of place and time. Following cultural forms, artifacts, and peoples whose travels across nations, oceans, or galaxies not only challenge the validity of the nation-­state but also offer nonbinding, temporally open-­ended, linguistically mobile alternatives, the essays grapple with “places” that are not land-­based, environments that are not human, worlds that are not material but virtual, affective, and fantastic. They represent interactions that are democratic, ecological, and theatrical. And they visualize times that are nostalgic, memorial, epochal, annotated, dead-­ended, and endlessly futural. Whether by imagining the interrelations of textual materiality and empire, the transnational movements of the sonic environment, speculative projections of regions, the erotic sensations of marble, the queer time of the dead, or varied spatial-­temporal scales arising from other disciplines and technologies, these essays demonstrate the necessity both of addressing time and place in the same critical frame and of incorporating new critical methodologies, ethical challenges, and objects into longer standing field imaginaries. Several essays differentially highlight work on languages, showing the variety of idioms and technologies that supplement and displace what we might think of as “American literature” with “texts” formed through exchanges, translations, and intermedial, intersemiotic, interdisciplinary



reformulations that generate open-­ended third dimensions. No longer mired in the old canon wars, in disciplinary divisions over national language, or in the opposition between ideological content analysis and textual materiality and composition, these essays take literature as an object never given in advance, always under construction, often disputed, opened up by book history, translation studies, information studies, and the influence of new media. The net effect: American literature 2.0.17 One final aspect of these essays, we note, is the attitudes with which they approach their objects. Systematically driven to bring to light and comprehend the operations of power and capital manifest in geographical and temporal environments, they demonstrate at the same time the pleasures, fascinations, whimsy, counterfactual speculation, and surprise that accompany the critical enterprise. Critique and enchantment, in short, are not opposed in these essays; they provide models for moving beyond the new culture wars, the polarizing battle between what is caricatured as the “desperately seeking subversion” agenda and the dissatisfaction of the so-­called postcritique movements in American studies with a seemingly knee-­jerk oppositional criticism.18 Rather than accepting the choice between “enchantment” and “suspicion,” these essays collectively offer socially and politically engaged scholarship, undertaken with a dispositional vitality that, we hope, might well strike readers as the opening of a window of time onto a space for air.

The Place of Space in Time No concept has preoccupied the field of nineteenth-­century American studies more than “place,” the expanded and contracted “geo-­“ of geopolitics, with “America” as only the first, most assumed and contested, of such place-­based units. The essays in this collection in different ways reflect the field’s broad spatial imaginary, focusing on an unexpected group of heterogeneous places ranging from the hollow earth and intergalactic travel to the commons, the archive, the book, the hemisphere, and the desiring and affective body. We use both “space” and “place” to describe the objects of these essays, often interchangeably, as the shifts between these concepts is in large part what takes the essays beyond established geographies. While the “place” that situates most of the essays in this volume is the expected one of “America,” the spaces in which identities, cultures, and phenomena both national and otherwise take shape are often microlocations that can reflect but can also



significantly distort and reconceive what counts as their place. Place and space often function at different scales; the “places” imagined here frequently rely on dimensional shapes, whether in the “hollowness” of the earth, the “vastness” of the galaxy, or the “soundscape” of the environment. Place, then, comprises geometric as well as geographic location, senses as well as measurements, and imagination as well as land mass. Place and space frequently become interchangeable categories when the field takes up, as the essays here do, the relationships of the earth’s surface, changing environments, imaginative locales, the body’s senses and affects, the materiality of texts and other media, the translations of language, and built or material surroundings. It is within spaces—of embodiment, communication, transaction, saving, feeling, performing, or soundings—that “place” takes on materiality and meaning. As our essays show, the changing conceptions of place/space emerge primarily from three specific areas of study. The first involves the materialization or localizing of citizenship, focusing on shared resources, collective self-­governance, local identification and struggle, flows of information and data, microformations, and civic affect. The second, often related to the first, addresses environmental humanities, global climate change, biodiversity, un(human)populated places, multispecies and material assemblages, and the anthropocene. The third grows from theories of fantasy, imagination, wonder, and paranormal phenomena as indices of social desire and possibility. Although these areas involve vastly different scales, in our essays they come together productively under the umbrella of place/space. Attention to place/space in any of these areas occasions an explicit ethical urgency as scholars confront threats to the environment, to democracy, and to critical thought and creativity. In responding to those hazards, in the nineteenth century or now, critics are reconceiving what spatial paradigms— beyond or in tandem with the imagined “place” of the nation-­state—will prove most analytically effective. The answers offered by the essays enlarge, abandon, or redirect existing rubrics of place and space, taking us not only to entrenched spaces of mass social identification but to largely unpopulated and endangered regions, not only to abstract, political agencies but to the workings of the sensorial and bureaucratic, not only to macropolitics but to local interpersonal affect, and not only to the facticity of what Edward Sugden here calls “the cartographic narrative” but to fantasies, sensations, and otherworldly imaginings. Whether locating “place” in the archival mobility at the Panama Canal Zone, the affective exchanges in the commons, the knowledge-­production of annotations, the soundscapes at Walden, or spaces



of fantasy that make location nearly impossible to map, the essays in this collection refuse the fixity of position Harry Harootunian attributes to scholarship’s “spatial turn.”19 And the essays are themselves mobile, moving between disciplinary “homes,” speaking from interests other than human, marrying the empirical to ethical engagement and speculation. Their motivation is to strengthen places—the commons, the archive, the environment, the imagination—already undergoing, in the twenty-­first century, destabilization and eradication. In so doing, they shift not only the places of American studies but also the political drives, desired outcomes, conceptual strategies, and willed agencies of the field’s spatial imaginary as well. Whatever their ethical, intellectual, and political motivations, these essays locate place and space in time. Their temporal scales—the epochal time of environmental change, the reversed historical trajectories of speculative and counterfactual fiction, the unsettled progressive time of “left melodrama,” the suspended time of the body’s affects and desires, the overlapping times of monuments, performances, and edited texts, the warped time of dead pasts taking living shape in the present—move in step with places beyond the predictable confinements of geotemporal conventions. Time might be said to function as metamateriality, an abstract rationale for the ways the spaces of bodily, media, and geographical politics and culture are organized, or disorganized. At the same time, space gives material tactility, embodied experience, and visual or textual form to abstract temporal concepts that exert force as concepts. The essays in this volume support Jeffrey Insko’s assessment that the “temporal turn” has “produced some of the most compelling Americanist scholarship of the twenty-­first century.” They show time shaping bodies, nations, populations, media, and worlds.20 In these essays, progressive, teleological, and forward-­reaching movement of “national time,” of “manifest destiny,” and of “homogeneous empty time” are disrupted by repetitive, backward-­moving, layered, and frozen time. The essays foreground the “deep” and “shallow” temporalities of memory and labor, sensation and migration. They show that to question time’s orders is to denaturalize the regulated chronological progressions of reproduction, destiny, primitivism, climate, utopianism, nature, heteronormativity, tradition, colonization, labor, collectivity, governmental polices. In short, disjunctive time challenges the disciplinary regimes of what Dana Luciano calls chronobiopolitics. Simultaneously, several essays caution against assuming the subversive, utopian, or liberating effects of counternormative temporalities. The risk is both to overlook what Stephanie Foote identifies as the productive qualities



of negative affects such as shame and, as Dana Luciano contends, to reproduce racial and other social exclusions. As Matthew Guterl and Coleman Hutchison show, unpredictable historiographies can support as well as challenge racist ideologies. And Christopher Looby finds, even among critics opposed to generational models of time, the assumption that we are the nineteenth century’s mature culmination, poised to recover and redeem, from our historical distance, a less developed past. Salutary as these warnings are, we believe something transformative happens when time and space/place are no longer separate heuristics but are considered in their simultaneity. Homi Bhabha’s third space provides a model, with a starting point that stresses the challenges of the third space, “unrepresentable in itself,” which “constitutes the discursive conditions of enunciation that ensure that the meaning and symbols of culture have no primordial unity or fixity; that even the same signs can be appropriated, translated, rehistoricized and read anew” (37).21 That enunciative third space makes visible the ambiguity emerging between, on the one hand, the concept of a unified and fixed nation authorized by an originary past and, on the other, articulations that make clear the multiple, iterative, and contingent nature of cultural symbols. The “in-­between space” (38) is the realm of hybrid subjects who undertake “the regulation and negotiation of those spaces that are continually, contingently, ‘opening out’, remaking the boundaries, exposing the limits of any claims to a singular or autonomous sign of difference” (219). Bhabha’s third space is also, tellingly, temporal, a “discontinuous time of translation and negotiation” (38). Bhabha characterizes this temporality as a “time-­lag,” which “is not so much arbitrary as interruptive, a closure that is not conclusion but a liminal interrogation outside the sentence” (191). The temporality of the third space is, for Bhabha, a “slowing down” that “impels the ‘past’, projects it, gives its ‘dead’ symbols the circulatory life of the ‘sign’ of the present, of passage, the quickening of the quotidian” (254). “Time-­lag,” Bhabha insists, “keeps alive the making of the past” (254), animating “minority discourses that speak betwixt and between times and places” (158). Bhabha’s terms gloss our essays as examples of the third space, appropriating, translating, rehistoricizing, and reading anew not only specific cultural signs but the heuristic signs of “time” and “place” themselves. By no means exhaustive of the rich variety of that scholarship, the subcategories we’ve chosen here—Citizenship, Environment, Historiography, Media, Bodies—­represent five prevalent (often intersecting, sometimes asymmetrical) political, cultural, and methodological foci of the field today. These categories invoke different



scales of place (from the planet to a pond) and time (from geological epochs and the eternal afterlife to the length of a touch) in ways that might make them seem incommensurate. But they also show how political, social, and cultural power moves across a range of macro-­and microoperations of power, both then and there (“nineteenth-­century America”) and here and now. Citizenship The first essay in the volume, Mark Storey’s “Roma Redux: The Analogical Nineteenth Century,” invokes three “moments”—Frederick Douglass’s 1887 sightseeing in Rome, Walt Whitman’s 1846 attendance at the Park Theater in New York, and the performance of a Joseph Addison play for George Washington’s troops at Valley Forge in 1778—to propose “analogic time” as a counter to the monumental temporality of the nation. Because historical analogues become spectacles, materials, and bodies in significant places, Storey argues, they draw attention to unpredictable temporal movements, making time reveal “its spirals and parabolas, its echoes and reverberations, its roads taken and not taken.” Storey’s essay joins other contemporary alternatives to what Benedict Anderson analyzed as the “homogenous empty time” generated by the circulation of print and the consequent rise of nationalism.22 The emergence of mass print and distribution technologies, Anderson argues, absorbed local forms of affiliation into abstract and transferable identifications that encouraged peoples separated by time or place to imagine themselves related to a coherent (imperial) nation. Scholars have since been interested, as is Storey, in the deformation of the spatial-­temporal concept of national time. For Lloyd Pratt, the national and racial times that place destructive limitations on social imagination are disrupted by other temporalities arising from the past through anachronism, materials drawn from classical antiquity, regional dialect, and ekphrasis.23 For Dana Luciano, “mechanical and impersonal” time (2) is interrupted by nineteenth-­century sentimental grieving, the temporality of which is “slower, more capacious, almost spiritualized, enabling contradictory feelings (pain and pleasure) to be indulged at once and without traumatic conditions” (6) and in the process “maintaining an affirmative humanness” (6).24 Wai Chee Dimock critiques the way progressive, incremental chronologies of “the ancient and the modern can be certified to be worlds apart, never to be in contact” (2), and calls attention to non-­Western temporal models as “deep time”: “a set of longitudinal frames,



at once projective and recessional, with input going both ways, and binding continents and millennia into many loops of relations, a densely interactive fabric” (3–4).25 Exploring “loops of relationship” in his analysis of the analogic connections between different continents and ages, Storey reimagines how deep time operates, not only in literary texts but in the spatial dimensions of material culture and performance. Finally, Storey’s essay shows the limits of the utopian strain in temporality studies, demonstrating how analogic time produces unpredictable movements and layering of eras and locations that— both challenging and reinforcing historical violence—do not always serve the interests of freedom or collectivity. In “African Americans and the Panama Canal Zone as a Third Space,” Ifeoma Kiddoe Nwankwo locates the contested space of the nation not only in texts, as content, but through texts as the paper trails of citizenship. Nwankwo shows how the particular relations of race, nation, labor, and empire in the Panama Canal Zone made nation formation uneven, unpredictable, and unsteady. For Nwankwo, that formation occurs through the circulation of print, although “print” is not for Nwankwo a unifying medium imposed on consuming colonies or regions. Analyzing the Panama Canal Zone as a third space, Nwankwo takes up an eclectic archive of official policy statements, public and private correspondence, workers’ service record cards, congressional legislative minutes, announcements, speeches, and newspapers. Those documents, for Nwankwo, are not transparent archival evidence of a recoverable history of racial and labor exploitation and resistance (although she offers that narrative as well); rather, they are the third space within which the material forms of ideological circulation were received, revised, and responded to by empowered and marginalized readers alike. Nwankwo’s analysis of the relationships among print circulation, nationalism, and hemispheric colonization in the Panama Canal Zone reveals the third space of citizenship’s archive, turning dead letters into dynamic exchanges offered as “a democratic model.” Print is also central to the democratic model offered by Dana Nelson, although on a very different scale and for other ends. For Nelson, literary texts are manuals instructing readers in the necessary skills for negotiating the differences among persons, beliefs, and politics in the space of the commons. Elsewhere, Nelson has argued that “both community and democracy are forms that are shaped by discomfiting struggle,” matters of neither representative government nor collective consensus (Nelson cites Kant’s claim that like-­minded associations exercise like-­minded intolerance) but of a set



of skills that “can only be developed in practice with disagreeable fellow citizens.”26 We must, Nelson has argued, move beyond “simply bemoaning the stark divisions evident in blue and red state outcomes,” in order to develop “informal and institutional structures that make trust, compromise, cooperation, action, and contact possible without preexisting or existing affective bonds of consensus” (“Democracy,” 105). Nelson urges literary critics to explore the relations between literature and political struggle, since the stories we tell condition “what we imagine to be possible, what we are willing to undertake” (“Democracy,” 106). Nelson’s essay finds one such story in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s antislavery novel Dred, which, she argues, presents power not as a monolithic structure but as a series of mobile and unpredictable relations, a “micropolitics.” Read in that light, Stowe’s antislavery novel contains “hidden transcripts” of the “third space” where readers may witness, in Nelson’s words, “how struggle lives” in “interpersonal emotions, social positions, and immediate circumstances.” Dred, in Nelson’s handling, is a manual for generating and sustaining “small struggle in hard times,” which critics miss in their rush for overly simplified oppositions between oppressor and oppressed, marginalization and freedom. Offering an alternative, Nelson highlights the more complex, ambivalent, and mixed motives and actions that constitute democratic participation in the commons. Environment Nelson’s “third space,” as she makes clear elsewhere, is an alternative model for both natural and social enclosures threatened by possessive individualism and disregard for communal decision making about allocating local resources.27 Nelson is responding to the “tragedy of the commons,” a term often attributed to Garrett Hardin’s 1968 essay, though its nineteenth-­century origins go back at least to 1833 and William Forster Lloyd.28 The “tragedy” involves the ascendency of individual self-­interest over collective resource management, leading to corporatization and consequent environmental depletion.29 The temporality of evolution and climate change thus joins the spaces of environment, habitus, and globe to produce a tragedy that, arguably beginning in the early nineteenth century, poses ethical questions of the greatest urgency today. While climate change can be said to have begun in the nineteenth century with the growth of industrialism, so too can the roots of contemporary environmentalism be found in that century. The beginnings



are with George Perkins Marsh, whose 1864 Man and Nature: or, Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action argued that human exploitation, such as deforestation and the draining of swamps, was causing environmental changes such as the heating of the earth, increasing wind velocity, and depletion of biodiversity.30 Nineteenth-­century Americans’ sense of nature and of evolutionary time was also dramatically changed by the 1860 publication in the United States of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, which beyond occasioning heated debates about geological and evolutionary time profoundly changed conceptions of the relationship of humans to the natural environment and to the vast variety of species.31 The essays in this section respond to more threatening conceptions of the relationships between humans and the natural environment, the former impacting the latter in ways so dramatic as to warrant its own geological designation, what Paul J. Crutzen and Eugene F. Stoemer have named the anthropocene.32 As the human population has increased tenfold over the past three centuries and is expected to reach ten billion in this century, rates of species extinction have increased exponentially. One of the most catastrophic effects of the rise in the “long nineteenth century” of industrialization and of increasingly fuel-­dependent transportation technologies was the early heating of the oceans and the erosion by carbon dioxide emissions of the ozone layer above Antarctica. Matt Suazo’s essay takes up this early environmentalism from the perspective of hemispheric slavery. He reads Stowe, Northup, and Thoreau in the context of the Swamp Lands Act of 1849 and the literary figure of the fugitive slave in the swamp. Regional swamplands management provides a lens for examining the intersection of slave labor and a national ideology and practice of swamplands improvement in the antebellum United States. The spatial division between sectional and national is disrupted on Suazo’s timeline, on which the moment when “swamplands” were being codified in newly specific cultural and economic terms coincides with the long-­term geographic stratification of populations along racial and environmental lines. This space-­time approach to an “ecocentric outlook” complicates the relationship between environmental justice and racism. The distribution of environmental risk, Suazo argues, is intrinsic to the historical process of racialization. For New Orleans and Louisiana, as regional spaces, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, temporally exacerbated by the historical alignment of Black bodies and lowland landscapes, cannot be understood without attending to



the legacy of plantation slavery and its literature. The nineteenth-­century national agrarian project of improvement, unevenly linking labor and land to property and personhood, is what Paul Gilroy calls one of the raciological ordering principles that produced “race” as we know it. A differently scaled space-­timeline is required to account for the pollution Wai Chee Dimock addresses in “Vanishing Sounds: Thoreau and the Sixth Extinction.” During the nineteenth century, land regulation twinned with unregulated industrialism, newly invasive modes of transportation, and growing populations to change the sounds of the natural retreats within which writers like Thoreau took refuge from “civilization.” Dimock’s essay exposes the massive loss of species life during the planetary-­wide period Elizabeth Kolbert calls “the sixth extinction.”33 “Very, very occasionally in the distant past,” Kolbert writes, “the planet has undergone change so wrenching that the diversity of life has plummeted. Five of these ancient events were catastrophic enough that they’re put in their own category: the so-­called Big Five” (Kolbert 3). The period from the late eighteenth century to the present, repeating the conditions of those five, thus constitutes a sixth extinction. Under such spatiotemporal conditions, Kolbert reports, an estimated one-­ third of all reef-­building corals, a third of all freshwater mollusks, a third of sharks and rays, a quarter of all mammals, a fifth of all reptiles, and a sixth of all birds “are headed toward oblivion” (Kolbert 17–18). Working within the conditions Kolbert describes, Dimock explores diminishing biodiversity through soundscapes, a space marked by specific aural phenomena. A soundscape becomes polluted, R. Murray Schafer warns, “when man does not listen carefully.”34 The pollution Dimock addresses is more than metaphoric; her soundscape is planetary, and careful listening is the imperative of her essay. Thoreau’s Walden provides Dimock’s literary metric of species loss in which extinction is measured by the loss of sounds. Taking up the work of ecomusicologist Bernie Krause and others, Dimock explores bioacoustics in Walden, noting how less diverse ecologies of sound disorient human senses. In contrast to fables, in which there is harmony between humans and other forms of life, depicting an edifying lesson, Walden, Dimock contends, advances a tragic lesson about unappeasable savagery. Yet Walden also serves as a jeremiad of sorts, affirming, in Dimock’s words, “the primacy of a sound-­ based environment, and providing the language, the rhetorical structure, and above all the emotional fervor to mourn publicly devastations that are large scale” and to “defy our common-­sense reckoning.”



Historiography The essays in this section explore the nineteenth-­century genres of alternate history, themselves alternatives to some of the terms in circulation today: allohistory, alternative history, uchronia, and parahistory. Moving from the planet’s surface in opposite directions, Edward Sugden examines the “hollowness” of the earth, while Timothy Marr looks to outer space, a “beyondness” where other social imaginaries take on material dimensions. Both essays demonstrate how nineteenth-­century authors jumped the track of empirical “reality” in order to occupy the imaginative spaces and times of the could-­be. More than astute analyses of understudied, nineteenth-­century genres, Sugden’s and Marr’s essays challenge the transnational and hemispheric “turns” central to “American” literary and cultural studies for the past two decades, at least. Arguing that the adherence to conventional models of cartographical space reproduces, even as critics challenge, geopolitical ideologies, Sugden and Marr find in the speculative places and times of nineteenth-­century literature alternative spatial and temporal possibilities. Writing from the opposite perspective, both Matt Guterl and Coleman Hutchison work within a hemispheric and transnational consciousness as the sphere of alternative temporality. In “Beyond Space: The Speculative Dimension of Nineteenth-­Century American Literature,” Sugden takes on the cartographic imaginary that, he contends, has shaped traditional nation-­and hemispheric-­based literary studies. The “cartographic narrative,” Sugden argues, creates the illusion that place and its mapping are one and the same, whereas, in his view, space in earlier periods comprised elements of speculative fantasy, of the unknown and the unmapped. Focusing on the 1820 narrative of Arctic explorations, Symzonia, and Edgar Allan Poe’s 1838 The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, Sugden identifies the “beyond space” that is for him “a speculative fifth dimension.” Moving to outer rather than inner dimensions, Marr finds in nineteenth-­ century science fiction “an extra-­ planetary ambit that distances cultural habits in ways that reveal outlandish angles of fresh perspective.” In “Exorbitant Optics and Lunatic Pleasures,” Marr takes up narratives by Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, and George Tucker, author of the first science fiction novel in the United States, all of which release the imagination into “replenishing scopes and scales that refracted sublunary provincialisms within more cosmic, critical, and, in Irving’s case, comic relief.” Marr’s essay, like Sugden’s, is a “pilgrimage away from the map of the ordinary,” offering a model for



transforming transnational criticism, which, in Marr’s estimation, remains “bound to the very provinciality of ideology it was designed to escape.” Whereas Sugden and Marr explore possibilities through spatial travel, Matthew Guterl and Coleman Hutchison examine the consequences when history radiates, through speculative and counterfactual fiction, out from the present into the past and the future. Not only placing the nineteenth century in time but understanding its function as time, Guterl and Hutchison situate temporalities in the contexts of racial and national historiography, even as they show how “history” and “context” are made—and frequently unmade—by other temporalities evident in fiction. In their essays, past and future become the present’s metatemporalities, altering the present and, in so doing, making it alien to itself. Such counterhistoriographies are sometimes called “allohistory,” the prefix “allo,” from the Greek for “different,” signaling a past different from the historical record. But the term might just as aptly describe, Guterl and Hutchison demonstrate, how the present becomes different to itself, splitting time and place as various temporal frames comment on one another. Matthew Guterl’s “The Other South” focuses on a “dreamlike South,” the Confederacy as imagined in a series of twentieth-­century counterfactual novels and films. These texts, Guterl shows, deploy strategic anachronism, presenting a lost virtuous and libertarian South as a cover for conservative, nation-­based agendas in post–Civil Rights America, turning stories of what might have been into barely submerged calls for what ought to be. Showing the interconnections of temporal and spatial appropriation, Guterl calls for scholars of the global South to take seriously the alternative temporalities of Civil War counterfactuals, marked as they are “by global and hemispheric ambitions, by borderlands and other transnational contact zones.” Turning to fictional futures, Coleman Hutchison’s “Apocalypse Then” scrutinizes nineteenth-­century speculative fiction and its vision of the racialized future. Focusing on Nathaniel Beverley Tucker’s The Partisan Leader; A Tale of the Future (1836) and Edmund Ruffin’s 1860 Anticipations of the Future, to Serve as Lessons for the Present Day, Hutchison unpacks a rich southern tradition of what he calls future effects—the postdated publication information, rhetoric of historicity and retrospection, allusions to records, histories, and anniversaries—that render plausible a future in the image of the Confederate South. Hutchison’s Confederate South falls in with Guterl’s global South as twin speculative spaces where looking backward aslant



produces a commensurate wrinkle in time. Together with Sugden and Marr, the four essays in this section may go so far as to offer a blueprint for the varieties of cultural work that are now emerging under the banner of science fiction, from Afrofuturism to global environmental apocalypse. Media The essays in this section on media and migration raise new spatiotemporal questions facing us when we engage with the seemingly static object of textual analysis. What forms of “archive” are appropriate for past documents and information? Where are the lines between adaptation and corruption, and what are our responsibilities to historical documents? How are concepts such as Andrew McAfee’s and Eric Brynolfson’s tech-­utopianism related to a more likely future of global violence? These questions encourage scalar thinking in different dimensions. New cultural, social, political, and textual barriers and connections exist between the industrial age that produced nineteenth-­ century literature and our digital age. The future of digital education will bring as yet unknown outcomes in changing relation to older, “out-­dated” pedagogies. Emergent critical concepts and terms entangle us spatially in temporal models, and there may well be new—or differently old, perhaps better—temporal lexicons. If texts demonstrably exist in and across both “deep” and “shallow” time, then we will be by definition reorganizing a field of study that has traditionally relied on fixed spatial (“American”) and temporal (“nineteenth century”) boundaries. Digital forms defy both time and place, while considering time and space as imbricated or entangled rather than isolated or parallel concepts provides more productive answers to these questions. The essays in this section—and in the collection as a whole— answer these questions in the affirmative, and in doing so they offer models for taking up nineteenth-­century American literature 2.0, a project for which there’s no time like the present. In “Editing Melville’s Pierre: Text, Nation, Time,” Robert S. Levine raises fundamental questions for textual criticism: which text are we reading when we pick up a book, what choices were made in constructing an edition, and what roles do time and place play in determining those choices? Levine and Cindy Weinstein faced those questions coediting the 2017 Norton edition of Herman Melville’s 1852 Pierre. Levine examines where, among drafts, printed editions, letters, and notes, the “authentic” text of Pierre can be found and asks what difference do changes made to the novel over time by the author



and his editors and printers make. Within Pierre’s narrative, Melville’s broad range of historical and geographical references create an unexpected, largely unrecognized, transnational and transhistorical dimension of the novel. Do those references make Pierre a novel invested in “deep time,” or do they operate on a different temporal/spatial scale? In answering these questions, Levine observes that, while we might read any edition of Pierre as a transparent record of Melville’s intention, because of the differences among editions, no singular, “authentic” novel existed or exists in historical time. Levine illustrates this point by first offering examples of transnational and transhistorical allusions in Pierre that seem to characterize it as “world” literature, but then noting that Melville’s global references exist alongside persistent local and contemporary ones, generating what Levine sees as “shallow time,” or “the ways in which texts are debated and understood at particular historical moments,” often overlooked because of an editorial bias toward “trans-­” methodologies. In “American Literary Studies @ Scale,” Caroline Levander argues, again in a seemingly opposite direction, for the benefits, particularly for transnational studies, of adapting the field to “digital technologies and digital innovation.” The forms that interest Levander are, counterintuitively, the “mobile analytics, social media, sensors, and cloud computing” that seem “far removed from the world in which Emerson, Hawthorne, and Melville lived and wrote.” To illustrate her point, Levander focuses on Melville’s Benito Cereno as it becomes a “born-­digital, multimodal communication,” a work that “radically bends the time and space curve of our discipline.” The example Levander offers is Jay Bushman’s 2008 The Good Captain, a born-­digital adaptation of Benito Cereno that uses a twitter feed to create what Levander calls “a text-­network that reaches aggressively backward and forward in time,” defying “geolocation even as it depends on the worlded nature of the ‘original’ narrative.” Levander, along with the other authors in this collection, here responds imaginatively to the kinds of questions posed a decade ago by Wai Chee Dimock: “What would literary history look like if the field were divided, not into discrete periods, and not into discrete bodies of national literatures? What other organizing principles might come into play? And how would they affect the mapping of ‘literature’ as an analytic object: the length and width of the field; its lines of filiations, lines of differentiation; the database needed in order to show significant continuity or significant transformation; and the bounds of knowledge intimated, the arguments emerging as a result?”35 Levander’s essay literalizes Dimock’s call for a new database and Franco Moretti’s argument for a “developmental database assembled along



both the axis of space and the axis of time.”36 Those databases, along with the technologies to produce, circulate, and comprehend them, Levander shows, already exist, bringing the nineteenth century into the twenty-­first. Rodrigo Lazo’s “Place Out of Time: LatinX Studies, Migrant Fictions, and Israel Potter” adds yet another spatiotemporal dimension to this section on new media and migration. Working with Melville, as do Levander and Levine, Lazo extends, deepens, and confirms the potential three-­dimensionality of their collective Melville, operating simultaneously along axes of space, time, and language. Lazo’s Melville is not the writer of the nation, a national icon, but rather the single author of an understudied work, Israel Potter. Like that figure, Melville’s refugee and exile, Lazo imagines the novelist as our undocumented migrant. The novel, too, has a history of being lost and recovered, raising questions of whether, when, and why we can say it has been finally found. This is a Melville we don’t yet know, rediscovered as with Eric Sundquist’s Melville, found in the hemispheric Benito Cereno or the Melville of C. L. R. James’s Mariners, Renegades, Castaways, at the nexus of modern, transnational deportation. Tracking Melville across deep time and space, Lazo puts Melville in another conversation, migrating him to LatinX studies as Levander does for digital humanities and Levine does with new textual studies. Melville’s migrancy becomes for Lazo a hinge to other times, places, languages.37 Bodies Time and place are most immediately experienced in the body, in the ways the sensorium responds to its surroundings, in the moods, sensations, and emotions that measure the body’s physical conditions, in the ways the body ages and dies, in how desire moves the body in a choreography of wanting and waiting, fantasy and fixation, stimulation and saturation. Memory brings the body’s past into the present, shaping expectations, fears, or cravings opening perpetually into the future. Emotions often tell us our relationships with others, past and present. Identities and cultures, with their traditions, locations, and conditions, mark the body, even as they operate within diverse concepts of time and space. And just as moods shift, memories distort, desires fade or overwhelm, so too—and for often similar reasons—the body’s experience of time and space is discontinuous, shifting, changing scales and durations, sometimes vertiginously. Experienced through the body, then, time and space are anything but stable and measurable phenomena, although conjoined in the notion of “experience” itself. These essays locate the body in



space and time, whether through the shame marking the establishment of the nineteenth-­century urban middle class, grief and enchantment opening up capacious temporalities, or the desire to touch aroused by statuary’s indifferent surfaces. In these essays, various spaces—museums, cities, dining rooms, photographs—overlap unsteadily with the times of life and death, inheritance and discontinuity, emergence and retrospect, producing and disrupting the spatiotemporal calibrations of what we call “the body.” Stephanie Foote explores the affects coinciding with the emerging nineteenth-­century middle class, as reflected in and accompanying readings of realist novels. Focusing on William Dean Howells’s 1885 The Rise of Silas Lapham, Foote shows how failed efforts to belong, normative exclusions, and ambivalent identifications converged to shape what Foote calls “the inner life of a historical moment.” In Foote’s essay, we see how uncertain spatial circulations between class-­marked spaces overlap with the temporal torque between the events in the novel and its consumption by readers, together generating the shame that is the affective stock-­in-­trade of both the nineteenth-­century middle class and the realist novel. For Foote, shame represents a spatiotemporal displacement. A character feels shame, Foote states, when she recognizes “that she is somehow not of her moment,” as shame “punctuates time by freezing the subject in an awful moment of alienation.” Such moments of stopping time and moving backward through retrospection are, for several theorists of temporality, decidedly queer. While there is general agreement among theorists of queer temporality that queerness involves what Elizabeth Freeman calls “temporal drag,” disruptions, displacements, and reversals of forward-­moving, progressive, reproductive time, there is far less agreement about how to understand queer temporality in relation to affects like shame. For some, finding depictions of “positive” queer affect in the past provides salutary revaluation of phobic constructions of homosexuals as, in Valerie Rohy’s words, “regressive and premature, belated and derivative—in short, out of order.”38 Others, like Heather Love, resist the impulse to discredit past representations of “negative” affects such as “despair, ressentiment, passivity, escapism, self-­hatred, withdrawal, bitterness, defeatism, and loneliness,”39 all of which—and we might, following Foote, add shame—are essential to a full and honest reckoning with the queer past. Yet “positive” and “negative” affects are sometimes indistinguishable, interwoven, as Dana Luciano shows in her essay here, in the third spaces of visual as well as textual culture, and in the times and places of the dead as well as



the living. In “Ghosts of Another Time: Spiritualism, Photography, Enchantment,” Luciano examines the phenomenon of nineteenth-­century spirit photography, which, like photography in general, has conventionally been seen as “a melancholy genre, preoccupied with death,” an “imprisonment of time.” Luciano, however, finds a speculative optimism where one might least expect it, seeing in spirit photography both retrospective grief and forward-­moving encouragement. Luciano attributes to the genre what she calls enchanted historiography: “history, say, as yearning, as frisson, as transtemporal fusion, as radical advancement, as ecstatic displacement,” a “hole in linear-­historical time which permits other temporalities to enter.” Those alternative temporalities are also spatial, relying on the dead becoming present in spaces occupied by the living. When past and present, the worldly and the otherworldly, meet, the body becomes “alive to temporal mixture and complexity, to thinking of objects and moments as events, to conceiving of this multiplicity as possibility rather than quandary,” although the “third space” of enchantment is unavailable, as Luciano shows, to other bodies marked by race and economic disadvantage. The presence of the dead among the living, as Luciano shows, constitutes what Carolyn Dinshaw calls “queer historical touches,” the past’s tactile effect on the present.40 Sometimes that touch is a fully comprehensible encouragement, a “recovery” predicated on logics of generational inheritance, undisturbed continuity, and incremental progress that offers the past only as a nascent version of the present’s sexual taxonomies. More recently, however, scholars have begun to argue for a radical otherness to a past that Peter Coviello describes as not “yet wholly captivated or made coordinate” by modern sexual taxonomies.41 Between these two models, the past emerges like an object of desire, seductive and withholding, promising and frustrating intimacy. This is in large part how history functions when Christopher Looby takes the past’s spectral “touch” literally. In “Not to Mention (the marmorean unconscious),” Looby examines what he describes as “an erotic disposition in which desires are organized around, mediated through, secretly channeled by, or directly attached to the cold indifference embodied by white marble statuary.” Marmoreanism, for Looby, is one of many instances of sexuality’s “earliness,” when forms of eroticism existed that elude modern sexual categories and do not serve as “immature” precursors to later sexual identities. Marmoreanism, according to Looby, is one of the “unlabeled varieties of erotic experience,” obliquely visible in sensuous responses to statues like Horatio Greenough’s George Washington (1840), Hiram Powers’s Greek Slave



(1843), or the numerous variants of the water goddess Undine. Such “unprescribed erotic encounters,” animating nineteenth-­century stories such as Octave Thanet’s “My Lorelei,” are at once timeless and untimely, compelling instantiations of the unpredictable, unsettling, and sumptuous movements of queer temporality through the spaces of desire. Rather than a fully recoverable queer past or an unbridgeable historical divide, Looby offers a temporal layering, a queer “deep time.” We offer this collection as a gateway to a set of space-­time concerns, in the academy and the world beyond, that present ethical challenges today. Time and space have disturbingly asymmetrical meanings in the contexts of global exploitation of labor, police and military violence, or the disregard for constitutional protections and environmental safeguards. There are as yet unknown dimensions to the role that will be played by digital literacy and social media, hacking, bots, and hashtag activism in establishing unprecedented and proliferating political, social, and cultural understandings of time and space. The fate of literature in a post-­textual age is another known unknown. These are questions, as we understand them, of citizenship, environment, historiography, media, and bodies. And so the rubrics under which the essays are organized and in which scholars of nineteenth-­century American studies are now working serve as points of contact between the public sphere and the academy, the dead and the living, making the volume itself, we hope, into a “third space” for scholarly and pedagogical inquiry.


Roma Redux: The Analogical Nineteenth Century Mark Storey

Pasts To start with, three specific places at three specific times: the Arch of Titus in Rome, 1887; the Park Theatre in Manhattan, 1846; and the Valley Forge encampment in Pennsylvania, 1778. Three moments, expanded on in what follows, in which analogies between the modern United States and ancient Rome surfaced in the writings and performances of Americans. They each have their own stories to tell, but taken together—“constellated,” to put it in Benjaminian terms—these specific markers of time and place will sketch the more general argument being made here: that the historical imaginations they think with undo the temporal and geographical contexts that conventionally contain them, and that have subsequently organized the historicizing methods of much American literary studies. As will become clear, these three moments point us toward not just a discreet point along a timeline, but also toward the dispersed and rebounding network of history that they consciously enter into. In the process, they ask us to grasp a different spatialization of time, one premised on points of connection, of similarity, between apparently distant things, a topology as much as a philosophy of history, akin to Michel Serres’s image of historical time as a crumpled handkerchief, where, he says, “two distant points suddenly are close, even superimposed.”1 These moments, bringing the American nineteenth century into touch with the ancient Mediterranean, will convert historical distance into political proximity. To put it simply, we are going to have to think not chronologically but analogically.



The first moment I mention took place in Rome on January 21, 1887.2 Frederick Douglass is visiting during his tour of Europe and, sightseeing around the city, is initially impressed by the sublime weight of history he finds laid out in the Forum. Continuing toward the Colosseum, however, he comes face to face with a more troubling icon of ancient imperial power: “None of the splendid arches . . . can be contemplated with a deeper, sadder interest than is indelibly associated with that of Titus, commemorating the destruction of the unhappy Jews and making public to a pagan city the desecration of all that was most sacred to the religion of that despised people. This arch is an object which must forever be a painful one to every Jew, since it reminds him of the loss of his beloved Jerusalem.”3 The triumphal Arch of Titus that Douglass contemplates was built in 81 CE to commemorate Titus’s victory at the Siege of Jerusalem during the Jewish rebellion ten years before, and then restored from overgrown dilapidation through the 1820s.4 Among the elaborate bas-­reliefs that adorn the intrados is a depiction of Roman soldiers returning home with the spoils, including, carried aloft, a large menorah. But this monumental statement of colonial power and oppression stirs another thought in Douglass, one not of ancient history but of contemporary politics: “Surely one who has never suffered a like scorn can adequately feel for their humiliation” (Life, 422). We can surmise what “like scorn” Douglass is referring to here, what “humiliation” might also be felt, across a transnational and transhistorical space charged with affective connection, by someone who similarly identifies—as he makes clear again and again in Life and Times—with a diasporic history of dispossession and violence. What does Douglass, standing in 1887 as a living embodiment of racial struggle, make of this enduring testament to an apparently long-­vanished order of imperial domination? What histories connect here? The second moment is Christmas Day 1846 and Walt Whitman’s evening at the Park Theatre in New York City. He was finally getting around to seeing Robert Montgomery Bird’s play The Gladiator, which had debuted fifteen years earlier. Written as a vehicle for the celebrity actor Edwin Forrest, and full of the usual melodramatic flourishes, it tells the story of the slave uprising led by Spartacus in the last days of the Roman Republic. Whitman, writing afterward of his night out, sounded what must have been a self-­evident note of historical resonance to most audiences both North and South: “this play is as full of ‘Abolitionism’ as an egg is of meat. . . . It is founded on that passage of Roman history where the slaves—Gallic, Spanish, Thracian, and African—rose against their masters, and formed themselves into a military

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organization.”5 Seated in the comfort of a New York theater, a mid-­nineteenth-­ century audience watched the dramatic reconstruction of a first-­century slave rebellion while, outside, a fiercely contested slave economy propped up and tore apart the society in which they were themselves situated. Bird’s play was first performed in September 1831, a month after Nat Turner’s uprising in Virginia had killed around sixty people and resulted in brutal retributions. What spectator could not have felt some of the same uncomfortable closeness, some of the same historical recognition, that Whitman did? The third and final moment, somewhat different from the other two, took place on May 11, 1778. “Last Monday Cato was performed before a very numerous & splendid audience” wrote William Bradford Jr. in a letter to his sister back in New Jersey,6 referring to the now famous performance of Joseph Addison’s Cato (first seen in London in 1713), put on by the troops at George Washington’s encampment at Valley Forge. An avowedly republican drama that dramatizes the final days of the Roman senator’s life and his noble resistance to Julius Caesar, the play came to be something of a storehouse for Washington’s historical thinking, and this one-­off production has been celebrated as a “public performance of anti-­imperialist trepidity” (“Slideing,” 125) ever since. It might very well be the quintessential example (if not exactly the origin) of the Roman-­American analogy I am referencing here,7 a touchstone for a certain kind of American Studies that has wanted to see a virtuous equation between Cato and Washington and the Roman setting of the play as a “salient version of national destiny characterized by self-­sacrifice, republican virtue, and an almost boundless devotion to the principle of liberty.”8 Rome, New York City, Valley Forge. 1887, 1846, 1778. Three specific places, in three specific times, each summoning antiquity to authenticate anti-­imperial politics in quite different versions of the American present. Each figures such politics as spectacle—whether in the material form of the monument, or in more discursive formations on the stage—but, more importantly, also figures such politics as a form of correspondence between apparently separate times. They produce analogies, as Todd Carmody has argued in a different context, to “attune us . . . to the formal exchanges and reciprocities that echo across ostensibly discrete cultural registers and social histories.”9 Not wholly explicable within the confines of the nineteenth century they emerge from, these moments also share a referential matrix that allows us to see their connections to each other, points brought into touch not by their contiguity within what we think of as historical context but by another kind of proximity they generate through the historical analogue they think with. They resist our tendency



to conceive of their historicity as discreetly their own, and instead collectively form something better grasped through a more planar spatial metaphor—a constellation, a web, or (a resonant model for recent critical theory) a network. In the examples I call on, and in the numerous others that might have been picked out of the archive, “ancient Rome” provides a nodal connection through which the overlapping political times of these American figures can be grasped. My suggestion, then, is that the temporality of these historical analogies—built on recursion, recognition, and coincidence—expresses a different geometry of historical thinking than either contextual synchronicity or the developmentalist model of progress that has been used to underpin official forms of modern, liberal, state-­bound political life. The analogy allows us instead to piece together the deeper imperial temporalities—what Johannes Fabian called the “chronopolitics”10—that we find throughout the expanses of the textual nineteenth century. How do we account for the way in which analogies with an ancient Mediterranean empire came to organize and narrate—and also to undermine—a postcolonial nation born out of the eighteenth-­century Enlightenment? And what does this say, in turn, about literary forms and historical time, and their role in the operations of political power? Times Beginning answers to these questions, two particular forebears have already laid much of the groundwork. One is Reinhart Koselleck and his discussion of the “semantics of historical time” in the essays gathered in Futures Past (1985). Starting with a basic question—“what is historical time?”—he develops a theory based on a spatialization of time into layers (or “sediments”) that compress past, present, and future into an uneven experience of simultaneity: the “tension between experience and expectation” shifts in “ever-­ changing patterns,” he claims, and the constant resolution of this tension “generates historical time.”11 The important point for analogical thinking is that Koselleck reconfigures history so that rather than existing as a fixed catalogue of references available for contemporary quotation, it instead remains fluid and changeable as we apprehend it within the frame of our own expectations and desires for the future. “The events of 1933 have occurred once and for all,” he says emphatically (indicating, by the way, the German historical experience that sparked his own theorizing), “but the experiences which are based upon them can change over time. Experiences overlap and . . . new

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hopes or disappointments, or new expectations, enter them with retrospective effect. Thus, experiences alter themselves as well, despite, once having occurred, remaining the same” (Futures, 274–275). In this sense, ancient Rome has happened “once and for all,” but the analogy that calls it into view acts on it retrospectively; neither pole of the analogy, the past nor the present, is fixed in any stable ground of meaning, and they enter instead a process of mutual redefinition that makes a term like “comparative history” feel inadequate. Koselleck’s work poses the question of how the historical analogy can capture the oscillating dynamics of historical time through its enlistment of an ancient past that seems to have already taken place. In a different vein is Walter Benjamin’s endlessly suggestive final essay, “On the Concept of History” (1940). Here the ongoing appeal for critics has been the way Benjamin’s philosophy of history instrumentalizes the past as something capable of challenging bourgeois “empty homogenous time” through the energizing of a redemptive present, a “now-­time” of revolutionary possibilities. But it is also notable that, in Thesis XIV of the essay, another surfacing of ancient Rome is recalled: its integral place in the imagination of Robespierre and the French revolutionaries. For them, Benjamin says, the ancient past reappeared “charged with the time of the now,” allowing them to “blast” the present out of the continuum of history—a moment then filled with radical potential.12 Michael Löwy usefully expands on Benjamin’s Roman fragment, reading it as indicative of the essay’s general project of devising a reparative history: “Republican heroes, like Brutus, figure among the victims of the past, among the defeated of imperial history—that history that is written as a succession of the victory parades of the Caesars. As such, these heroes can be ‘cited’ by the French revolutionaries as eminently topical references.”13 And if “On the Concept of History” helps to give theoretical shape to analogical thinking, it is also worth pointing out that similar ideas can be found in characteristically epigrammatic form in the Arcades Project: “It is not that what is past casts its light on what is present, or what is present its light on what is past; rather, image [sic] is that wherein what has been comes together in a flash with the now to form a constellation. . . . For while the relation of the present to the past is purely temporal, the relation of what-­has-­been to the now is dialectical.”14 Benjamin helps us to move beyond a unidirectional reading of the form of analogy because the “image” or dialectical moment produces not a relation of “past” and “present” but a Koselleckian negotiation between overlapping layers of time—the present’s always “constellated” relationship with history. What happens in the moment



of the Roman analogy—for both the imperial ideologies that appropriate it and the emancipatory ideologies that use it as a tool of critique—is an attempt to place the now’s sense of what-­might-­be into a dialectical tension with the what-­was, to connect these specific nodes of time into a structural relationship that causal or progressive procession wants to imagine as a relationship of “reception” or “influence.” The analogies in play here, I argue, instead recreate at the level of the image the dialectical movement of history. This is a necessarily brief excursion, but my point is that Koselleck’s and Benjamin’s challenges to sequential chronology and synchronicity as the privileged models of temporal organization—and, indeed, of critical reading itself—give theoretical shape to the analogical imaginations we find in these nineteenth-­century moments. But implicit here as well are the debates around historicist reading that have come to define a certain sector of our own critical moment, through the “temporal turn” of recent American literary criticism and the various “unhistoricisms” and “strategic presentisms” and “queer temporalities” of literary studies more widely. “History is not a box,”15 Rita Felski insists, in one of the field’s most generative contributions, The Limits of Critique (2015), arguing for an alternative way through the critical opposition between reading texts as “transcendentally timeless on the one hand and imprisoned in their moment of origin on the other” (Limits, 154). If time has become a central dimension in the reading debates, then thinking analogically might be one of the more fruitful ways to engage in a form of critique that is capable of tracing the “cross-­temporal networks” that Felski seeks (Limits, 157). In Jennifer Fleissner’s important contribution, meanwhile, Benjamin (among others) is used to push back against the kind of symptomatic historicism and “moralized ideology critique”16 that we routinely tend to lay at the feet of Fredric Jameson’s Political Unconscious (1981). My analogical moments offer their own alternative historicisms, relating to the historical past not as something that, as Fleissner puts it, “exists in order to irradiate the virtues of the present” (“Historicism Blues,” 702) but as two superimposed temporal planes that are not simply identical: the past as both living presence (history’s “repetition”) and as comparatively different (history as alterity). These analogies might also unsettle a branch of recent American literary studies that have largely sanctified questions of temporality as something inherently destabilizing to progressive narratives of the nation-­state. Representative here is Wai Chee Dimock’s Through Other Continents (2006), a key text in an earlier phase of American studies’ temporal trend that draws on epochal shifts in the history of science to differentiate between our more

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commonsensical idea of time as an objective universal measure (or “Newtonian” time) and a post-­Einsteinian sense of time’s relativity and subjective meaning. “Literature is the home of nonstandard space and time,” Dimock argues. “Against the official borders of the nation and against the fixed intervals of the clock, what flourishes here is irregular duration and extension.”17 The longue durée makes visible an unfamiliar archive of literary affiliation, Dimock claims, because we are made aware that the “privilege of autonomy” (Continents, 4) cannot be granted to any geographical or historical locale. These remain important provocations, yet I also heed criticisms of its tendency toward an “idealist transcendentalism,”18 a mobilization of “deep time”—what Mark McGurl calls “Big Historicism”19—that, while ostensibly denationalizing the parochialism of American literary studies, actually ends up universalizing (American) literature’s “civilizational . . . capabilities” (Uneven Development, 42). While “deep time” and its latitudinal reimagining of periodization can have revelatory force, there should also be a recognition of how scaled-­up historical frames have been frequently recruited to elide the particularities of U.S. contingency from the scene of the imperial crime. What emerges in a more politically materialized optic is something less fixed on models of depth and universalism and more open to questions of how specific iterations of uneven power, imperial control, and social inequality might be apprehended through a historicist critique unbounded by periodized forms of national history. Other critics have seen an ethically marked distinction between homogeneous time (cast as an accomplice to nationalism or imperialism) and heterogeneous time (its always-­destabilizing antagonist). Such an equation is nothing especially new: the critical lineage tracing connections between temporality and nationhood go back at least to Benjamin’s “homogenous, empty time” and its take-­up in Benedict Anderson’s hypercanonized nationalism thesis, as well as in J. G. A. Pocock’s account of Florentine political thought and Atlantic republican history in The Machiavellian Moment (1975). As Thomas Allen suggests, these accounts and those that follow them “make rational, value-­free temporal structures central to modern nationhood.”20 But it is a certain strain of postcolonial critique, and the work of Homi Bhabha in particular, that has come to form one of the argumentative pillars of the temporal turn in American studies. Bhabha’s deconstructionist thrust throughout the hugely influential The Location of Culture (1994) sees temporal homogeneity as a condition of the state’s authorized power, while the peripheries and minorities of official culture effectively “restag[e] the past” in order to introduce “other, incommensurable cultural temporalities.”21 In Keya



Ganguly’s critique of Bhabha, however, she convincingly outlines how this kind of moralized temporal division has made a virtual “dogmatism” out of the argument that “‘homogeneity’ is the province of metropolitan nationalism, whereas ‘heterogeneity’ can be celebrated as the preserve of the so-­called ‘subaltern collective.’ ”22 While I do not wish to abridge the sophistication with which recent work has taken up these ideas, Ganguly helps to outline a crucial counterpoint. We know all too well how historical analogies, rather than introducing a note of antihegemonic instability, have sometimes instead worked to reinforce iniquitous power through the renarrativization and co-­option of an apparently heterogeneous past. “Ancient Rome” in particular has been called on to perform a series of imperious tasks in American culture, validating colonial ambitions by sanctioning them under a history that comes freighted with authoritative status. Examples abound. The work of Black classicism, as John Levi Barnard has argued, repeatedly points out how Southern proslavery advocates appropriated the classical tradition in order to authorize “the imperial extension of white ‘civilization’ in the present,”23 while Caroline Winterer has demonstrated the enshrinement of ancient Rome in early nineteenth-­century ruling-­class ideology.24 Beyond nineteenth-­century horizons, Maria Wyke points to the unlikely recuperation of Julius Caesar as a heroic figure among the college-­educated officers of World War I,25 while Amy Kaplan suggests the mania for Roman-­American comparisons since the Cold War has sometimes lent a “patina of grandeur” to the United States’ global interventions.26 Of course it remains true, as all of these critics point out, that the uncanny histories being evoked in analogies with Rome—in Latin education, in literary culture, in political commentary, and so on—can have a destabilizing effect on homogenizing nationalism. But equally, the U.S. nation-­state has engaged in various strategies to recuperate and reincorporate even the ostensibly radical potential of “other” histories and “other” temporal orders. The nonlinear or dis-­placed forms of affiliation that analogy instantiates can in fact be a complement, rather than an opponent, to a more obviously “imperial” homogeneity. Historical analogies draw conspicuous attention to time: its spirals and parabolas, its echoes and reverberations, its roads taken and not taken. Ancient Rome, a frequent presence in nineteenth-­century American culture both as sober republic and as spectacular imperium, has played a more pointedly political role than most. Yet the questions these analogical moments ask about the politics of time have yet to be adequately answered. How did a

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cultural alignment with antiquity work to underpin the United States’ recurring narrative of post-­or end-­of-­historicity, and yet also sometimes disrupt the same process by calling attention to the contingent place of the United States within that history? The Roman presence in American life is often an intensely place-­based experience (as my opening examples illustrate), but it is also an inherently transnationalizing move, open to a very unlocal history. Intersecting temporality with a more familiar geographical history of the imperial United States, we might also ask how the importance of the ancient world as a site of the U.S. imaginary pivots the center of history’s oppressive geography from the Mediterranean (and its attendant epochal empires) to the Atlantic (and its attendant imperial networks) while sustaining or revealing a continuity between them. Presents These questions must remain largely as prompts and conjectures for now. But we can return to the beginning, and ask again: What did that makeshift performance of Joseph Addison’s Cato for George Washington’s troops really mean? The iconic status of the event in early American history, and Washington’s admiration of the play, hinge on the notion that a story of resistance to pseudomonarchical power in ancient Rome felt historically similar, felt close, for the revolutionary soldiers engaged in anti-­imperial struggle: a play about Roman colonial rule came to describe, in the American 1770s, their trajectory toward an unsecured postcolonial republic. Yet such ostensibly anti-­imperial meaning has been challenged; Mark Evans Bryan, for one, concludes that the performance of an English play for what was in fact a relatively exclusive band of men served a far more stratifying and ambiguous purpose than its symbolic afterlife has come to suggest: “such performances remained an emblem of gentility and a deeply attractive indulgence for the burgeoning and contested aristocracy of the Continental army” (“Slideing,” 144). Barnard also points out that a slightly later epilogue to the play, written by the poet Jonathan Sewall in 1778 and appended to numerous subsequent editions, effectively reconciles “the libertarian sentiment of the play with an imperial vision that was coalescing around the prospect of victory in the war,” an epilogue that “analogized George Washington to Cato, while at the same time figuring him as the future leader of a continental empire” (Empire, 3–4). The analogy here refuses to be contained by a simple relationship of correspondence, and its multiplying meanings draw



Figure 1.1. National Memorial Arch, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Copyright Avsnarayan, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-­Share Alike 4.0, https://​commons​.wikimedia​.org​/wiki​/File:​War​_Memorial​_At​_Valley​_Forge​ _PA​.JPG.

our attention to the complex mesh of anti-­and protoimperial historical trajectories that collide in this pregnant moment of U.S. history. And, to constellate a bit further, the imperial connections keep going. The site of the performance, Valley Forge in Pennsylvania, is where the National Memorial Arch now stands (Figure 1.1). Designed by Paul Philippe Cret and erected in 1917, it was explicitly modeled on one of Rome’s grandest triumphal arches, the very same that Douglass pondered in 1887: the Arch of Titus (Figure 1.2). An anticolonial army apparently inspired by a play about an ancient republic is, a century and a half later, monumentalized through the iconography of Rome’s colonial plunder. At this geographical focal point of U.S. national history, we find ourselves in the presence of many different times, an antiquity that ratifies both the eighteenth-­century awakening of U.S. nationalism and the public uses of that same history during the early twentieth century’s emergence of U.S. global power. Ancient Rome disperses, even as it is called on to condense, the so-­called homogeneous time of collective

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Figure 1.2. Arch of Titus, Rome. Copyright Carole Raddato, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-­Share Alike 2.0,  https://​commons​.wikimedia​.org​ /wiki​/File:​The​_Arch​_of​_Titus,​_Upper​_Via​_Sacra,​_Rome​_​(31605340150)​.jpg.

memorializing. Its spectacular presence in the heart of a national historical park hides its meaning in plain sight—a pastiche of imperial aesthetics that, through an implied analogy, fuses the temporal gap between ancient and modern into a simultaneous plane of political meaning. What then of Whitman’s evening seeing The Gladiator? His comments that “this play is as full of ‘Abolitionism’ as an egg is of meat” seems to register that Bird’s dramatic adaptation of the story of Spartacus spoke to a divided nation about the possibilities of a future that was still so radically hanging in the balance. “Running o’er with sentiments of liberty,” Whitman continues, “—with eloquent disclaimers of the right of the Romans to hold human beings in bondage—it is a play, this ‘Gladiator,’ calculated to make the hearts of the masses swell responsively to all those nobler manlier aspirations . . . of mortal freedom!” (“Gladiator,” 331). Whitman’s dramatically conditioned (as well as gendered) sense of history here suggests a present poised on the edge of many possible outcomes, so that a theatricalized and liberally reimagined



account of a distant time and place becomes part of what Benjamin called the “now-­time” of history, underwriting the instability of the present with dreams of a future yet to come. The racial politics of Whitman’s analogical moment might give us pause, however. The play’s dramatization of a slave rebellion did not necessarily allegorize that “abolitionist” spirit in the way that our present sense of the term might assume; crucially, Spartacus—played by a white actor—was a Thracian, with ethnic origins in the modern-­day Balkans. According to some critics, the central slave revolt of Bird’s play is one “predicated on a belief that African Americans will be violent and ruthless, not noble Thracians with ‘Roman’ manners.”27 Meanwhile, Whitman’s own unresolved relationship to race, and to the meanings of the enslaved body, have been well documented.28 Performing ancient history in such an apparently genteel manner that night at the Park Theatre, with its stagey histrionics and appeal to bourgeois leisure time, did indeed bring close an unflattering mirror of the social reality lying in wait outside. Its analogical significance, however—even for Whitman—insists on something less neatly reflective, a multiplicity of signifying pasts persisting in a contested present that is not yet able to script its own conclusion. And, finally, Douglass’s moment in the late 1880s. That abolitionist potential had, according to some official narratives, arrived, but as Douglass himself repeatedly decried, it had ushered in an era when no such thing as freedom for African Americans had come to be. “Surely one who has never suffered a like scorn can adequately feel for their humiliation” (Life, 422), Douglass says of the arch’s ongoing, rather than “past,” personal resonances. Ann Laura Stoler’s account of “imperial ruins” helps make sense of Douglass’s encounter: “empire’s ruins contour and carve through the psychic and material space in which people live,” she says, alerting us to the “uneven temporal sedimentations in which imperial formations leave their marks.”29 Douglass, a tourist in the presence of this preserved colonial remnant, finds nothing like the romance of Grand Tour sightseeing but instead a melancholic moment of connection amid history’s growing network of injustice, a site and sight able to condense the “alternative senses of history that weigh on the future” (Duress, 347). “Ruin” here becomes, as Stoler insists, less a noun and more a verb, not a scenic “thing” to ponder or paint but a corrosive process that eats into the present. Benjamin ends “On the Concept of History” by imagining a historian who “ceases to tell the sequence of events like the beads of a rosary” and, instead, “grasps the constellation into which his own era has entered, along

Roma Redux


with a very specific earlier one” (397). These moments of analogical recognition demand a similar interpretive engagement, forming not points along a line but a constellation of nodes maintaining a shifting and ongoing relationship to each other—and to us. Reading these analogical moments, we are required to pay attention not only to the permeability of the nineteenth century we see in our sights but, as it comes into a strange but familiar focus, the many times we ourselves also dwell in.


African Americans and the Panama Canal Zone as a Third Space Ifeoma C. Kiddoe Nwankwo

U.S. federal documents and newspaper articles on the construction of the Panama Canal (1904–1914) reveal it as a forgotten yet pivotal site of the development of the American nation’s and citizens’ racial reasoning. This isthmian slice of the U.S. nation-­state was, in terms of on-­the-­ground racial policies, practices, discourses, and ideologies, at once neither a Latin American nor a U.S. space and was both of these. It was wholly of neither the nineteenth nor the twentieth century. This essay mines government archives and contemporaneous newspapers, uncovering the story of America that they tell. The federal collections reviewed for this essay include official policy statements as well as correspondence among officials determining what these policies should be, workers’ service-­record cards, and, most important, letters produced by African American workers in the Panama Canal Zone. The source material includes general congressional legislative reports, minutes, and periodicals; federal employee personnel records; Canal Zone–specific correspondence; announcements; speeches; drafts of policies; and Republic of Panama government records. Among them are the records indexed by pioneering National Archives and Records Administration archivist Patrice Brown in her article that appeared in the Summer 1997 issue of Prologue, as well as several publications preserved and made accessible by the Library of Congress, Accessible Archives, and Readex.1 The examined newspaper articles and editorials provide priceless insight into whether and how the statements and decisions made by policy makers were received and responded to by individuals and communities

African Americans and the Panama Canal Zone as a Third Space


marginalized by the government. The newspapers sourced for this project include more than two dozen mainland-­based African American newspapers (including the Chicago Defender and the Pittsburgh Courier), canonical mainstream newspapers (including the New York Times), and local U.S. mainland newspapers. Also referenced are Panama and Canal Zone official and lay publications and mainland-­based African American community organization records and publications.2 Taken together, these materials reveal how racial politics were crafted through written discourse generated by both those at the top of the sociopolitical structure and those below. Delving into the mechanics of that crafting, instead of treating documents as mere compilations of established facts pronounced by the victors or focusing exclusively on a single publication medium, facilitates a fuller incorporation of marginalized communities and perspectives into the stories scholars tell about the United States and the Panama Canal. By not relying strictly on official or mainstream publications to piece together the stories, one may move beyond a “victor”-­centric approach that gives less attention to those who have produced fewer official documents. This essay illustrates how we can include more voices in the stories we tell and the histories we narrate, particularly in relation to U.S. activities beyond the mainland.3 The Isthmus of Panama was crucial to the U.S. government’s conceptualization of national identity throughout the second half of the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth century, especially between the end of Reconstruction (1874) and the United States’ entry into World War I (1917).4 Starting as far back as the California Gold Rush (1848–1855), the isthmus played a pivotal role as a pathway between the two coasts of the U.S. mainland, with the United States spearheading the planning and construction of the Panama Railroad between 1848 and 1855 to connect the presumed gold-­ rich west with the eastern and southern parts of the nation.5 The Panama Canal was designed and built at the turn of the twentieth century (1904– 1914). Thus, the 1915 Panama–Pacific Exposition world's fair in San Francisco provided the United States a platform for celebrating the canal’s construction, in particular, and the nation’s accomplishments and innovations, more generally. (It is worth noting that the French had tried and failed to build the canal in the 1880s.) Reflecting on the project, President Theodore Roosevelt wrote in March 1904 that it was “the most important and most formidable engineering feat that has hitherto been attempted” and that the canal “will reflect high honor upon this nation and when done will be of incalculable



benefit not only to this Nation but to civilized mankind.”6 Secretary of War Elihu Root argued that the United States was working on the Panama Canal not so much for itself as for “the equal benefit of mankind.”7 In Root’s eyes, the United States, as the leading nation, was stepping in and fulfilling the obligation to mankind that Colombia (the nation to which the Isthmus of Panama had previously belonged) had failed to fulfill. Rhetoric of U.S. officials such as this overflowed with optimism about the nation’s brilliant future and was based in an unalloyed confidence in how awestruck the rest of the world would be that the United States had created this technological marvel. However, the nation proved unwilling and unable to leave all the pessimism-­inspiring realities from the nineteenth century in the past when the twentieth century began, especially with regard to race, citizenship, and rights. Its struggle to move forward in these areas was especially evident toward the end of the Civil War, during Reconstruction, and in the wake of Reconstruction’s “splendid failure” (to use a term from W. E. B. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction).8 The Panama Canal became a crucial space where the nation would decide whether and how the legacies of slavery and Reconstruction and the dreams for the nation’s future as an icon of innovation and excellence would journey with the nation into the twentieth century and beyond. The Panama Canal was not just a place where the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans met but also (perhaps more significantly for Black people) the place where Jim Crow met racial democracy. When William Oliver, a businessman from Knoxville, Tennessee, put in a bid for the canal’s construction with the promise to use southern African American laborers, the reactions in the African American press were unequivocally positive. The “At the Editor’s Desk” section of the African American newspaper The Freeman averred that the canal itself was “destined to be a monument to the efficiency and indispensableness of Negro Labor.”9 The article anticipated that the isthmus would be a key space for African Americans’ fight for rights and one in which they would be able to showcase their strengths and highlight the hypocrisies in the nation’s treatment of its Black citizens. The Colored American puts it succinctly and bluntly: “There is nothing for us to do but dig the Panama Canal just as fast as the Lord will let us. It is manifest destiny.”10 Very early on in the conceptualization, contracting, and construction stages of the canal, however, it became clear that African Americans’ hopes about the isthmus would not be reflected in reality. The construction bid

African Americans and the Panama Canal Zone as a Third Space


about which the African American newspapers were so enthusiastic, as they reported, was turned down despite being the lowest bid the government had received. Citing public statements by government officials, the newspapers pointed out that the bid was turned down because Oliver had promised to use southern African American laborers, and the U.S. government did not want African Americans to be involved in, or benefit from, the canal’s construction in any way. The Freeman published the following in its February 2, 1907, issue: “It is a rather sorry reflection on the United States Government . . . that a private employer is willing to give a full-­fledged American citizen a chance which the nation at large was not willing to extend.”11 Other African American newspapers, such as the Savannah Tribune, the Broad Axe, and the Appeal, delicately suggested that the president had sold out African Americans, who had been some of his staunchest supporters, in his attempt to appease antiBlack southern politicians and businessmen. The March 2, 1907, Savannah Tribune, for instance, includes the article “President is Criticized for Yielding to Opposition and Rejecting Oliver Canal Bid.” The article points to Oliver’s bid as the lowest and notes that before the surprising decision about the bid was announced, Oliver had had encouraging conversations with Secretary of War William Howard Taft and “the members of the canal commission.” In a strategic understatement, the authors note, “The announcement that the bid of William J. Oliver of Knoxville, Tenn, for the construction of the Panama Canal would be rejected [. . .] provoked considerable discussion in Washington. Much of it is decidedly unfriendly to the administration.”12 The news­paper the Broad Axe reprinted an article on March 16, 1907, that had initially appeared in the Springfield Republican, criticizing the president for using canal appointments as a way to reward political allies, especially southern political allies. The headline read, “President Gives Big Job to Southern Democrat. Rewards Sen. Blackburn for Rallying Southern Democrats Against Colored Soldiers—Gives Him Place on Panama Canal Commission—President Redeems His Bribe.”13 The African American press regularly registered the view that the doings related to the Isthmus of Panama—a geographically distant place which was also spoken about by those in power as ideologically distant from the nineteenth century—laid bare the enduring national hypocrisy regarding race. The press pointed out that the U.S. nation could not be a true model for the rest of the world until it worked through its “race problem,” to use a phrase employed to great effect by Anna Julia Cooper:



We would not deprecate the fact, then, that America has a Race Problem. [. . .] More than all, let us not disparage the factor which the Negro is appointed to contribute to that problem. America needs the Negro for ballast if for nothing else. [. . . H]is instinct for law and order, his inborn respect for authority [. . .], and his deep-­rooted faith in God will prove indispensable and invaluable [. . .]. And the historian of American civilization will yet congratulate the country that she has had a Race Problem and that descendants of the black race furnished one of its largest factors.14 Cooper posited the “Race Problem” as essentially a race opportunity—that is, an opportunity for the United States to do something new and different to distinguish it from all other nations. African Americans writing about and from the Panama Canal saw themselves as playing a vital role in moving the United States toward living up to its promise to become a model nation worthy of eternal, global admiration. U.S. government officials spoke about the isthmus in glowing and futuristic terms, painting a picture of it as a space in which the nation would launch itself into its future as a model of innovation and industry for the rest of the world, a space in which it would leave its past behind. A key element of this sentiment was the creation of nominally nonracial vocabulary for, and approach to, structuring the labor system. The labor system was rooted in the notion that the canal laborers would be categorized based on their U.S. citizenship (placing citizens on the “Gold Roll” and foreigners on the “Silver Roll”) as well as on their job category (e.g., blacksmith versus blacksmith helper). U.S. government documents reveal an approach to discussing the Gold Roll and the Silver Roll that was fundamentally racial while pretending to be purely pragmatic. In a discussion with Secretary Taft in 1904, Admiral John Grimes Walker said, “The people sent from [the U.S.] we should pay once a month in gold or in United States currency, but the laborers and the people of the Isthmus would go on the silver roll and be paid every two weeks.”15 On January 11, 1906, before the Senate Committee on Interoceanic Canals, chairman of the Isthmian Canal Commission Theodore Shonts said that the “broad distinction” between gold and silver laborers was “white and Black” and that “[w] e pay nearly all our white men from the States in our own currency—that is, gold. We pay the laborers in silver, because they patronize the stores that have that as their medium of exchange.” When asked whether “the white men are engaged in higher classes of labor,” Shonts replied, “Yes, sir.”

African Americans and the Panama Canal Zone as a Third Space


The Gold and Silver Rolls system was fundamentally driven by racism with touches of ethnocentrism, xenophobia, and classism of varying degrees.16 African Americans hearing the positing of the Isthmus of Panama as a distinctively modern space by those in power thus had hope that it would be a space in which the fact of their U.S. citizenship would be foregrounded and their race would be secondary or no longer noteworthy. They hoped that in Panama, people would be understood, first and foremost, as either foreigners or U.S. citizens, rather than as either white or “colored.” As a nation, the United States was determining how to craft and circulate the story of the nation as the model for all nations to follow, due to both its capacity for technological and industrial innovation and its democratic “golden door,” welcoming all and providing opportunities for everyone entering its territory to have a better life. It was also attempting to determine how to ensure that the rights of those deemed undesirable (i.e., not full humans or citizens) remained limited. In practice, the system in place in the Canal Zone essentially mirrored Jim Crow in its perception and treatment of Black p ­ eople; housing, water fountains, commissaries, schools, and medical facilities were all segregated. The vocabulary was different—Silver Roll and Gold Roll as opposed to white and “colored”—but the goal and result were the same, placing Black people at the bottom of the socioeconomic hierarchy. Officials tried to explain away the anti-­Black racism undergirding this structure by pointing out that some European workers were on the Silver Roll, and therefore the Gold and Silver Rolls were not really about race but about skills, nationality, and job category. Certainly, there were Spaniards and other European workers on the Silver Roll; however, that fact constituted evidence not that the system was race-­neutral but, to the contrary, that it was classist, ethnocentric, and xenophobic in addition to being racist. Everything from the pay structure to the job assignment rules to the regulations shaping daily life illustrated that racism was the primary driving force behind the structure and its rules. Why else, as African American canal worker John Price and his African American colleagues asked the canal leadership, would a Black man be required to remove his hat when entering a commissary, while a white man was not?17 African Americans, particularly those who worked on the Panama Canal project, read the messages transmitted by those in power—rhetoric regarding the importance of this isthmian place in defining the present and the future of the United States as well as the national narrative about its past. In their own writing, African Americans working on the Panama Canal often



quoted from these messages and narratives and drew on them in terms of both vocabulary and sentiment. In this nonmainland place that was nonetheless a U.S. space, African Americans articulated and argued for their rights as citizens, essentially saying to the powers that be, “Since you say that this place is U.S. territory and that you have moved beyond the time when you saw each of us as three-­fifths of a person, I am entitled to my rights as a U.S. citizen in this place and in this time.” African Americans reading of the structure recognized the gaps, weaknesses, and inconsistencies in the language and practices of the nation. Based on that reading and in response to it, they wrote themselves into the space as citizens, insisting on the Isthmus of Panama as a third space. Take, for example, the case of African American southerner John Hicks, who, according to U.S. federal records, had been on the Silver Roll since 1907. He was angry about being made to suffer the indignities of Jim Crow anywhere but especially in the Canal Zone and particularly because this place was being spoken of by U.S. government officials and mainstream press outlets as evidence of the American nation’s greatness and forward thinking. Hicks was a signatory, along with fellow African Americans Charlie Walker, Charlie Woodard, A. Benson, Tom Onsley, and Sandy Odom, to a letter to Panama Canal Zone chairman and chief engineer George Goethals that discussed the terms of the U.S. government officials’ and mainstream press outlets’ discourse and the terms that the power structure used, tweaking and operationalizing those terms in their own community’s interests. The original letter from Hicks et al. states, We, the undersigned Colored American Citizens who are here under your control and who must look to you absolutely for protection and justice, as gold employees, beg most respectfully to put before you the following grievances [. . .] We are denied the privileges of Pass– Books under the pretense that although we are on the silver roll and that nothing better can be done for us because it is against the rule, and that we American Negroes [ought] be on the gold roll where we belong, so that there would be no trouble in getting what is due to us. They further noted the following, in the section of the letter that is perhaps most relevant to this essay: “We further beg to call your earnest attention to the Canal Record of December 30, 1908, page 1. Under the heading

African Americans and the Panama Canal Zone as a Third Space


‘Employment of Panamian’ [sic] where the Panamanian Negroes are granted the privilege to be on the gold roll, then why should not we American Negroes who assisted in fighting so bravely for the independence of our country not participate in all the rights and privileges, which is by far more than what the Panamians [sic] Negroes can say.”18 Adopting and adapting prevailing definitions of American citizenship delineated in legal discourse and the U.S. press in the Canal Zone (Canal Record) as well as in the national mythology repeated by officials like Elihu Root, the authors pointed out that they satisfied the criteria for citizenship indexed in all three arenas and demanded the rights that those same sources suggested coincided with being a citizen. Owing to inconsistent documentation, off-­contract workers, and administrators’ difficulty reading the diversity of ethnicities and national origins of people of African descent in the area, an exact count of the number of African Americans working in the Canal Zone during the construction period is difficult to establish. There is no doubt, however, that they were there and that their presence and demands posed a challenge to the system. More specifically, they posed a threat to the supposedly nonracial infrastructure that Canal Zone authorities had put in place and continuously articulated and indexed in legislation and other government documents. The kind of contortion performed by individuals charged with carrying out and enacting this ostensibly nonracial, exclusively nationality-­based system is encapsulated in a memo from U.S. Army engineer David Gaillard, who was charged with overseeing the construction of the most difficult way-­clearing of the canal construction undertaking—the Culebra Cut (a.k.a. the Gaillard Cut)—to Jackson Smith, commissioner and head of the Department of Labor during the construction. The memo, dated February 11, 1908, addressed “the question of certain American Negroes holding ‘gold’ contracts” that “keeps coming up from time to time.” He asked Smith, “Have you taken the matter up with the Washington office and your labor agents, so that no more American Negroes will be given ‘gold’ contracts? Do you think it will be better to get out a special ‘silver’ contract for American Negroes hired in the States or have them sent down with a special letter from your representation in the States in each case?”19 The “special ‘silver’ contract” suggested by Gaillard was intended to negotiate the fine line between acknowledging African Americans’ U.S. citizenship and achieving the true racist, segregationist goals which drove the gold and silver system. Gaillard felt compelled to propose such an “innovation” to keep the overall system in place while also dealing with the fact that some African Americans



had been given gold contracts and were, therefore, coming to the isthmus expecting all the privileges accorded to that contract category. The contents of Gaillard’s memo to Smith and the laborers’ letter to Goethals are evidence that African Americans saw the Canal Zone as an alternative U.S. space, distant from the mainland in terms of ideology as well as geography. The administrators charged with protecting and sustaining the system toiled to determine how to disabuse the African Americans of that notion as quickly and as effectively as possible; while they were in a different geographic space, it was not different in terms of ideology. However, the African Americans read the lines that those in power wrote—reading between the lines as well—and noticed subtle divergences between its rhetoric and that used on the mainland. Consequently, African Americans endeavored to use those gaps logically as the basis for demands for better treatment in this isthmian slice of the United States of America. Administrators of the Canal Commission discouraged African Americans’ notion that this space may be different through direct correspondence with petitioners demanding equal treatment. Additionally, they resisted making structural changes to close the gaps in the system that African Americans had identified and drawn on to demand or act on their right to equal treatment. For his part, Goethals refused to change the fundamental structure, completely rejecting the contention that African Americans should be on the Gold Roll because they were American citizens. In accordance with Goethals’s orders, acting chairman and chief engineer Harry Hodges wrote to disbursing officer E. J. Williams, “Please see that all American negroes in the service of the Commission are paid in gold. It is not desired to transfer them to the gold roll, but they are to be paid in United States currency.”20 Goethals and the other administration officials performed contortions—suggesting gold payment for Silver Roll workers—as a result of the rules, but even more as a result of African Americans pushing back against those rules. In a handwritten letter, African American James McKnight and his cosignatories (including Thomas Molley and Chas Woodard) emphasized the fact that they were American citizens and, therefore, should have the same rights as their fellow nationals, regardless of race. Indeed, the opening identification, “We the Colored American citizens,” emphasizes their connection to the U.S. nation. They also made clear that they had played by the rules— going through the chain of command with their request—and that they were coming to Goethals only because those to whom they reported had failed to address their request. The degree to which the letter invokes their citizenship

African Americans and the Panama Canal Zone as a Third Space


is striking; it is repeatedly mentioned, and the letter also points to the obligations that the U.S. nation and its official representatives on the isthmus owe them as citizens. They adopted this approach with a purpose, as evidenced by the fact that, throughout the letter, the word “labor[er]s” is repeatedly written and crossed out, with “citizens” written above it. Two instances of this strikethrough and replacement process read as follows: “We the colored American labors citizens do ask that you please accept this a legal statement of grievance” and “there are quite a no [number] of colored American labor[s] citizens on the Ismus who are American raised American born know nothing about another Government only the American Government we look to no other Government for provision only our own usa.”21 Clearly, the letter writers had read the rhetoric of the U.S. government and the Canal Commission regarding what the Panama Canal meant for and about the nation. According to this rhetoric, the canal was proof of the U.S. nation’s greatness and of its place as the best nation in the world, where everything was good. The letter writers mirrored that language rather than rooting their letter in broader language about humanity, human rights, or humanism. Documents such as this show the U.S. Canal Zone on the Isthmus of Panama to be a critical site of the development of the U.S. nation’s and U.S. citizens’ racial reasoning. The Isthmus of Panama functioned as an extension of the mainland, a space in which the fundamental and longstanding questioning of African Americans’ right to be recognized and treated as full citizens continued. Importantly, it also placed new questions before the U.S. government as a whole and before U.S. citizens concerning both the nation’s narratives of itself as a democratic model and U.S. citizens’ stories of themselves as fundamentally fair-­minded and admirable. All these questions and internal conflicts came about because, on the isthmus, Jim Crow met racial democracy. The United States chose to weave a story of the canal’s labor system structure using a racial democratic vocabulary (with national citizenship as primary) rather than one of Jim Crow (with race as primary). African Americans noticed that shift and called the administration’s bluff in writing, repeatedly. They wondered whether the isthmus, since it was geographically separate from the mainland, would be different for them in terms of their treatment. Government officials saw the canal project as evidence of the United States’ distinctiveness as an admirably forward-­thinking and future-­focused nation. They put forth an image of the nation as beyond the horrors of slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction’s demise, et cetera. African Americans read the



futuristic language depicting faraway spaces as profoundly free (the rhetoric of frontierism) and believed that the Gold and Silver Rolls were distinctions not about race (white versus “colored”) but rather about U.S. versus foreign. Holding tight to those precepts, African Americans crafted a discourse that took those conceptions of the meanings of space, time, and language ­seriously— and they demanded that white Americans do the same.


“Something Awful in the Voice of the Multitude”: Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Dred on Power and Social Struggle Dana D. Nelson

In 1997, Lora Romero threw down the gauntlet for nineteenth-­century studies. As she observed in her book Home Fronts: Domesticity and Its Critics in the Antebellum United States, at the height of the canon battles, both those critics who sought to uphold a familiar literary canon and those who challenged it tended to imagine “opposition and hegemony, and authorial transcendence” in strikingly similar ways—drawing either positively or negatively on an analytically overstabilized “figure of the domestic woman,” who stood oddly free from politics, either in the “home” or in the critical “margins.” Romero lamented the dearth of analytic nuance across the spectrum of literary debate: regardless of political slant, we were all proceeding, as she put it, “from the assumption that culture either frees or enslaves,” entirely unable to “entertain the possibility that traditions, or even individual texts could be radical on some issues . . . and reactionary on others. . . . Or that some discourses could be oppositional without being outright liberating.”1 Battling over the object (classics by white men, or “recovered texts” by women and minority writers), we seemed nevertheless unified in a key and, for Romero, importantly flawed assumption, where “literary value seems to depend on the identification of idealized agents (authors or intellectuals) who stand outside the social and political ideologies of their time,” enabling an oppositional critique that liberated some group from some kind of powerlessness (4).



She attributed our shared flawed assumption to a preference for understanding power in neat terms, “centralized, unified and static,” and resistance in similarly neat terms: clean refusal and heroic revolt. But, Romero urged, we should comprehend that power was never a monolithic structure so much as a web of mobile relations, something no one ever could experience as an abstract whole that could be either embraced or rejected. Quite differently, as she eloquently summarized, “If one cannot stand entirely ‘outside’ ideology, then one cannot stand entirely ‘inside’ it either. People operating with similar assumptions, values and vocabularies can be motivated by different commitments, and come to different conclusions, although that ‘difference’ does not express the triumph of individualism, innovation, or genius so much as the complexity of authors’ social positionality and the volatility of the rhetorical, historical and material circumstances compelling the authorial enterprise” (6). In her analysis, literature was almost never a blueprint for revolution, whether cultural, economic, or political, and authors never could be transcendentally visionary heroes. Rather than setting off in search of authors who have “discovered the one key for the liberation of all of mankind,” Romero urged us to develop both a more fine-­grained account of how social power and struggle generated and circulated and a more nuanced account of how texts participated in the simultaneous circulation of power and struggle for justice (5). In 1997, Romero’s argument against falsely overstabilizing critical binaries (“dominant/marginal, conservative/countercultural, unconscious/self-­ reflexive, active/passive”) struck me as correct, and her appeal for “a theory of oppositionality that does not define resistance as radical alterity modeled on an idealized liberal self, but instead one that can acknowledge both the value and limitations of political interventions performed by texts constitutionally compromised by decentralized social authority” seemed bracing (5, 9). It was a clarion call for change that was unfortunately overshadowed by Romero’s own untimely death that same year. But now, nearly 20 years later and well past the work of mourning for our lost colleague and friend, I’m wondering if we ever actually tried to take her provocation on board. Not that many devote themselves to upholding the traditional canon or approaches these days (though as Maurice Lee has recently suggested, it would seem the traditional canon is exactly what we continue to teach, however disruptively or against the grain).2 Rather, it seems our continuing zeal for using literature to unmask the villains of dominant culture—e.g., patriarchy, racism, nation, and empire—and to promote the oppositional voices of their victims has left

“Something Awful in the Voice of the Multitude”


us even more critically in thrall to falsely overstabilizing binaries than when Romero offered her challenge a critical generation ago. I would go so far as to say we currently seem collectively devoted in nineteenth-­century literary studies to what Elisabeth Anker recently described as “left melodrama.” As she summarizes, left melodrama’s appeal derives from critics’ decent desires for “the moral clarity it confers on the complex powers organizing politics and subjectivity, from its ability to identify the victims of these powers. . . from the virtuous powers it bestows upon conditions of subjugation, and . . . from the assurance it offers that heroic emancipation can conquer the villainous source of oppression.”3 We want to provide our audience with assurances of revolutionary freedom against forces that oppress, but, Anker warns, when we build our cases through the terms of melodrama, aiming therein to “motivate the desire, and the difficult work, for revolutionary change,” we are not just risking theoretical overstabilization, but we risk entrenching melodrama’s false claim that powerlessness is what constitutes virtue (215). And worse, we risk entrenching our own political powerlessness as positive proof of our own critical and moral rectitude. In Anker’s summary, left melodrama’s “villainization and victimization of assorted economic and political positions maintain simplified antagonisms for interpreting social change; and its teleology of heroic overcoming of oppression revives the guarantee that leftist theory inevitably guides toward freedom.” “Left melodrama,” she continues, “even insists that leftist theory is itself an expression of virtue” (216). In contemporary left theory, Marx and Engel’s “capital” is replaced by Agamben’s “sovereignty” and by Hardt and Negri’s “Empire.” As we critically line up against sovereignty and empire we stand both with and as the besieged and virtuous protagonists of our critical tales. Anker urges critics to consider that “the moral certainty of left melodrama and the inseparability of marginalization, victimhood and virtue are, in part, a refusal of self-­critique”—a refusal, she underscores, that has led in part to the debilitating weakness of left politics. She calls on critics to work through the political losses that fuel left melodrama. For starters she suggests that we might resist the urge “to grant moral purity to cherished canonical texts, key modes of critique, and firm political identifications”—a move that would keep our texts, modes of critiques, and political identifications importantly open to self-­critical inquiry (223). All these years later, Anker’s critique amplifies Romero’s. And she, like Romero, emphasizes that surrendering the terms and critical method of left melodrama in no way necessitates the surrender of our political awareness or aims. Rather, she suggests, it might open up a range of texts we’ve



ignored for failing the revolutionary test. And if our critical projects offer less revolutionary certitude and less moral rectitude for individual authors, marginalized groups, and ourselves, they might nevertheless offer more provisionally nuanced and useful strategies for living in and negotiating not the two-­dimensional, starkly moralized world of melodrama but instead a three-­dimensional and far more ambiguous world, a place of never-­endingly nuanced, interimplicating, and crisscrossing political and power relations. This place may be descriptively or apparently totalized in a way that can seem two-­dimensional (perhaps especially from the vantage of a later historical moment in which we know “how it all turned out”). But as Anker and Romero suggest, by changing our optics we can learn to see hidden, always conditional gaps that open up in and among the eddies of politics and power. We could consider that such conditional spaces serve as an always-­ imperfect and yet ever-­ready launch for small change or even just a place to harbor and nurture the will to think and act differently. While such cracks, folds, and niches may never afford a purchase for the dramatics of a revolutionary overcoming, they are nevertheless worth our attention. They can constitute, as I’ll suggest below, something of a fugitive commons for justice struggle that is always already happening now, however imperfectly, if only we can learn to read and value them as such, while avoiding the romanticizing mistake of overestimating them.

No Blueprint for Revolution: Stowe’s Dred Critics have habitually read Stowe’s 1856 novel Dred as an update to her activist advocacy against racial domination and conflict in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In his introduction to the novel, Robert Levine observes that Stowe develops a “Black counternarrative” in Dred that “challenges and revises the racial politics” of her earlier novel.4 Whether that revision surpasses the heart-­stopped, sentimentally compartmentalized activism of the more famous, earlier novel is the question. More than one critic has read the eponymous Dred’s aborted rebellion, along with the various failures of U.S. law and Christianity to overturn slavery in the novel’s plot, as evidence of Stowe’s resignation to the uselessness of institutions and activism alike for effecting justice. As Jeannine DeLombard compellingly frames this point, Dred “not only demonstrates the futility of religious, legal, and violent solutions but also challenges the efficacy of any literary approach to the problem of slavery.”5 The antislavery

“Something Awful in the Voice of the Multitude”


activist-­author, for all her good intentions, finally becomes for both her contemporaries and us, in Susan Ryan’s pithy summary, “a specter of good intentions gone awry.”6 Stowe herself played up her activist intentions, titling the concluding chapter of her 1853 Key, “What is to be done?” Criticism has followed that lead, holding her work up to the standard of world, or at least national, change. And in that sense, the novel absolutely disappoints. The scope of her second antislavery novel—which explores camp revivals, squatter families, maroon communal sociality, and the layers of strategies, formal and informal, by which the planter class attempts to enforce its domination not just over Blacks and poor whites but among its own (both white women and men)—ranges with more and less sensitivity and political interest across diverse elements of society and power relations in antebellum America. It shows the defeat of revolutionary aspirations both pacifist and violent. Bad guys don’t change, despite layers of pushback from social equals and social subordinates. Slavery goes on: some accommodate themselves to brutal realities, some find minor ways occasionally to resist, some hide, some pray, some die, some get away. In its meandering way, the novel ponders the circulation of power, particularly its unevenness, inconsistencies, and failures at achieving anything like hegemony, across a variety of social and institutional settings. Stowe demonstrates in Dred, as Levine observes, an understanding of white supremacy’s racialist “realpolitik of social hegemony.”7 She also explores dynamics of class and gender domination as they function alongside and in friction with white supremacy in the South. Christianity and regional personality become important factors as well in her exploration. Signally, as Stowe complicates her picture of slavery and abolitionist politics from Uncle Tom’s Cabin to Dred, she expands the purview of her later project’s social theory. In this process, the novel invites readers to begin entertaining the possibility that revolution—the overturning of a stable order of power— might be the wrong prism for conceptualizing social change. Rather, she suggests something more along the lines of what the feminist geographer team J. K. Gibson-Graham argue in The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It): that by overtotalizing slave power, its opponents were contributing to its overstabilization, and that the better approach might be to apprehend all the spaces for antislavery struggle that already existed inside the slaveholding south.8 In this essay, I argue that what makes Dred worth studying is how the novel helps readers consider the unevenness and porosity of social structures. Stowe’s complex, micropolitical plotting in this novel doesn’t find a



straightforward solution to slavery or white supremacy. Neither blueprint for revolution nor clear map to abolition, Dred instead helps readers think about the gritty and complex social circulation of power, which operates less by moral absolutes and more complexly—say, in a third dimension, beyond the either/ors that habitually structure our understanding of power. Stowe probes how struggle emerges and circulates socially within and among what we have habitually understood (and as Stowe will indicate, perhaps wrongly) as oppressed classes of people as well as among oppressors, how the mobile relations of power are infused with and complicated by interpersonal emotions, social position, and immediate, contingent circumstance, how these dynamics (for often decent reasons) forestall as often as they promote alliances and social justice. In Dred, I argue, and despite the seeming setup of the plot, Stowe’s interest is less in rebellion or revolution than in how struggle lives—how it survives, makes alliances and openings for change, finding less heroic or dramatic expression in discourse and in action—when outright rebellion is forestalled or fails. Different from the flat-­out futility that DeLombard finds in the novel, I think Stowe might actually be counseling a certain kind of micro-­realpolitik: we could say that Stowe hazards something like a rejection of hegemony and posits in its stead a recognition of a pervasive and powerful injustice buoyed by a belief in the motility of small struggle in hard times. In other words, Stowe doesn’t seem to counsel resignation. Rather she seems to insist that her readers resist the siren either/or logic of inevitability whereby a structure of domination is viewed as inexorable and irreversible even—and perhaps especially—when it seems nearly impossible to overthrow. It’s worth emphasizing that she wrote both Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Dred before the Civil War her first novel is so evocatively tied to in our historical imagining. Here in Dred, before that momentous war that changed so much (and at the same time changed so little), Stowe seems to be attempting to understand the tactics and the productive value of something like what Gerald Vizenor describes as “survivance”: the locally situational logics and practices by which dominated peoples continue—always imperfectly—to survive and to struggle.9 Political economist James C. Scott’s Domination and the Arts of Resistance helps us comprehend this dimension of Stowe’s novel. There he sets out to counter explanations for social quiescence that depend on hegemony as a model, one inadequate to the data he collected about the social lives of politically and economically subordinated people. As Scott summarizes, the

“Something Awful in the Voice of the Multitude”


“thick theory [of hegemony] claims consent; the thin theory settles for resignation.”10 Quickly dismissing the thick theory, Scott concentrates his energy against the thin, insisting that “resignation” is not what he sees in history or in contemporary communities of subalterns. In his reading, theories that depend on hegemony both overstate and overstabilize the power of the dominant class, as well as the subordination and powerlessness of underclasses. They make it hard to account for how change ever emerges from below, by “mistaking what may be a tactic for the whole story” (Domination, xii). Providing a richer and more nuanced accounting of the whole story is precisely where Scott aims to intervene. As he puts it, “so long as we confine our conception of the political to activity that is openly declared we are driven to conclude that subordinate groups essentially lack a political life, or what political life they do have is restricted to those exceptional moments of popular explosion. To do so is to miss the immense political terrain that lies between quiescence and revolt” (Domination, 199). Thus his investigation into what he terms “the fugitive political conduct of subordinate groups,” excavated from “hidden transcripts,” expressed in the disguised form of “rumors, gossip, folktales, songs, gestures, jokes and a theatre of the powerless . . . [which] insinuate a critique of power while hiding behind anonymity or behind innocuous understandings of their own conduct” (xii–xiii). If the practice of domination creates and funds the hidden transcript, it is important to understand, as Scott frames the point, that “both are realms of power and interests” (27). Scott’s anatomy of the means by which people who are socially disenfranchised negotiate resistance and social power helps us see that virtually every scene in Dred explores the power and interests encoded in hidden transcripts—this third space that does not become visible when we look simply for evidence of dominance and subordination. Intriguingly, Stowe explores how the interests of subordinated groups both overlap and conflict. If Uncle Tom’s Cabin’s Tom and Eva were the ultimate, pure victims of an evil system, here in Dred, Stowe seems less interested in locating pure innocence or raw evil than in exploring the complexities of personality and the matches and mismatches in fugitive alliances that result. In the remainder of this essay, I’ll briefly focus on (1) the informal settings of interpersonal, interclass, interracial, and intraracial political dissidence; (2) Stowe’s arguments against any putatively oppositional overstabilization of power and structures of domination; and finally, (3) Stowe’s arguments on behalf of struggle that proceeds interpersonally and imperfectly, among limited actors.



Dissident Subcultures, Diffident Collaborations Scott focuses on how struggles against power proliferate within and circulate among what he terms dissident subcultures. Stowe’s novel, from that analytic angle, seems like a long lesson in precisely this subject, as three snapshots will demonstrate. Snapshot 1 The novel opens with Nina’s performances of feminine subversion for Harry (a family slave whom she does not realize is her biological brother). She’s just returned from school engaged to three different men, and she reenacts as she recounts her feminine wiles to explain away her surfeit of fiancés and clothing expenditures. Playing on Harry’s susceptibility to feminine helplessness and taking for granted Harry’s care for her as a trusted slave who has managed the family finances, Nina recounts flirtatious episodes staged as a war of the sexes. She proudly recounts how she uses her feminine wiles to avenge friends who have been made publicly ridiculous by male suitors, and to assert equal standards for men and women. She clearly cajoles but also counts on his admiration. And she changes the subject (from men to money) when Harry responds by reminding her that “some time or other you must marry somebody,” that she will have to self-­subordinate to a white man (13). Shortly, Nina transitions from bragging about her schoolgirl antics to a comfortable assertion of white mastery, tossing Harry a watch and a dress for his wife while mocking the reaction of the other plantation slaves to her gifts. Harry stops laughing with Nina now, and she opines, “I don’t believe it’s good for you to read and study so much. Papa used to say that he didn’t think it was good for—.” Then she stops, “checked by the expression on the face of her listener” (15). Harry finishes her sentence for her: “For servants, Miss Nina, your papa said, I suppose.” It’s easy—and, I’ll assert, too easy—to read this as a scene of Nina’s domination over Harry, she the careless owner and he the oppressed and painfully responsible and loyal brother/slave. Stowe could have picked any number of things for Nina to have been talking with Harry about. What Stowe chose foregrounds Nina’s alertness to gender double standards and women’s disadvantages in courtship. Nina rejoices in her ability occasionally to turn the table and challenge patriarchy. As we’ll soon see, it’s Nina’s sensitivity to the circulation of power that guides her resistance when her white brother Tom

“Something Awful in the Voice of the Multitude”


threatens to purchase Harry’s wife, to assist poor white squatters, and to urge forward Edward Clayton’s developing antislavery sensibilities. And, as Stowe underscores, her sensitivity is almost inevitably—hence the ending of this scene—complicated by her habituation to white privilege. So she’s not perfect. And then again, she’s not a monster. In this closing moment, Nina makes a revealing verbal fumble. And, looking at Harry, she checks herself. And it is at the same time worth noting that Harry is not silenced, but rather pushes back against Nina’s economic and race privilege. He does so with sarcastic euphemism: “For servants, Miss Nina, your papa said, I suppose.” If euphemisms are designed to obscure something nasty, they are also a way of making, while seeming to skirt, a confrontation. Harry confronts Nina for treating him like a slave simultaneously to talking with him as a friend. And Nina registers—again euphemistically—the rebuke. When Harry counters her pride in subverting patriarchy with a reminder that her dependency means she has to marry, she changes the subject. Snapshot 2 In Dred, white squatters keep popping up like a game of whack-­a-­mole. Many of the elite whites advocate for enslaving them alongside Blacks. These poor whites are characterized in relentlessly negative terms, as Allison Hurst summarizes, “a barbarous social contagion, over-­sexed, lazy, and easily led by their passions into supporting and participating in acts of racial terror.”11 The novel offers an insistent contrast, as Hurst frames it, of “naturally good Blacks to naturally bad whites” (648). Mrs. Nesbitt describes the Cripps family as “a most miserable set—all of them liars and thieves!” Old Tiff, loyal to his dead mistress, stoically endures for the sake of her children the barbaric treatment of the second Mrs. Cripps, Polly Skinflint. But the novel also challenges this easy “common knowledge” about poor white trash. Indeed, Nina pushes back against this seemingly official description in every instance, countering suggestions that poor whites are a social contagion who need to be turned into “hands” guided by “the brain” of the slaveholder with her own description of working-­class whites in the North, where “the brain and hand go together in each one, not one great brain to fifty pair of hands” (219). And Stowe demonstrates that even when individuals seemingly accept that official description, they can’t make their emotions come into line with it: they act differently. Mr. Gordon deploys his slave Jake to dislodge another poor white family of squatters, and when Jake doesn’t have the heart to eject them, Mr. Gordon



makes his own equally unsuccessful attempt. Instead he offers them food. Again—not perfect sympathy and not emancipatory, but not total domination, not seamless hegemony, either. Most importantly, one squatter signals in a passing look a subjectivity Stowe doesn’t give readers direct access to. This man appears at Nina’s plantation, hawking fish. Nina provocatively questions him before her gathered guests: “why don’t you get a place of your own to stay on?” As the narrator describes, “There was an impatient glance flashed from the man’s eye, but it gave place immediately to his habitual cowed expression as he said, ‘Can’t get work—can’t get money, can’t get nothing’” (217). The squatter may strategically acquiesce to his seeming dependence on elite whites, but acquiescent, Stowe is at pains to underscore, he does not seem. She admittedly doesn’t explore the squatter’s subjectivity beyond this suggestive glimpse into its enigmatic presence. But the pervasive and contentious presence of squatters in the novel signals something, even if it’s not fully fleshed out. Scott calls squatting “the infrapolitical equivalent” of land rebellion. Squatting in the 1850s was nationwide a lively political issue and had been since the 1830s. Squatting in the 1850s would seemingly invoke Senator Stephen A. Douglas’s controversial appeals for “squatter sovereignty,” wherein a territory’s residence would determine whether slavery could be permitted there. Douglas himself aimed to draw on momentum from earlier campaigns for squatter “relief,” which since the 1830s had lobbied for the rights of squatters to claim public lands. Contemporary scholars have read “relief ” as a recognition for poor white folk already doing the work of settler imperialism through territorial acquisition and Indian removal, but it’s worth considering that “squatter relief ” policies represented as the state’s endeavor to colonize diverging squatter motives and politics for the purposes of state expansion. Just so, Stowe, by making clear the plight of white squatters, and their frustrating dependence on wealthy whites, suggests that their perceived interests may not align neatly with those of the elite white slaveholders. In other words, she signals that for white squatters, as for white women and Black enslaved peoples, the notion of hegemony as clean alliance or total refusal does not adequately represent the politics and sociality of these varying individuals and groups. Between Nina’s debate with her Uncle John and this flash of defiance from the unnamed squatter—quickly replaced with a “public face” apparently acquiescent to his subordinate role in the official transcript—Stowe highlights the structural kinship of those who struggle against particular configurations of power, even in the absence or failure of strategic affinity. It’s soon clear enough

“Something Awful in the Voice of the Multitude”


that the structural affinities of the white squatters’ and slaves’ struggles with the white plantocracy won’t keep some of those squatters from being recruited into the service of Tom Gordon’s lynch mobs. But lest readers comfortably assume that white squatters have a natural proclivity toward racist violence, Frank Russel makes clear the role of slaveocracy in organizing squatter behavior. As he summarizes the lynch mob, The fact is that our republic, in these states, is like that of Venice; it’s not a democracy, but an oligarchy and the mob is its standing army. We are, all of us, under the “Council of Ten,” which has its eyes everywhere. We are free enough as long as our actions please them; when they don’t, we shall find their nooses around our necks. It’s very edifying, certainly, to have these gentlemen call on you to tell you that they will not be answerable for the consequences of the excitement which they are all the time stirring up; for, after all, who cares what you do, if they don’t? The large proprietors are the ones interested. The rabble are their hands, and this warning about popular excitement just means, “Sir, if you don’t take care, I shall let out my dogs.” (534) His point is that chasing and lynching Black slaves is not the spontaneous desire of poor whites—their occasionally hidden and now public motivation. Rather this behavior reflects the desire of slaveocracy, which supersedes individual members of its class (as we soon shall see) and instrumentalizes poor whites to its own benefit, treating those nominally white, lower-­class compatriots as dogs. As Russel soon summarizes, “Liberty has generally meant the liberty of me and my nation and my class to do what we please; which is a very pleasant thing, certainly, to those who are on the upper side of the wheel, and probably involving much that’s disagreeable to those who are under” (535). Clearly Stowe is experimenting here with an analysis she hasn’t fully worked out. But she suggests that poor whites are on the underside of that wheel, along with the women and Blacks whose subjectivity and actions she more carefully probes in the novel. Snapshot 3 The slaveholding Claytons, more pointedly than Russel, deepen Stowe’s arguments against slavery’s hegemony. For all their upstart, ameliorationist, and eventually abolitionist notions, these white slaveholders are threatened with



something perhaps a little less draconian than the noose but threatening like a noose nevertheless (pointedly, the chapter where fellow slaveholders try to bring the Claytons back into line is titled “Lynch Law Again”). When readers meet Edward at the outset of the novel, he is doggedly trying to explain to a fellow plantation owner why he is in a quandary about his career path: “As matters are going on now in our country, I must either lower my standard of right and honor and sear my soul in all its noble sensibilities, or I must be what the world calls an unsuccessful man” (22–23). Drawing from Christian and Republican rhetorics, he fends off his friend’s demonization of abolitionism, asserting a positive vision of his own chosen course. What he faces in this conversation is only the beginning of the subtle coercions some slaveholders will use to try to force the Claytons away from their rejections of white supremacy and their work against slaver interests. We’ll see that not just in Tom Gordon’s vigilante attacks but more especially in a scene where one of Anne Clayton’s suitors, Mr. Bradshaw, tries to enlist her in warning her brother away from what he describes as a “dangerous course” (311). Anne engages Bradshaw in a conversational tour of her school for the slaves on her plantation, describing her principle that “if a mind will grow and rise, make way and let it.” When Bradshaw returns, “How do you account for it that the best educated and best-­treated slaves . . . were those who got up the insurrection in Charleston?” she parries, “How do you account for it that the best developed and finest specimens of men have been those that have got up insurrections in Italy, Austria and Hungary?” (316). Anne, like her brother, appeals to Christian and Republican arguments to challenge slave power and its faulty logics while fortifying their own resolve among hostile peers. Their struggle against slavery and white supremacy is staged more openly than that of slaves or poor whites. And their role in the novel makes it clear that, as Russel suggested, slaveocracy’s power is multidirectional and can aim also against its own putative “class.” But the coercions of slaveholders, crucially, does not render the Claytons powerless or lead to their social resignation, any more than it does among slaves or poor whites. That is not to minimize the effect of slavery’s power but simply to acknowledge that the intentions of the slaveocracy do not always produce intended effects—even when it secures a seeming acquiescence. As Edward responds when his mother warns him of the “prejudice against abolitionists,” “I suspect there are multitudes now in every part of our state who are kept from expressing what they really think, and doing what they ought to do, by this fear” (393). For his part, Edward is not daunted. He continues both speaking and doing, throughout the course

“Something Awful in the Voice of the Multitude”


of the novel, contending openly and covertly against white supremacy and slaveholding interests. In these various examples, Stowe charts openings for strategic alliances, failures of imagination or sympathy or resolve, and some successes that keep other possibilities than slavery and white supremacy alive. All her characters are imperfect actors: they are each compromised by something—a lack of vision, the shelter of privilege or self-­interest, or the welter of dramatic immediate events and the emotions they evoke. Nina defaults too frequently to white privilege. Harry, however affectionately, assumes patriarchal mastery of women as inevitable (including Nina, but he treats his wife like a nincompoop, too). Poor white squatters are oppressed in ways that seem similar to the oppression of African-­descended slaves and of white women under patriarchy: this similarity does not produce any automatic alliance or ­sympathy— though it plausibly could. Edward, for his part, is open to the possibility that he could both learn and draw strength from the strategies of Dred and his compatriots in Engedi. But the lessons he takes from that community do not lead him toward revolution, and maybe because he can’t take Dred quite as seriously—not just because he’s a slave but also because he’s a bit of a mystic—as he might otherwise be able to do. There’s no perfect formula here, just conditional openings, some porosity, some blind alleys in that third dimension, some that move things in a better direction and some that don’t. Power as Hegemonic or Mobile? Depends on Your Perspective (but If You’re Voting for Hegemony, Don’t Be Too Sure) Though the official institutions of Christianity and Republicanism fail to produce the revolutionary emancipation of slaves in the novel, Stowe does not encourage readers to see them as structures that simply reinforce the goals of the dominant classes. The tenets of both those faiths serve variously to sustain the ongoing struggles for justice of various key players. Stowe seems to insist on dismantling, not stabilizing, comfortable binaries when it comes to an analysis of complicity and power. As Harry insists to Edward late in the novel, “I can assure you the Bible looks as different to a slave from what it does to a master, as everything in the world does” (436). Soon the narrator echoes Harry’s assertion as s/he frames the lively political life of dissenters this way: “There is no study in human nature more interesting than the aspects of the same subject seen in the points of view of different characters. One might also imagine that there were no such thing as absolute truth, since



a change of situation or temperament is capable of changing the whole force of the argument” (445). Stowe seems actually to be making Romero’s point, actually asking readers of Dred to “entertain the possibility that traditions [or] discourses could be oppositional without being outright liberating” (4). In the novel’s depiction of the camp meeting and of conversations at Dred’s redoubt, Stowe depicts how subordinates deploy Christian and Republican tenets to reject the logic of domination even as they occasionally insist on a future utopia founded in the total reversal of current structures of power (what Scott calls “negative reciprocity,” where the high are brought low and the lowly are elevated—anthropologists call this “reverse dominance hierarchies”). More pointedly, both religious and secular scripture teaches that there are always openings in structures that seemingly dominate, as we see in Harry’s letter to Clayton, in the chapter “The Slave’s Argument.” Harry asserts that what set Denmark Vesey on his revolutionary mission was “the Bible and your Declaration of Independence.” Indeed, as he frames it, “his history is just what George Washington’s would have been, if he failed” (435). Harry’s stinging account of whites’ inability to apprehend the hypocrisy by which they protect themselves from predicting and understanding the motives for slave rebellion underscores the extent to which subordinated people can deploy the Christian religion and republicanisms precisely as tools for struggle, right under the complacent noses of those counting on the institutions to secure their quiescence. No structure of power, Stowe seems to insist, produces seamless power for those who attempt to wield it. Stowe diagrams how struggles for justice are embedded, and come to life, in collective ritual practices, such as the camp meeting. There, as “negroes and whites, slaves and freemen, saints and sinners, slaveholders, slave-­hunters, slave-­traders, ministers, elders, and laymen alike” assemble to camp and worship, the narrator summarizes that “there is always something awful in the voice of the multitude” (250). If Stowe’s immediate point is in how the assembling of common humanity might begin to challenge slaveholders to recognize their own inhumane behaviors, her more subtle message in this chapter has to do with how the official transcripts of institutional Christianity can be deployed subversively on behalf of social injustice both strategically and emotionally to fortify resistors as well as to destabilize slaveholders’ experience of seamless power. We see this when an unseen Dred preaches to the camp meeting. In the jeremidic mode, he quotes the prophesies of Amos, chiding a people who’ve stopped living by their professed values: “Hear, O ye rebellious people! The Lord is against this nation! . . . Behold, I am against thee, saith

“Something Awful in the Voice of the Multitude”


the Lord, and I will make thee utterly desolate!” (263). Dred’s sermon “makes every ear tingle” and sets everyone to talking of “judgment day . . . comets, and strange signs that had preceded wars and pestilences” (264). It reminds the elite to be afraid of the massed power of the people mingling together at the camp meeting. It makes everyone attending aware of the fragility of slaveholder power. This is not a scene about hegemony of slave power but rather about its porosity, its fragility. The reversal that Dred prophesies (“I am against thee, saith the Lord, and I will make thee utterly desolate!” (263)) does not come in the course of the novel’s action. But I wouldn’t say that Stowe means the aborted rebellion to signal either the dead end of Christianity’s insurgent energies or the root bankruptcy of Republican ideals. Indeed, the narrator emphasizes the sustaining power of what s/he frames explicitly as Christianity’s soul-­nurturing revolutionary impulses (in a long passage worth quoting): It is remarkable that, in all ages, communities and individuals who have suffered under oppression have always fled for refuge to the Old Testament, and to the book of Revelation in the New. Even if not definitely understood, these magnificent compositions have a wild inspiring power, like a wordless yet impassioned symphony played by a sublime orchestra, in which deep and awful sub-­bass instruments mingle with those of ethereal softness, and wild minors twine and interlace with marches of battles and bursts of victorious harmony. They are much mistaken who say that nothing is efficient as motive that is not definitely understood. Who ever thought of understanding the mingled wail and roar of the Marseillaise? Just this kind of indefinite stimulating power has the Bible to the souls of the oppressed. There is also a disposition, which has manifested itself since primitive times, by which the human soul, bowed down beneath the weight of mighty oppressions, and despairing, in its own weakness, seizes with avidity the intimations of a coming judgment. (246–247) Reading for revolution, we’d want to take “La Marseillaise” as a synecdoche for the action of French Revolution and then be disappointed when it fails to catalyze. But I’m not sure that wouldn’t miss Stowe’s point. The narrator here emphasizes not so much revolutionary action as a “disposition” toward justice. What this passage seems after is the sensibility of rightful justice, and



the relation of that feeling to the survival of dignity, of the soul, of hope for a better path forward. This passage plays up not so much the action such feeling might lead to, but the nurturing sense of self-­legitimacy that comes with the idea of a more just distribution of power. In just the same way the narrator describes the Declaration of Independence, “that document which has been fraught with so much seed for all time,” as Harry reads and expostulates from it to a gathering in Engedi (455). This scene, culminating in a moment of potential uprising forefended by Milly’s Christian pleading, has often been understood to be a moment of failure in the novel. But seen another way, we can view the rehearsals here of Christian prophesy and Republican promise as consciousness-­raising, the ritual rehearsing of a social logic that, in Abdul Jan Mohamed’s repurposing of a Marxist concept to analyze minority discourse and subject formation, “negates the negation” and fortifies the participants for the daily work of struggle in the absence of revolution, providing them with a discourse of dignity and self-­assertion.12

Leave the Vengeance to the Lord! How to survive in the face of cruel and even crushing injustice: this is the problem, played out at many scales, that concerns so many different characters in Dred. Many of those characters fall into the eponymous Dred’s charismatic orbit. Even Clayton, who, the narrator notes, attempts to tame his fascination by making a “psychological study” of Dred, still finds himself unable fully to rationally comprehend his appeal. If, as Jeannine DeLombard has rightly highlighted, Clayton intellectualizes and also fails to comprehend much about Dred, Harry, Cora, and Milly as people, he is nevertheless, as the narrator underscores, “strangely . . . impressed” by Dred’s prophesies: “Something in [Clayton’s] inner nature seemed to recognize in them a shadow of things hoped for” (511). Once again, the narrator focuses less on action than on affect: “He was in a mood into which the mind of him who strives with the evils of this world must often fall—a mood of weariness and longing” (511). The mood is what drives Clayton’s curiosity about Dred, whose charisma isn’t readily definable, and can’t fully be comprehended through rational argumentation, Stowe seems to say. This is perhaps less Clayton’s failure, then, than Stowe’s emphasis on how so much of what sustains individuals in struggle is the nurturance of modes of affect that support personal dignity and the daily work of struggle.

“Something Awful in the Voice of the Multitude”


What the narrator calls the “sentiment of justice” turns out to be a complex thing, an attribute that does not stabilize comfortable binaries but mixes them absolutely (497). This affect combines a “moral indignation” the narrator suggests is masculine (for to lack it is “effeminate”). But it also contains a “pleading, interceding element” that the narrator identifies as feminine: “as a spotless and high-­toned mother”—until she turns around and identifies this feminine element of pleading with Christ (497). Dred’s appeal is that of both Cassandra and Christ, male and female, classical and biblical—here the narrator is willfully mixing categories in order to convey the range of feeling, fear and reassurance, that Dred invokes in those who encounter him, as well as his own struggle to understand his personal path in the world. He is simultaneously the inspired “energy of that avenging justice” and himself inexplicably attracted to the redemption of the “divine tenderness” of the lamb (458, 511). Dred’s struggle and Stowe’s project in this book is not, then, just the nurturing of a kind of struggle that can lead to revolution, but the simultaneous nurturing of a forgiveness that can lead to the merciful (and perhaps nonrevolutionary) achieving of justice. The narrator distinguishes between the charisma construed as Dred’s personal magnetism and the rhetorical power by which he is able to channel and focus the emotional powers of the hidden transcript. This too seems to have less to do with rational apprehension than with feeling. People—white and Black, from all parts of the socioeconomic spectrum—are drawn to Dred because they recognize their hopes and fears in his prophetic speeches. What Clayton rationally diminishes as Dred’s “quaint and poetic” ramblings resonate with people—including Clayton—because Dred draws them into the healing and sustaining affect of the hidden transcript “as a strong ship, walking through the water, draws all the smaller craft into its current” (502). And the narrator eulogizes Dred, emphasizing the commons of justice struggle (and quoting Wordsworth), “There’s not a breathing of the common wind that will forget thee” (517). So, then, Dred doesn’t galvanize the revolution he prophesies. Indeed, as I’ve noted, when the moment seems primed for the crowd in Engedi to rise up, Dred signally pauses, caught up short by Milly’s arguments for Christian mercy. “Leave the vengeance” to the Lord she pleads to the gathered crowd, and “pray to the Lord to give them repentance. . . . Love yer enemies!” (462). Notably, Stowe does not signpost Dred’s hesitation in this moment as a failure. Dred’s life was shaped by his father’s legacy. He watched his father’s uprising fail. Determined not to misread any moment of potential uprising, Dred



remains open—to signs and testimony—and is thus moved by and acquiesces to Milly’s New Testament arguments for forbearance against his Old Testament call to vengeance. The narrator represents his openness to Milly’s message of atonement and intercession as a plausible response and quite possibly a virtue, even though his pulling back from the moment of revolt seems tragically to lead to his own death at the hands of Gordon’s mob. Stowe’s point is that Dred, differently from his father, Denmark Vesey, or an iconic hero like Toussaint L’Ouverture, will be forgotten to history, though containing within him “the energies which make the patriot and the prophet.” Dred, in life and death, inspires the sentiment of justice, which can be celebrated even in imperfect alliances, human frailty, and actions toward justice that are not fully revolutionary. His legacy, she urges, is no less important than those remembered for more visibly heroic actions. And though Clayton’s study of Dred in life and in death left him admittedly beyond comprehending “the whole depth of the affair,” he is nevertheless stiffened in his resolve against slavery (519). The day after the funeral, he counsels Harry, urging “the undesirableness and hopelessness under present circumstances, of any attempt to right by force the wrongs under which his class were suffering,” suggesting instead a path of escape for Harry and his Engedi compatriots. As the narrator summarizes, “One can scarcely appreciate the moral resolution and force of character which could make a person in Clayton’s position in society—himself sustaining, in the eyes of the law, the legal relation of a slaveholder—give advice of this kind” (519). Clayton’s newly developed moral strength combined with his realpolitik fears, lead him, following Dred’s contemplative example, to act to avoid the bloodshed entailed by violent resistance and/or revolution. He helps Harry plan an escape and he and his sister arrange to remove their slaves to Canada and emancipate them there. Stowe’s message in Dred, finally, is less about revolution by fire or earthquake than about justice achieved by, as Rebecca Solnit phrases it, a “drip of water on a stone.”13 It’s not about overthrow and triumph but rather about “survivance”—surviving and struggling when not just the future but also the present is dark. It’s about finding sustenance in the commons of the hidden transcript, where those desiring to struggle for a more just dispersal of power can nurture the counterideologies of dignity and activism, however conditionally and imperfectly, generating these quiet infrapolitics when louder and more visible struggle is precluded. This has seemed like a failure to many: Stowe throwing up her hands and waving a white flag at slave power—a gesture of futility from which there is little to learn. And it’s true: heroism is in

“Something Awful in the Voice of the Multitude”


short supply in Dred. None of her characters—Nina, Clayton, Harry, Dred, Milly—are heroic in any familiar way. Each is limited by fears as well as by blindnesses resulting from their particular standpoints and commitments. But they all lead each other, together, imperfectly and in small ways, toward a vision of a more just distribution of power that would treat not just enslaved Blacks but women and poor whites more fairly. Milly’s project in New York, where she takes care of children—Black, white, and foreign—rescued from destitution, exemplifies the novel’s small ambitions for the justice achievable by such collective struggle. For my part, I do think Stowe generates some worthwhile insights in this novel about failures and successes in the work of struggling for justice, insights worth study.

Conclusion Anker offers “melodramas of failed sovereignty” (my emphasis) as an antidote to political discourse’s penchant for melodrama on both the left and the right. The problem with melodrama, she urges, is both that it elicits support for antidemocratic and violent forms of state power and that it keeps us oriented toward sovereignty as the only form of democratic power. She’d prefer us to think otherwise. And, she argues, there are texts that help us do so, but we tend not to study them much because they tend to dramatize failure, which we critically eschew. Anker likes those texts even though they continue to operate through the terms of melodrama, drawing on “its ability to catalyze desires to challenge unfreedom” (227). But these texts about failure manage to complicate melodrama’s proclivity for misleading readers into simplistic understandings of power and actors, leading readers to look for “individual villains or abstract concepts personified in particular actors (e.g. terrorism or communism)” instead of building analyses that recognize complex “experiences of inequality and domination” (207). Melodramas of failure, in ­Anker’s reading, point readers away from spectacles of sovereignty and hopes for reversal and toward other possibilities, “new practices of freedom that are nonsovereign, collective, and radically participatory” and are able to account more closely, at a micropolitical level, for the complex, layered, and mobile dynamics of social and political power (229–230). It might be useful to think of Dred as a melodrama of failure. This begins to account for Stowe’s resistance to offering any of her “good” characters as fully redemptive. None of them changes the world. But they do change



themselves in critical ways—demonstrating a capacity for self-­criticism that might be useful for today’s readers—and they make small alliances with others that make sometimes big and sometimes small differences for those various characters. It’s the possibility of connection that matters in Stowe’s lesson: not lonely heroics but small and imperfect acts of connection and developing solidarities. It’s these small connections that nurture self-­esteem, the commitment to justice despite the seeming odds, and sometimes, small changes that express the worth of struggle against the bad uses of power, the cultivation of power for more just purposes. Stowe’s Dred teaches that revolution is not the only path to justice, that there are other ways to challenge the various unfreedoms her characters face, and that these challenges happen through collaborative acts and interpersonally cultivated feeling, and not so much through transcendental acts of individual heroism. Stowe’s limited and flawed characters demonstrate, in Anker’s words, that readers can “imagine alternatives to sovereign triumph, besides humiliation, powerlessness or oppression” (255). Stowe suggests that power is complex and mobile and that individual will and individual acts are too often compromised and limited. She seems to urge that small collective acts can nurture an individual’s ongoing will to struggle, to collaborate across differences, and to strive for social change in ways that do not simply reverse structures of domination but seeks new, less binarized ways to mobilize and distribute social power. And finally, she insists that power is not monolithic but rather shot through with fault lines that can be mobilized against its bad uses (independence grounded in enslavement, sovereignty grounded in submission) and trained toward something better (like the embrace of an expanded and ethically practiced interdependence). She wants us to think, when we think of social struggle, in terms of this porous, difficult-­to-­categorize third dimension, where moral lessons may be less magnificently absolute (and for that, remote when not impossible) and where the time for some justice can still always—in small, participatory, conditional interconnections—be now. Stowe may or may not be right about this—her lesson may or may not be useful to us today. But we can’t take on her lesson if we don’t pay any attention to her book. And that’s been my point: we might stop ignoring books that could help us engage the political struggles we care about more self-­critically and carefully, if only we’d stop reading for villains and victim/ heroes. Our reading habits not only flatten our analysis of how social, economic, and political power works, they flatten our archive as they stretch our time lines. Nineteenth-­century literature continues to fascinate me, and I

“Something Awful in the Voice of the Multitude”


continue to be astonished at how little of it we actually study and teach with critical care. I can’t help but wonder if Romero’s biggest implicit insight might have had to do with how our habitually undernuanced conception of power actually binds us to the canon, with its transcendental architecture, always trending toward the heroic and ever more remote liberation we learned to crave as young students of literature. I can’t speak for anyone but myself: I’m ready to think otherwise.


Uneven Improvement: Swamplands and the Matter of Slavery in Stowe, Northup, and Thoreau Matthew E. Suazo

In 1858, under Joint Resolution No. 105, the Senate and House of Representatives of the state of Louisiana appointed the Louisiana Board of Swamp Land Commissioners and the state engineer “to inquire into the propriety of dispensing with the Internal Improvement Department, and [if so], also to inquire what disposition should be made of the slaves and other property of the State now under the charge of the State Engineer.” At the time, the state owned “ninety slaves and five snag and dredge boats . . . and other property at the State Capitol,” as well as “five runaway slaves, received in accordance with law from the depot for runaway slaves at Baton Rouge.” The purpose of the inquiry was to determine the cost-­effectiveness of the Internal Improvement Department, whose duties included “the improvement of navigation in all the streams of the State that are navigable or susceptible of being made so,” and to determine whether such duties would be more cheaply performed by outside contractors. In performing the inquiry, if the cost of owning and maintaining equipment was open to question, the same did not apply to the persons enslaved by the state: “We set it down as not requiring demonstration, that slave labor is the surest and cheapest. It is the surest, because we have it entirely under our control; it is the cheapest, as is proven by the fact that every planter buys his own laborers.”1 Their duty fulfilled, the commissioners and the state engineer determined that it ultimately would not be feasible to dispense with the department, and they published their report the following year.



As a lens for examining the intersection of enslaved labor and swamplands improvement in the antebellum U.S. South, this report offers a particularly narrow focus, even from an historical perspective, and its local specificity would seem to have little or nothing to do with the literary representations of southern slavery in print at the time. With sectional tensions dominating the national discussion, as well as providing the context for reading this literature, the disposition of the enslaved persons and dredging equipment owned by the state of Louisiana appears to be an entirely internal matter, of little consequence to the larger movements of U.S. history. However, the formation of the Louisiana Board of Swamp Land Commissioners was supported by federal legislation, the Swamp Land Act of 1849, and both were tied to a national ideology of agricultural improvement and its practices—including the drainage and reclamation of wetlands—that transcended sectional concerns.2 Of economic benefit to the whole Union, these projects relied on enslaved labor in the South, and one of their by-­products was the internal expansion of plantation real estate, even as debates raged about the question of slavery in the territories. In the lower Mississippi River valley, the local maintenance of levees and waterways was thus very much in the national interests of agrarian capitalism. Furthermore, the prevailing cultural attitudes about swamps as aesthetically unpleasing emblems of moral degeneracy only underscored the economic necessity of their improvement. These attitudes shaped and were shaped by a popular literature that included antislavery narratives, two of the most widely circulated, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) and Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave (1853), set in Louisiana’s riverine landscapes. The future of the state’s Internal Improvement Department is therefore not as far from the center of the national slavery debate as it first appears. Following the Missouri Compromise of 1850, including its revision of the Fugitive Slave Act, northern abolitionists were outraged at the prospect of being made party to slavery, of being implicated in a moral evil, and Stowe’s novel took shape as a response. That George, Eliza, and Harry escape to Canada (rather than a northern state) was certainly determined by the 1850 law, as was the edifying subplot of slave hunter Tom Loker’s redemption. The underside of the act’s revision, in turn, was depicted by Northup’s narrative, in which opportunistic kidnappers exploit a black market supported by the same domestic slave trading networks. Taken together, the texts highlight the historical contradiction that with the Compromise in place, neither escape from enslavement nor outright citizenship could guarantee freedom for Blacks in

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the North. The legislation has with good reason been considered the flashpoint that inspired Northup and Stowe to write their famous books. However, by foregrounding sectional tensions, both writers for the most part overlook the entire nation’s investment in an agricultural ethos impossible to disentangle from the plantation. As the above example illustrates, not only was the picture more complex than slavery’s territorial expansion or domestic trade, but Stowe’s and Northup’s narratives must also be read in light of the political and economic imperatives that encouraged the institution’s internal development. Equal attention to the Swamp Lands Act, I argue, explains why each writer, by turning an improving eye on Louisiana’s wetlands, finds the articulation of an entirely radical antislavery position foreclosed by the ideology of agrarian capitalism. In revealing the antebellum interrelations between slavery, swamplands management, and discourses of improvement, my analysis therefore centers on representations of the fugitive slave in the swamp, a figure that stands at a problematic intersection of these concerns.3 In both Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Twelve Years a Slave, as action shifts between pastoral and wilderness settings, Black protagonists and swamp landscapes combine to counter the logic of the plantation and the nation that sponsors it; yet, the revolutionary potential of this combined figure is to varying degrees undermined by the same narratives that give it expression. While Northup takes a step beyond Stowe, both writers are alienated from the land by the racialist landscape conventions within which they must write, and their books lack the environmental ethos necessary to fulfill their projects. A potential model of that ethos, however, becomes visible when each is put into conversation with Henry David Thoreau, a writer whose anti-­improvement stance complements their antislavery politics. With the Southampton rebellion of 1831, if Nat Turner’s planned escape into the Great Dismal Swamp offers a radical historical example of the fugitive slave in the swamp, then Stowe’s publication of Dred in 1856 exemplifies how the figure was brought into the literary mainstream.4 By familiarizing readers with this place of refuge and its inhabitants, by speaking to the white imaginary an unspeakable experience of slavery, her novel domesticated the trope, but it also advanced a broader cultural process through which these landscapes were essentially associated with Blackness. Without question, swamps became racialized during this period, and the representational aspects of this process have been thoroughly examined within Southern studies, most recently by Tynes Cowan and Anthony Wilson.5 As they argue, swamps figured multiply in midcentury literature, as threatening from the



perspective of masters and as sheltering—or at least preferable to the violence of the plantation—from that of the enslaved. In each case, they were nevertheless spaces of resistance. The history and representation of these landscapes thus exist as counterpoints to the disciplining narratives of the plantation economy and the nation. Yet this is not just a southern story, and it encompasses more than the translation of historical actors into literary figures. Missing from these studies is a deeper appreciation of the material relations between enslaved persons and swamps that grounded these representations, and the midcentury literature of the slave in the swamp points to more than the racialization of a particular landscape. Beneath these figures, enslaved African Americans through their labor were invested bodily in environmental transformation at a moment when “swamplands” were being codified in newly specific cultural and economic terms. The alignment of Black bodies and lowlands was thus a structural outcome of the plantation system, and the process of racialization, in representation, was and is linked to the long-­term geographic stratification of populations along racial and environmental lines. A deeper concern, then, is the racial and environmental legacy of the antebellum plantation and the literature it produced. This essay pursues the question of how critics might unravel that legacy, at present, to understand an event like the flood that followed Hurricane Katrina. In an age of accelerating ecological crisis, it is vital to acknowledge the ongoing role of race in determining who will be protected from environmental harms and who will not, and I find a starting point in Lawrence Buell’s revision of W. E. B. Du Bois’s famous prediction. In the twenty-­first century, if the problem of the color line “shows no sign of abating,” he writes, “a still more pressing question may prove to be whether planetary life will remain viable for most of the earth’s inhabitants without major changes in the way we live now.”6 Hsuan Hsu and Mark Feldman, however, step beyond Buell to complicate the relationship between race and environment. “The distribution of environmental burdens and risks,” they write, “reflects the legacies of racialization and colonialism, and cannot be analyzed or remedied without attending to problems of racial inequality and geographically uneven development. If environmental criticism endorses an ecocentric outlook or land ethic that includes the earth itself in our sense of community, it must also come to terms with Du Bois’s observation that ‘whiteness is the ownership of the earth forever and ever, Amen!’” (199–200). On this view, the construct of race—before and after the fact—is not simply a factor in predicting or assessing the distribution

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of environmental risk. Rather, the distribution of environmental risk is an intrinsic part of the historical process of racialization. For New Orleans and Louisiana, the aftermath of Katrina, exacerbated by the historical alignment of Black bodies and lowland landscapes, cannot be understood without attending to the legacy of southern plantation slavery and its literature. Furthermore, if we take Du Bois’s observation seriously, then the “ecocentric outlook” is itself a privileged extension of “whiteness” that emerged and is still emerging from the same process. If such an outlook depends on “ownership of the earth” and the environmental security that comes with it, then Feldman and Hsu’s words also remind us to not slip into the binary thinking that Du Bois is critiquing. Blackness must not be equated with environmental risk and disenfranchisement but instead be understood—like whiteness—as a racial category in process and differentially produced in respect to ownership and other unevenly distributed forms of power.7 As a racialized figure of Black resistance, the fugitive slave in the swamp is therefore not as natural as it may seem, and the ideology of improvement provides unique access to the structural relations that produced its representation. Stowe’s novel, by illustrating how the language of this ideology shadows even the most typical expression of this figure, offers a point of departure.

* * * With an interior garden protected from the business of the plantation economy, Augustine St. Clare’s New Orleans mansion sits at the narrative turning point in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Tom’s time in the urban household balances the pastoral of Shelby’s Kentucky farm against the swampy hellscape of Legree’s Red River plantation, and the home is also the book’s philosophical center, the stage on which Stowe explores the moral, political, and aesthetic questions of slavery. In a set piece of the current opinions, the trope of the slave in the swamp first appears as the St. Clare family argues about the fate of Prue, a neighboring enslaved woman who was whipped to death for her drunkenness. Concerned that Ophelia might think them “barbarians,” Marie justifies her attitudes and defends the social order. “I don’t feel a particle of sympathy for such cases,” she remarks. “If they ‘d only behave themselves, it would not happen.” After Eva interposes—“But mamma . . . the poor creature was unhappy; that’s what made her drink”—Marie doubles down: “Oh, fiddlestick! as if that were any excuse! I’m unhappy, very often. I presume . . . that I’ve had greater trials than ever she had. It’s just because they are so bad. . . . I



remember father had a man that was so lazy he would run away just to get rid of work, and lie round in the swamps, stealing and doing all sorts of horrid things. That man was caught and whipped, time and again, and it never did him any good; and the last time he crawled off, though he couldn’t but just go, and died in the swamp.”8 In these lines, Stowe defines two of the trope’s valences: first, that some slaves cannot be broken by “any kind of severity,” and second, that the slave’s inherent laziness—the refusal to work—finds its proper place in the swamp, which is correspondingly—in this case implicitly—degenerate. Following the logic of the plantation, the stubborn slave thus finds an appropriate end outside of the disciplinary regime, yet Marie reads this as illogical: “There was no sort of reason for it, for father’s hands were always treated kindly.” If Marie’s words depict the perception of the inherently lazy slave, the avoider of work who hides in in the swamp, then St. Clare’s rejoinder introduces the opposite, the defiant slave, the violent resister of discipline who escapes into it.9 “I broke a fellow in once,” he says, “that all the overseers and masters had tried their hands on in vain,” and though he speaks here in punitive terms, the language of improvement soon obscures the cruelty of his task. Because kindness will prove more effective than the lash, he first establishes the difficulty of what he had taken on: “Well, he was a powerful, gigantic fellow, —a native-­born African; and he appeared to have the rude instinct of freedom in him to an uncommon degree. He was a regular African lion. They called him Scipio. Nobody could do anything with him; and he was sold round [. . .], till at last Alfred bought him, because he thought he could manage him. Well, one day he knocked down the overseer, and was fairly off into the swamps” (Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 307). From Scipio’s size and strength, to his Africanness, to his royal bearing transmuted in the figure of a lion, Stowe’s characterization of the noble yet dangerous slave is entirely conventional, and she draws from the same stock that will later produce George Washington Cable’s Bras Coupé.10 If she contributes anything notable, perhaps it is that he “appeared to have the rude instinct of freedom in him to an uncommon degree.” Nevertheless, it is a rude rather than human instinct, because here, as elsewhere, Stowe is reluctant to grant Blacks their full share of personhood.11 It follows, then, that such an uncultivated instinct would be expressed by a flight into the swamps. “Alfred was greatly exasperated,” St. Clare explains, and the brothers arrive at a perverse arrangement: “I told him that it was his own fault, and laid him any wager that I could break the man; and finally it was agreed

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that, if I caught him, I should have him to experiment on.” If this last phrase, especially, critiques the attitudes wrought by an entirely inhumane system, then Stowe follows through in the dehumanizing language St. Clare uses to recount the chase: “the dogs bayed and howled, and we rode and scampered, and finally we started him. He ran and bounded like a buck, [. . .]; but at last he got caught in an impenetrable thicket of cane; then he turned to bay, and I tell you he fought the dogs right gallantly. He dashed them to right and left, and actually killed three of them [. . .], when a shot from a gun brought him down, and he fell, wounded and bleeding, almost at my feet” (Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 307–308). Foregrounding Scipio’s actions as a wild animal, she again emphasizes his physicality, but it is also necessary to look past the character to the landscape that “caught” him. Here, “the impenetrable thicket” mirrors the intractability of the slave, and plantation discipline reaches its limit. In order to push through, he would have to enter the swamp’s ecology, and Stowe would soon explore this possibility in Dred. The point of Scipio, however, is that he does not escape, and is instead surrendered to St. Clare: “The poor fellow looked up at me with manhood and despair both in his eye. I kept back the dogs and the party . . . and claimed him as my prisoner. It was all I could do to keep them from shooting him [. . .]; but I persisted in my bargain, and Alfred sold him to me.” St. Clare’s “claim” here is similar to one made on an unimproved plot of swampland: by law, it is not valid until the land can bear cultivation, and these are precisely the terms in which he describes Scipio’s transformation: “Well, I took him in hand, and in one fortnight I had him tamed down as submissive and tractable as heart could desire” (308). While it could be argued that St. Clare’s action was a matter of human kindness, one cannot forget that it occurred within the context of his wager with Alfred. His amelioration of Scipio, however free of the lash, is nonetheless a form of discipline, and this is followed by the slave’s rejection of his owner’s offer of freedom. As he explains to Ophelia, “The foolish fellow tore the paper in two, and absolutely refused to leave me.” That St. Clare’s “kindness” improved Scipio, or prepared him for the mark of cultivation, is then borne out by the experiment’s result: “I never had a braver, better fellow, — trusty and true as steel,” he says. “He embraced Christianity afterwards, and became as gentle as a child.” Although Stowe might allow the transformation to speak for itself, she chooses to sentimentalize the anecdote: “I lost him the first cholera season. In fact, he laid down his life for me. For I was sick, almost to death; and when, through the panic, everybody else fled, Scipio



. . . actually brought me back into life again. But, poor fellow! he was taken, right after [. . .]. I never felt anybody’s loss more” (Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 308). The poetic closure of their newly reciprocal relationship, however, is undercut by the logic and language of the plantation. Before the pandemic, Scipio performed “capitally” for St. Clare, and throughout his illness, he “worked . . . like a giant.” Overall, as Stowe develops this episode, she rightly recognizes that the plantation’s disciplinary regime already encloses the swamp, but she looks on it only as a southern matter. Her racialization of Scipio in respect to this landscape, however, betrays her investment in the agrarian perspective that defined the outlook of the entire nation. Though the language of improvement remains implicit in this scene, Stowe’s depiction of the slave in the swamp reveals that the underlying ideology was nevertheless firmly in place. To understand its pervasiveness in the nineteenth-­century United States, one must back up two hundred years to take in the development of agrarian capitalism in England. As Raymond Williams has argued, this history was “centred throughout in the problems of property in land, and in the consequent social and working relationships.” Most significantly, instead of guaranteeing a certain income, “an estate passed from being regarded as an inheritance, . . . to being calculated as an opportunity for investment, carrying greatly increased returns.” Because inheritance could no longer be taken for granted, it became necessary to make good, or improving, settlements, and it is out of this development, he explains, that “an ideology of improvement—of a transformed and regulated land— became significant and directive.”12 The resulting “crisis of values” registered in literature, and what Williams first sees in Andrew Marvell—in respect to the new aristocracy—has by Jane Austen’s time been fully articulated to bourgeois sensibilities. Shift ahead and across the Atlantic, and the same may be argued for how Stowe’s St. Clare “became the husband of a fine figure, a pair of bright, dark eyes, and a hundred thousand dollars” (Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 202). Furthermore, as Williams notes in his etymology of improve, the complexity of this historical development has roots in the word itself. Coming into English from French, the earliest meaning was associated with “profit,” similar to invest, and it referred “especially to [profitable] operations on or connected with land, often in the enclosing of common or waste land.”13 This economic meaning was primary through the eighteenth century, when “it was a key word in the development of a modernizing agrarian capitalism.” A more general sense of “making something better” also came into use in the seventeenth century and soon “became established, often in direct overlap

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with economic operations.” This overlap, as he illustrates with a couplet from The Task (1785), by William Cowper, was not unproblematic and did not go unremarked: “Improvement too, the idol of the age, / Is fed with many a victim.” Writers also noticed when the word’s object expanded to include persons, as in “improve oneself,” and “Austen was aware of the sometimes contradictory senses of improvement, where economic operations for profit might not lead to, or might hinder, social and moral refinement.” While these meanings would separate, the “underlying connection between ‘making something better’ and ‘making a profit out of something’ is significant when the social and economic history during which the word developed in these ways is remembered” (Keywords, 161). Specifically, as “improvement” settled into common sense, there was a tendency for its social history to veil economic processes, including labor. “The working improvement,” says Williams, “which is not seen at all, is the means to social improvement, which is then so isolated that it is seen very clearly indeed” (Country, 116).14 In structural terms, the English example does not translate exactly to that of a U.S. history founded on settler colonialism, but I argue that both—as parts of a transatlantic system of agrarian capitalism supported by enslaved labor— contributed to the development of an ideology that sedimented into the ubiquitous discourse of improvement.15 With the broader economic and cultural terms of improvement defined, the immediate historical context for Stowe’s novel may now be meaningfully expanded beyond the Missouri Compromise. Although the legislation forestalled civil war, it was viewed by some abolitionists as an effort to make disunion inevitable, and for evidence critics pointed to the inclusion of the Fugitive Slave Act. While the original law guaranteed the right of slaveholders to recover their property in the free states and prohibited interference, the new one—with penalties for noncompliance—required states and citizens to take an active role in the recapture and return of fugitives. According to one editorial voice in an 1850 issue of The National Era, “It was originated by men in favor of a dissolution of the Union, who . . . did not believe it would be efficacious, and stubbornly resisted all attempts to make it less odious to the . . . free States. They knew that it would exasperate the North, and cause disaffection to the Union in that section, and that its failure to be carried out would increase the irritation of the South, and dispose it to look more favorably on their disorganizing schemes. Had they aimed alone at providing the best means for the reclamation of slaves, they would have modified the bill so as to make it at least tolerable to the North.”16 Arguing that in the South, “the



Fugitive Slave Question is agitated more for political effect, than because the loss of slaves is greatly cared for,” the writer cites an article from the Charleston Mercury that calls on southern slaveholders to organize and to systematically press their property claims on fugitive slaves in the North. Ultimately, the Mercury article aimed to set abolitionists against the congressmen who wooed them to the Compromise, and likewise to pit the federal government against northern property holders who would have no choice but to uphold the right of law or become themselves the agents of disunion. The South would benefit either way. “All this is simply diabolical,” exclaims The National Era. “South Carolina is no further concerned in this business, than as she may wish to exasperate the two sections of the country against each other.” On one hand, the writer argues that slaveholders must surely realize that the law’s enforcement would destabilize the system: “The fugitives who by their own efforts escape from bondage, would prove agitators of the most dangerous kind, if caught and taken back. Men who have once realized what it is to be free, if reduced again to slavery, will constitute elements of discontent and rebellion in the slave population.” On the other hand, and of more interest to my argument, the writer points out that the law follows a logic that is inconsistent with conditions already prevailing in the South: “there are thousands of runaways at this time in the slave States. How many are haunting the Dismal Swamp, and the bayous about New Orleans, and deserted plantations [. . .]! Why is not agitation got up about them? Why do not the slaveholders complain of the indifference with which the People of the South regard their slave hunts? . . . They are almost as passive as the People of the North when slave hunters are on foot, almost as little disposed to join in the hue and cry.” If the first case suggests that the pursuit and recovery of runaways is contrary to the interests of slaveholders, then the second more simply demonstrates that they are not materially invested in this process. If true, these assertions acknowledge the fact that within the system of plantation slavery, the risk of runaways and the loss of property are inherent and accepted parts of a speculative business in land and labor. A percentage of loss is acceptable. From a property standpoint, an argument in favor of the law does not therefore make sense in the opinion of The National Era, and the same logic holds in respect to the South’s stake in the entire Compromise, which was more invested in the expansion of an economic system than it was in the protection of individual property. The writer recognizes the fugitive slave controversy as a screen behind which

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the South would hide these broader interests, as well as the illogic of the system as a whole: “The running away of slaves is then an unavoidable ‘evil’ in a slave country, because a necessary incident of the system of slavery. When men’s laws are against Nature, they must not complain if sometimes Nature’s laws assert their supremacy.” The revised law was no more enforceable than the old one; it was just more disagreeable to the North. What cannot be ignored, however, is that the Compromise essentially addressed the future disposition of land in the expanding Union, and whether or not it would be available for plantation slavery. By leaving that decision to popular sovereignty in some of the new territories, the federal government left open the possibility of slavery, which satisfied the South for a time. However, if the terms of the legislation suggest that the U.S. Congress was not wholly concerned with proscribing the external expansion of slavery, then a case may be made that they were also not entirely interested in discouraging it internally, as evidenced by the passing of a series of Swamp Lands Acts, beginning in 1849. That this assertion of state autonomy coincided with the passing of the Compromise must not be overlooked, and the history behind these acts draws necessary attention to the uneven relationship between contending sectional views of slavery and the territorial realities of the institution that already existed in the nation. Swamplands were the sticking point in this relationship, but as Ann Vileisis explains, only because Americans in the antebellum United States viewed them “from an agrarian perspective—seeing in natural wetlands the potential for farmland.”17 Furthermore, in a nation in which most “farmed or believed that farming formed the nation’s economic and moral backbone” (Discovering, 66), this perspective emerged from the ideology of improvement, which enforced for wetlands what she terms the “drainage imperative.”18 For the lower Mississippi, unfortunately, this imperative created a hydrological chain reaction, and Louisiana by midcentury was seeing increased and often extreme seasonal flooding. Although it was generally understood that upriver development made it worse, “people confused cause with effect” (71), and the unimproved lowlands and floodplains downriver were wrongly viewed as the problem that needed to be eliminated: “By building levees along the river’s banks, settlers believed they could prevent the Mississippi from deluging and overflowing into riparian wetlands.” Through “drainage and ‘reclamation,’ . . . [i]f wild swamps [then] could be converted into well-­ordered farms, people believed that the rampages of nature would no longer afflict them” (71–72).



The problem, however, was how to initiate the conversion of these swamps. Because they were undesirable in their present state and the cost of reclaiming them was prohibitive, many wetlands remained under federal ownership and thus outside of state sovereignty. Nevertheless, a solution was presented by the very nature of the watershed: as recognized by legislators in the lower states, including Louisiana senator Solomon Downs, if development upriver exacerbated local flooding, then it was an interstate or federal issue, and an appeal for congressional assistance could be made. While another test of the “controversial balance of authority between state and national government” (73), it was out of this recognition that the first Swamp Land Act was born: Democratic lawmakers from Missouri and Louisiana proposed it in the winter of 1849 and by March it was signed into law. As wetlands sovereignty and knowledge shifted in scale from a local to a federal matter, however, the first-­time development of a national, legal definition for swamplands was not an easy task. Not only did legislators from different states differently perceive these landscapes, they also brought different language to the table. Congress was guided, however, by a shared “agrarian ideology” through which “natural landscapes—wetlands included—were evaluated primarily in terms of the cultivability” (Discovering, 75), and this outlook was reflected in the language of the bill, which granted “all swamp and overflow lands made unfit thereby for cultivation” (quoted, 73). The thinking behind such language, of course, was that swamps existed as negative spaces until positively converted to farmland, and the essentially economic aspect of this logic was bundled with appeals to moral as well as aesthetic reasoning. In each of these respects, as Vileisis cites, Downs spoke in favor of transforming Louisiana’s swamplands. “The first and fundamental interest of the Republic is cultivation of its soil,” he argued. It is the “sole foundation of the capital or wealth which supplies every channel of industry.” Swamps, at the same time, were “evils” awaiting “redemption,” and draining them would result in the “increase of population, the augmentation of wealth, the cultivation of virtue, and the diffusion of happiness.” Furthermore, he opined, “The whole of both shores of that magnificent river, to which the world has nothing equal . . . will be one continuous succession of plantations, lawns, villas, gardens.” In sum, such a prospect would no doubt draw “equally the admiration of the lover of nature . . . the man of taste . . . the philosopher and the political economist” (quoted, 74–75). Although Downs speaks the language of a proagrarian Southern Democrat, his view of swamplands was not fundamentally different from that of the whole nation, combining as it did a Lockean understanding of

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property, a stubborn Christian morality, and an Enlightenment appreciation of an ordered landscape.

* * * A counterpoint to the national view, however, is offered by Thoreau, whose thought announces a turn in nineteenth-­century perceptions of unimproved nature. In respect to wetlands, a passage from “Walking” (1862) is most often cited: “When I would recreate myself, I seek the darkest wood, the thickest and most interminable and, to the citizen, most dismal, swamp. I enter a swamp as a sacred place, a sanctum sanctorum. There is the strength, the marrow, of Nature.”19 Swamps, then, are not places for recreation in any benign sense for Thoreau. Rather, they are sites of profound cultural transformation, and his affinity for them, as Vileisis observes, is a contrarian current that runs deep in his critique of an overreaching civilization. Going beyond the Romantic and transcendental ideals of his contemporaries, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, she says, “Thoreau . . . literally immers[ed] himself in the natural world to an intense and original degree” (Discovering, 95), and for David Miller, it was exactly this experiential desire for “immersion in the unknown,” potentialized by swamps and other desert landscapes, that signaled a shift in the aesthetics of U.S. literary and visual culture at midcentury.20 As Miller argues, if swamps had been associated with moral decay, perceived as unpleasing to the eye and unhealthful to the body, a new appreciation was taking root as the view shifted from emblematic distancing to psychological proximity. With industrialized civilization under increasing critique, nature was less exteriorized and more internalized: it was less a surface for the projection of hierarchical values and more an expression of culture’s collective psyche in all of its disorder and ambiguity. As one of nature’s preeminent wildernesses, the swamp was at the center of this transformation. While the lines from “Walking” reflect Thoreau’s mature thought on swamps, a journal entry from June 16, 1840, suggests that a desire for immersion was already driving the younger writer’s environmental imagination. The passage, itself a reminiscence of the August day in 1839 that he and his brother began their White Mountain trip, was later reproduced in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849): “I can fancy that would be a luxury to stand up to one’s chin in some retired swamp a whole summer day, scenting the wild honey-­suckle and bilberry blows, and lulled by the minstrelsy of gnats and mosquitoes! [. . .]. To hear the evening chant of the mosquito from a thousand



green chapels, and the bittern begin to boom from some concealed fort like a sunset gun! —Surely, one may as profitably be soaked in the juices of a marsh for one day, as pick his way dry-­shod over sand. Cold and damp, —are they not as rich experience as warmth and dryness?”21 Although he presents it in the book as a youthful musing, the imaginative practice of plunging into the swamp—amid its olfactory, auditory, and tactile sensations—anticipates Thoreau’s more serious-­minded approach to the swamp as “a sanctum sanctorum,” and the twenty years that separate these appeals, 1840 to 1862, is exactly the era in which Miller traces a broader cultural turn toward an aesthetics of immersion. The development of Thoreau’s environmental thought, centered on an aesthetic, moral, and economic reevaluation of the swamp, would thus appear to frame this turn in the years before the Civil War. But what, then, do we make of the contemporaneous experience of Solomon Northup? In the winter of 1842, just two years after Thoreau first recorded his “fancy,” Northup plunged into Louisiana’s very real Pacoudrie Swamp under drastically different circumstances, when he was sold from a good master to a bad.22 After William Ford “became embarrassed in his pecuniary affairs” (103), he came into the possession of John M. Tibeats, and in Twelve Years a Slave, he later narrated his flight from the vengeance of the latter: “Imagination cannot picture the dreariness of the scene. [. . .] Since the foundation of the earth, in all probability, a human footstep had never before so far penetrated the recesses of the swamp. [. . .] My clothes were in tatters, my hands, face, and body covered with scratches, received from the sharp knots of fallen trees, and in climbing over piles of brush and floodwood. My bare foot was full of thorns. I was besmeared with muck and mud, and the green slime that had collected on the surface of the dead water, in which I had been immersed to the neck many times during the day and night” (141–142). However, in the midst of describing his “midnight intrusion,” as he recalls being “affrighted and appalled” by the “clamor and confusion” of “[a]ll the fowls of the air, and all the creeping things of the earth,” he pauses for a moment to reflect: “Not by human dwellings—not in crowded cities alone, are the sights and sounds of life. The wildest places of the earth are full of them. Even in the heart of that dismal swamp, God had provided a refuge and a dwelling place for millions of living things.” While each writer, one in mind and one in body, found sanctuary in a swamp, Northup—both as a freeborn Black citizen abducted into slavery and as a member of the broader American culture—might very well have taken exception to Thoreau’s description.

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As the tension between their representations suggests, the newfound appreciation for swamps was uneven at midcentury, yet Miller’s choice of immersion to register the cultural turn from “image” to “environment” gains significance only when attention shifts from Thoreau to Northup. Beyond the purely representational, his swamp passage certainly attends to the new “engagement with both its material and expressional aspects” or “phenomenological perspective” that Miller proposes (Dark Eden, 4). More important, if the former’s immersion seems unencumbered, then the latter’s reminds us that the swamp—while a place to recreate or refuge with nature—is never truly outside of the plantation and exists only in respect to the pastoral ideal that drives the entire nation. In a way that the privilege of Thoreau’s whiteness obscures, Northup’s Blackness—which determined his captivity in the first place—reveals the economic ordering of the landscape that structures any perspective of the swamp and complicates its aesthetic and moral appreciation. In respect to the whole book, Northup’s flight into the swamp is just a short and self-­contained episode of his life as a slave, but its movement—from the pastoral of Ford’s farm, into the wilderness, and back again—nevertheless lays out the compromises he must make with the narrative conventions of the time and how these choices shape his treatment of the Louisiana landscape. If, in the big picture, it appears entirely conventional and is thus in accord with a hegemonic vision of agrarian life, then there are smaller glimpses that afford the author a subjectivity that is at odds with the prevailing view. At times, such glimpses simply reverse the master’s gaze, as Northup does in a moment of countersurveillance before he escapes into the bayou: “Climbing on to a high fence, I could see the cotton press, the great house, and the space between. It was a conspicuous position, from whence the whole plantation was in view” (Twelve Years, 134–135). In other cases, however, he assumes a much more complex relationship with the landscape, as he does at the center of the swamp, alone, afraid, and exhausted from his escape. Both scenes are underscored by his knowledge of the total environment of the Bayou Boeuf country, but only in the second case does he appeal to a kind of ecological thinking, and this suggests that the swamp allows the author to constitute himself as a subject within nature who escapes, if only for a moment, the naturalized relationship between master and slave, white and Black.23 Stepping beyond Stowe’s racialized imagination of Scipio, Northup’s appeal therefore depends on his embodied experience in the swamp, and when it is read together with an analogous example of Thoreau’s anti-­improvement



ethos, a model of an environmentally just antislavery and antiracist politics begins to appear. In respect to this political project, what makes Thoreau’s thought radical and necessary, finally, was not just his willingness to make an imaginative plunge, nor his outright rejection of the “drainage imperative” and other mechanisms of progress. Unlike those who placed themselves self-­consciously at the cultural vanguard, he was not seeking thrills through the swamp landscape, “the simultaneous fear of and desire for annihilation” (Dark Eden, 17), as Miller puts it, nor was he measuring his own value through an ability to order and cultivate—make property of—the swamplands available to him. Rather, he derived a sense of self through communion with the unimproved “Wildness” of the swamp, which permeated him and vice versa. “Walking,” in fact, catalogues such sentiments, and what they add up to is a polemic against the civilizing process of enclosure, in respect to both wilderness and mankind.24 Speaking from a very different place in respect to the swamp, Northup would no doubt agree. In the end, while it is tempting to say simply that the ideology of improvement was and is racist, I would rather follow the lead of Paul Gilroy. If “race,” in his view, is a “discursive arrangement, the brutal result of the raciological ordering of the world, not its cause,” then the nineteenth-­century agrarian project of improvement, in its uneven linking of labor and land to property and personhood, is one of the brutal, raciological ordering principles that produced “race” as we know it.25 Furthermore, in respect to swamps and other wetlands, we have seen that there is an ecological limit to their economic improvement—what Rod Giblett calls capitalism’s “will to fill”—and the flood that followed Hurricane Katrina belongs to a racially stratifying pattern that will continue to illustrate how that limit was long ago surpassed in the United States.26


Vanishing Sounds: Thoreau and the Sixth Extinction Wai Chee Dimock

My essay is a meditation on Thoreau in the context of climate change and the loss of biodiversity, in the nineteenth century no less than the twenty-­first. The timescales that I’ll be exploring require a twofold chronology, a contrapuntal structure with two temporal homes, shuttling back and forth between past and present the better to track the phenomenal fields extending between them. Evolution, extinction, and reparation are most meaningfully investigated, I would argue, within this twofold temporal structure. In that spirit I begin not with Thoreau himself but at some distance from him, with a recent work on the loss of biodiversity as a sonic phenomenon, Bernie Krause’s The Great Animal Orchestra (2012).1 Krause is something of a cult figure to music fans: the last guitarist recruited by the Weavers to replace Pete Seeger, he teamed up a bit later with Paul Beaver to form the legendary synthesizer team, Beaver and Krause, providing electronic music for films such as Rosemary’s Baby and Apocalypse Now. For the past forty years, though, his work has been primarily in bioacoustics, focusing especially on the sound ecology of endangered habitats. Wild Sanctuary, his natural soundscape collection, now has more than four thousand hours of recordings of more than fifteen thousand species.2 Krause tells us that animals consistently outperform us when it comes to sound: they both hear and vocalize better than we do, and they can also do more with sound than we can. One example he gives is the sound camouflage perfected by the spadefoot toad. This amphibian species, like many animals in the wild, does not vocalize separately, but does so as a group, “a synchronous



chorus assuring a seamless protective acoustic texture” (178). Through this sound aggregation, they prevent predators such as foxes, coyotes, and owls from pouncing on one particular victim, since no single individual stands out. Unfortunately, the complexity of this camouflage is such that any human interference, any artificially generated noise that falls outside the usual sound spectrum within this particular environment, is likely to disrupt it and undermine its working. The spadefoot toad is a case in point. Krause starts with their marvelous sound engineering, but by the time he is done it is no longer a happy story. When a military jet flew “low over the terrain nearly four miles west of the site,” the sound camouflage was thrown off kilter. It took the toads between thirty and forty-­five minutes to rebuild it. Krause reports, “My wife and I watched from our nearby campsite as a pair of coyotes and a great horned owl swept in to pick off a few toads during their attempts to reestablish vocal synchronicity” (180–181). The death of a few spadefoot toads is probably no major disaster, but the larger narrative that comes out of The Great Animal Orchestra is disturbing in more ways than one, with an intimated ending that probably none of us would want to hear in full. Something much larger, more systemic, and more destructive than military jets is preying on these sound ecologies, upsetting their delicate balance and making them less and less able to function as they used to. Almost half of the habitats in which Krause made his recordings have now been seriously compromised or destroyed. His audio archives are all that is left of those once sound-­rich environments. Bernie Krause is writing at a point in time when climate change has led to a mindboggling list of plant and animal species that have gone extinct. Turning from this book to Walden is not only a journey back in time; it is also an act of reckoning, a survey of the damage done, and, I hope, the beginning of a strategy for repairs. To devise a way to go forward, our increasingly fragile environment needs to be seen against one that was still relatively robust, beginning to be adversely affected, but also holding the hope of a different developmental pathway, pointing to what needs to be done to ensure collective survival into the future.

Frogs Then and Now There is no better example of these crosscurrents than the boisterous frog chorus in Chapter 4 of Walden:

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In the mean while all the shore rang with the trump of bullfrogs, the sturdy spirits of ancient wine-­bibbers and wassailers, still unrepentant, trying to sing a catch in their Stygian lake, — if the Walden nymphs will pardon the comparison, for though there are almost no weeds, there are frogs there, — who would fain keep up the hilarious rules of their old festive tables, though their voices have waxed hoarse and solemnly grave, mocking at mirth, and the wine has lost its flavor, and become only liquor to distend their paunches. . . . The most aldermanic . . . quaffs a deep draught of the once scorned water, and passes round the cup with the ejaculation tr-­r-­r-­oonk, tr-­r-­r-­oonk, tr-­r-­r-­oonk! And straightway comes over the water from some distant cove the same password repeated.3 “Repeated”: this is the keyword here, perhaps the single most important word in this nineteenth-­century report on the natural environment. Nothing spectacular, just the sense that there will be more, that whatever is happening now will happen again, a dilation of time that makes the future an endless iteration of the present. All of this is suggested by the croaking of the bullfrog, so natural to that particular habitat and so eternal in its recurrence that it is unimaginable there would ever be a time when that sound would not be there. The future of the planet is guaranteed, and we, along with the frogs, could rest in that security. It is a luxury, of course, to feel that way. Walden is very much a nineteenth-­ century text in this sense; there is no better measure of our distance from that world than the evaporation of that sense of security. Among the escalating changes to the environment that began with the Industrial Revolution, the loss of a bountiful and habitable future must rank near the top. The now-­ familiar term “Anthropocene,” coined in the 1980s by ecologist Eugene F. Stoermer and atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen, names human behavior as the chief cause for the drastically altered conditions for life on the planet, so abrupt and unprecedented as to constitute a new geological epoch. A “sixth extinction” seems well underway, the elimination of a “significant proportion of the world’s biota in a geologically insignificant amount of time.”4 Such massive die-­offs had happened only five times in the 3.6-­billion-­year history of life on the planet. Each time, it took millions of years for life to recover, starting from scratch with single-­celled organisms such as bacteria and protozoans.5 The sixth extinction—if that is indeed what we are headed for— promises to be even more cataclysmic than the previous five. The work of just



one species, it has already resulted in 140,000 species disappearing each year, while half the life-­forms on earth are slated for extinction by 2100, according to E. O. Wilson, writing in 2002.6 In the ten years that followed, Wilson’s predictions have been more than borne out. Elizabeth Kolbert now reports that “it is estimated that one-­third of all reef-­building corals, a third of all fresh-­water mollusks, a third of sharks and rays, a quarter of all mammals, a fifth of all reptiles, and a sixth of all birds are headed toward oblivion.”7 The 2020 UN Global Biodiversity Outlook report links this unprecedented rate of extinction to the spread of zoonotic diseases, such as COVID-­19, from animals to humans.8 Frogs turn out to have been the first to sound the alarm. Since the mid-­ 1970s, herpetologists from all over the world began to hear not the loud croaking of frogs, but an eerie silence, a deafening absence of sound. Researchers from North America, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand started comparing notes, puzzled by the fact that, in many of these cases, the disappearances were taking place apparently without encroaching human presence. There was no suburban development, or highways with life-­threatening traffic. The frogs seem to be dying out on their own. What makes these extinctions especially worrisome is that the frog is one of the oldest species on earth. Its history is one hundred times longer than human history. This long duration suggests that the evolutionary history of amphibians is intertwined with the evolutionary history of the planet at every stage. Over their life cycles, they turn from tadpoles to frogs, moving from water to land and changing from plant eater to insect eater, so they have something to tell us about almost every kind of habitat. And because their skin is permeable, they are the first to register any environmental degradation, and they do so across the widest range of variables. It is for this reason that they are the proverbial canary in the coal mine: their well-­being is also a measure of the well-­being of the planet as a whole. On December 13, 1992, “The Silence of the Frogs” appeared on the cover of the New York Times Magazine, accompanied by a nine-­page article by Emily Yoffe, documenting the extinction or near-­extinction of many amphibian species. Ten years later, an article appeared in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, with this title: “Are We in the Midst of the Sixth Mass Extinction? A View from the World of Amphibians.”9 The authors—David Wake and Vance T. Vandenburg—noted that even though mass extinctions are unthinkably rare, based on the collective observations of herpetologists around the world, they would have to conclude that the unthinkable

Vanishing Sounds


was indeed upon us. In 2009, PBS revisited the issue in a special program of Nature entitled “The Thin Green Line,” showing that already one-­third of all amphibian species has now vanished. In 2012, the New York Times reported that a killer had been identified: a fungus named chytrid, capable of wiping out entire frog populations in a matter of months.10 Ironically, the principal carrier for this pathogen appears to be Thoreau’s bullfrog, itself resistant to the fungus, and a popular food import, much in demand in the Chinatowns of New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Human dietary habits, it seems, are responsible for the dissemination of this infectious agent, triggering mass extinctions as an unforeseen side effect.11 Such a future—in which side effects far exceed what initially triggered them—is not one that Thoreau could have imagined. And yet, there is something odd about his portrait of the frog, an oddly archaic diction that suggests this species could be a relic, both in the sense of having a venerable past and in the sense of being no longer in sync with the present. The frogs are “wine-­bibbers and wassailers,” “quaff[ing] a deep draught” from the pond, accompanied by nymphs and the river Styx. These overdone classical allusions, rather than drawing us into the worlds of Homer and Ovid, keep us instead at arm’s length, highlighting our own modernity and separation from the ancient world. It is in such moments, when time becomes segmented and disjointed, that the eternal present of Walden ceases to be eternal and becomes more like a finite end game. Past and future are no longer one here. The terminal point is no longer a faithful replica of the starting point. It is worth noting in this context that, though still loudly croaking, the frogs are in fact no longer what they used to be. Try as they might to “keep up the hilarious rules of their old festive tables,” the wine has “lost its flavor,” and their own voices have grown “hoarse and solemnly grave.” Theirs is a story of spiraling attrition, in which losses will be incurred that cannot be recovered, and points of no return will be reached from which there is no going back.

Animal Fables And, if Homer and Ovid are unrecoverable for Thoreau, this is even more so in his relation to the ancient authors of animal fables, a genre now almost exclusively associated with Aesop (620–560 BCE), but for an avid reader like Thoreau, also beckoning to other, equally venerable traditions. These stories seemed to belong to the mythic past of humankind, passed down from times



immemorial and flourishing in different languages and cultures. As Laura Gibbs points out, “The animal characters of Aesop’s fables bear a sometimes uncanny resemblance to those in the ancient folktales of India collected both in the Hindu storybook called the Panchatantra (which later gave rise to the collection entitled Kalila wa Dimnah, a book which served as a source for many of the didactic animal stories in the Islamic mystical poet Rumi) and also in the tales of the Buddha’s former births, called jatakas.”12 Aesop’s fables were first translated in English and published by William Caxton in 1484. The Sanskrit stories were translated into English in 1775, as Fables of Pilpay. In an undated entry in his commonplace book (what he kept before he started his journals), Thoreau pays tribute to both these Greek and Hindu predecessors, but then proceeds to tell an animal story of his own, pulling away from both: Yesterday I skated after a fox over the ice. Occasionally he sat on his haunches and barked at me like a young wolf . . . All brutes seem to have a genius for mystery, an Oriental aptitude for symbols and the language of signs; and this is the origin of Pilpay and Aesop. . . . While I skated directly after him, he cantered at the top of his speed; but when I stood still, though his fear was not abated, some strange but inflexible law of his nature caused him to stop also, and sit again on his haunches. While I still stood motionless, he would go slowly a rod to one side, then sit and bark, then a rod to the other side, and sit and bark again, but did not retreat, as if spellbound.13 Pilpay and Aesop are mentioned by name, but there is in fact very little resemblance between this particular encounter with the fox and their much more conventional and easily recognizable forms of the fable. Pilpay’s and Aesop’s animals typically talk, and typically do so inside a frame story, coming with morals that are clearly stated. Thoreau’s fox does not. Rather than fitting comfortably into a frame story, this animal is out there running wild, moving according to a logic of his own, one that makes no ready sense to humans. He is not the bearer of anything edifying, for he is himself a sealed book, an unyielding mystery. Yet the disturbance that he is producing in the auditory field is such as to make this sealed book an emphatic if incomprehensible warning. With an intelligence unfathomable to humans, this fox seems to come from a sonic universe with a grammar of its own, a “language of signs” older than civilization and older than human language itself.14

Vanishing Sounds


Sound is crucial. For even though the fox is not saying anything intelligible to humans, the auditory field here is in fact more electrifying than it would have he had been capable of speech. For Thoreau seems to go out of his way to create a sonic anomaly: this fox does not sound like a fox at all, his bark is like that of a young wolf. And he barks only when he is sitting on his haunches, while he is playing out an extended lockstep sequence with Thoreau himself. The man and the fox move strangely in tandem, two halves of the same ritual of speeding, stopping, and starting again, a dance of pursuit and flight, making humans and nonhumans part of the same rhythmic fabric. And yet, this rhythmic fabric notwithstanding, the man and the fox are in fact not one, separated not only by the steadily maintained physical distance between them but also by a gulf still more intractable. “The fox belongs to a different order of things from that which reigns in the village,” Thoreau says, an order of things that is “in few senses contemporary with” socialized and domesticated humans (Journals, 470). All that Thoreau can say about a creature so alien is that his bark is more wolf-­like than fox-­like, a strange sonic misalignment that seems a metaphor for just how little the fox is attuned to us, thwarting any attempt by Thoreau’s ears to classify him, just as he runs counter to the rationality of human settlements in general. Even though the fox was not hunted to extinction, it had nonetheless less in common with humans than with the wolf, a creature systemically exterminated in New England. As Christopher Benfey points out, “Among the first laws instituted by the Puritan settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630 was a bounty on wolves, which Roger Williams, who fled the colony for its religious intolerance, referred to as ‘a fierce, bloodsucking persecutor.’ ”15 According to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, the gray wolf has been extinct in the state since about 1840.16 Sounding eerily like that silenced species, the fox points to a world no longer with us, one we have destroyed. This is not the only occasion when a lost world is hinted at, through a mistaken sonic identity, a disorientation of the senses. Thoreau’s celebrated encounter with the loon, in the “Brute Neighbors” chapter of Walden, features another instance. While Thoreau is single-­mindedly pursuing this bird, his soundscape is once again strangely warped, haunted by what ought not to have been there. First of all, there is a curious expansion of the sensorium, once again ushering in the same land animal not otherwise to be found on Walden Pond:



His usual note was this demoniac laughter, yet somewhat like that of a water-­fowl: but occasionally, when he had balked me most successfully and come up a long way off, he uttered a long-­drawn unearthly howl, probably more like that of a wolf than any bird; as when a beast puts his muzzle to the ground and deliberately howls. . . . At length having come up fifty rods off, he uttered one of those prolonged howls, as if calling on the god of loons to aid him, and immediately there came a wind from the east and rippled the surface, and filled the whole air with misty rain, and I was impressed as if it were the prayer of the loon answered, and his god was angry with me; and so I left him disappearing far away on the tumultuous surface. (Walden, 236) The wolf is here, on Walden Pond, strictly because of an auditory conceit, a fancied likeness suggested by the ear. That likeness might not have occurred to everyone, but Thoreau insists on it. And if in the earlier episode it had already produced a break and a tear in the auditory fabric, the break and the tear here are still more pronounced. The wolf-­like sound, a “long-­drawn-­ out unearthly howl,” let out at just the moment when the loon has “balked [Thoreau] most successfully,” could in fact be quite unnerving (Walden, 247). Even though it is meant to be joyous, an undertone of defiance, of unresolved hostility, and perhaps even of remembered pain seems to lurk just below the surface. It reminds us that the loon too is not unlike the wolf, with peaceful coexistence between humans and nonhumans equally unlikely here. Indeed, by the end of the nineteenth century, the loon would become locally extinct in eastern Massachusetts. Not till 1975 would a pair of loons be sighted again, nesting at Quabbin Reservoir. Today loons are on the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act list as a species of special concern.17 With remarkable prescience Thoreau seems to have anticipated all of this. Through the haunting of the ear, he injects an edginess, an intimation of harm, into an otherwise idyllic setting. In Walden, though, this intimation of harm is both deliberately staged and, just as deliberately, allowed to subside. In this world—still relatively benign—miraculous deliverances do occur, crises do get averted. And the intervening force is a deus ex machina, in the shape of the god of loons, signaling to Thoreau to leave the bird alone. The patently contrived nature of the denouement is perhaps the point: this is not meant to be realistic or convincing. Any avoidance of harm that rests on this flimsy plot device is resting on a fiction that announces itself as such.

Vanishing Sounds


Here, then, is a story very different from those in Pilpay and Aesop. In those fables from antiquity, marked by relative harmonious continuum between humans and nonhumans, morals can be delivered, and death is edifying, not traumatic. In that clean, benign, and balanced universe, harm does occur but is fully rationalized by the concept of “desert”: it teaches its lesson and comes to an end when the fatal consequences of a misdeed are embodied without fail by the culprit. If harm were to befall the loon, it is likely to take a very different form, and the attendant response is also going to be shrill and unappeased like that wolf howl, with nothing edifying to ground it, and nothing to hold it in check.

Old Testament Against Darwin How to give credence to that kind of sound? Neither Pilpay nor Aesop is of much help here. The traditional animal fable cannot tell that kind of story. But Thoreau is not without alternatives, even among ancient texts. As Stanley Cavell points out, the genre closest to his temperament might turn out to be one regularly encountered in nineteenth-­century New England, namely, the elegiac lamentations of the Old Testament prophets, especially Jeremiah and Ezekiel.18 These are voices speaking in tongues, crying out in the wilderness— and doing so because their faculty of hearing is exceptional, because they have received in full what “the Lord said unto me.” Hearing and lamenting are of supreme importance in the Old Testament, affirming the primacy of a sound-­based environment and providing the language, the rhetorical structure, and above all the emotional hardihood to mourn publicly devastations that are large-­scale, that defy our commonsense reckoning. Here is Jeremiah: “For the mountains will I take up a weeping and wailing, and for the habitations of the wilderness a lamentation, because they are burned up, so that none can pass through them; neither can men hear the voice of the cattle; both the fowl of the heavens and the beast are fled; they are gone.”19 Jeremiah only talks about all these species being “gone”—he says nothing about “extinction.” He couldn’t have—the word first appeared in the sixteenth century. But the biblical universe in which he operated was one in which that word would have meaning, one fully aware that the world was no longer what it used to be, and would never again be what it used to be. This sense of a process already well underway, not only unstoppable but also nonbenign, is particularly striking if we compare it with the rhetoric of



“extinction” that would later gain currency in the mid-­nineteenth century. “Extinction” was a word that loomed large in The Origin of Species, especially the pivotal Chapter 4, “Natural Selection.” But—true to Darwin’s faith in a continually self-­regenerating world—it was not a word that caused alarm. On the contrary, Darwin was reassured by this phenomenon, glad that there was this longstanding and always-­reliable mechanism that would allow the world to update its inventory, getting rid of what is obsolete and ill-­adapted. Natural selection would have been impossible without extinction, because this is the very means by which inferior species are eliminated to make way for superior ones: “The extinction of species and of whole groups of species, which has played so conspicuous a part in the history of the organic world, almost inevitably follows on the principle of natural selection, for old forms will be supplanted by new and improved forms.” We shouldn’t be unduly sentimental about species that die out, because it is to the benefit of all that “new and improved varieties will inevitably supplant and exterminate the older, less improved and intermediate varieties.”20 Thoreau was an admirer of Darwin’s. He had read The Voyage of the Beagle when its New York edition appeared in 1846, taking plenty of notes. When The Origin of Species came out in late 1859, Thoreau was among the first to read and comment on it. And yet, on one subject—the extinction of species— he was much less sanguine, much less convinced that it was a good thing, indeed much clearer to the lamenting spirit of the Old Testament prophets. On March 23, 1856, he wrote in his journal, “Is it not a maimed and imperfect nature that I am conversant with? As if I were to study a tribe of Indians that had lost all its warriors. . . . I listen to a concert in which so many parts are wanting . . . mutilated in many places. . . . All the great trees and beasts, fishes and fowl are gone; the streams perchance are somewhat shrunk” (Journals, 8:221). The Jeremiah-­like sound of this lamentation shows a Thoreau increasingly aware of the natural world as one “maimed” and “mutilated” by modernity: a modernity associated in Walden with the railroad, the “iron horse” with its massive impact on the nineteenth-­century landscape. Still, environmental degradation and species loss are terms not yet available to him. Walden is in that sense an incomplete work, with future trajectories to be charted by others. Between 2003 and 2007 a team of scientists from Boston University and Harvard University decided to measure the biodiversity in Concord, Massachusetts, using Thoreau’s plant database as a reference point. Their findings were reported in Proceedings of the National Academy

Vanishing Sounds


of Sciences. Of the species seen by Thoreau in the mid-­nineteenth century, 27 percent cannot be located, and an additional 36 percent persist in one or two populations where they are vulnerable to local extinction. Even more importantly, the scientists discovered that the flowering time for many plant species have moved significantly earlier—by as much as six weeks—a change most likely triggered by global warming and strongly correlated with the extinction of some species. The article concludes, “climate change has affected and will likely continue to shape the phylogenetically biased pattern of species loss in Thoreau’s woods.”21 And just as there is a loss in plant and animal species, the loss in the sound ecology is equally severe. It is this that prompted Maya Lin to build what she calls her “last memorial,” a tribute to and repository of all the vanished and diminished sounds of the planet. Entitled What Is Missing and featuring, among other things, a huge “listening cone” filled with the sounds of loons and other birds from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, this twenty-­first-­ century elegy bears emphatic witness to what Thoreau had only intimated, making urgent action an imperative.22


Beyond Space: The Speculative Dimension of Nineteenth-­Century American Literature Edward Sugden

It would appear to be self-­evident what we mean when we talk about “space” in nineteenth-­century America. This was an era when, so the narrative goes, the logic of the map became total, not only shaping geographical discourse but permeating culture and perception more broadly. As Martin Brückner has put it, an “internalization of geography”1 occurred: spiraling inward from the meticulously measured squares and grids of the standardized map, a consciousness emerged in which the logic of cartography and the phenomenological perception of space, as such, were essentially interchangeable. This consciousness generated, in turn, a historical logic in which the act of mapping (or perhaps, more precisely, cartographic standardization) translated into a set of actual material, cultural, and political practices: the U.S. Coast Survey defined the outer limits of the nation,2 transnational exploring expeditions minutely reckoned latitudes and longitudes of even the smallest islands of the Pacific,3 the government created agencies to “rate” marine chronometers,4 the American Geographic Society became an official institution, oceanography as an academic discipline found its first iterations,5 the publication of geography books spiked as its study became central to national citizenship, astronomers founded the first observatories dedicated to mapping the night sky, and so on. For many critics, U.S. fiction appears, in turn, to have followed suit, as its aesthetics, narrative, form, style, characterization, and politics grow from this cartographic foundation.6 In short, the critical consensus is that not only was there an obsession with geography and cartography in the nineteenth-­century Americas, but these



disciplines also provided a foundation for how people viewed and wrote about the world.7 Even for those transnational critics dedicated to demonstrating the variety of alternative geographical figurations that circulated in the nineteenth century, the aim has been less to challenge what we might term the “cartographic narrative” outlined above than to explore how they might constitute or shape this same narrative differently. To think transnationally, variously, involves an act of “global remapping,”8 drawing “a different input map of the world,”9 a “reshaping” of the “public spheres of cultural production,”10 and stretching the United States “out of recognizable shape” to generate “the map of an enlarged America.”11 In other words, while transnational critique has dedicated itself to seeing how we might reorder space, as though the elements in an equation, it nonetheless rests on an undertheorized triangular relationship among cartography, spatial perception, and cultural production that renders the three terms equivalent. Within this relationship the logic of the map is total and causally prior and so determines the critical lexicon employed. Yet must it be so? Is there evidence that nineteenth-­century Americans thought of space solely in terms of the map? Or might there have been other ways of framing space? The anonymous author of Symzonia would, nonchalantly, have replied with a resounding “yes.” Symzonia tells of the journey of a sealer named Adam Seaborn who, contrary to the wishes of his crew, pushes further into the Antarctic than anyone ever has done before. He does so as a disciple of the nineteenth-­century thinker John Cleves Symmes, who put forward a theory that the earth was hollow and that a habitable center of the earth was accessible through holes at the poles. In journeying through these holes, Seaborn meets with a developed civilization, the Symzonians, who, after teaching him in the ways of their ultraproductive, faultlessly democratic society, cast him out for his irredeemable protocapitalist debasement.12 Appended to the front of this strange utopian novel is an image of an only semirecognizable globe. Two layers of onion-­like concentric slabs form the basis of this world. The larger of these slabs extends around the outside and looks roughly like what our modern conception of earth is. However, Russian doll–like, within this globe is another smaller globe. The mystery deepens as, when one looks at the conscientiously marked poles, there is an absence of land, through which, with pseudogeometrical precision, the sun and moon can penetrate. Around the circular, double-­layered globes are vast territories

Beyond Space


of blankness, as yet untouched by the cartographer’s pen, as outer and inner space immerse one another. It would be tempting, initially, to read the plot of Symzonia generally, and the frontispiece image specifically, through the lens of transnational critique. Gretchen Murphy offers an approach of this sort: for her Symzonia is a satire of the imperial urge to rationalize all space in the name of trade and territorial expansion. As Seaborn journeys into the center of the earth, into those blank spaces at the edge of the known, we essentially meet with another iteration of the “cartographic narrative.” The imperial map takes over everything.13 Within this mode, an image like the above essentially functions allegorically, standing in for a hidden imperial political drama that is now familiar. Indeed, the image is recognizable to us in these sorts of analytical terms: it follows, after all, the imperialist urge to rationalize, partition, and render homogeneous global space. Even if we are to reject the particular political setup here, which renders mapping and imperialism equivalent, the homology that equates maps and space remains intact. But if we look again, and scrutinize what is not there yet visible, an absence that is manifest and right before us but perhaps harder to notice for that, we can discover something different.14 To do so is to reveal what is hiding in plain sight: this is not a complete globe. Instead huge swaths of the page are taken up with emptiness. In its very incompletion, in those vast slabs of blank, white space, this image tells us that the logic of the “cartographic narrative” was as yet incomplete. In the most basic geographical sense, this is not a globe in which the map has extended everywhere: blanks, internal and external, fringe the edges of the mapped, while a vast emptiness surrounds the globe. The world as we know it now had not yet arrived. To adopt the language of Marxist theorist Raymond Williams, this is a vision of the world, and by extension the cartographical imagination, that is “in an embryonic phase,” at a moment “before” it is “fully articulate and defined.” For Williams, what this means is that there are certain elements of society that “do not have to await definition, classification, or rationalization before they exert palpable pressures and set effective limits on experience and on action.”15 In other words, to read the image through this lens is to reveal that the “cartographic narrative” is neither fully articulate nor fully fledged at the moment at which this image was made, even if it nonetheless directs social and cultural expression in particular ways. At this point, we can begin to shade the map with some historical coloration. The unknown blanks on the Symzonian globe refer to the Antarctic



world that lay beyond James Cook’s somewhat mythological ne plus ultra— the southernmost point of the map where it seemed that exploration had to stop. As ships arrived in the Antarctic on the few expeditions that headed that way, and perhaps, we can speculate, on the endless, unrecorded encounters of early capitalist exploration— Melville had it that “the whale-­ship has been the pioneer in ferreting out the remotest and least known parts of the earth” and “has explored seas and archipelagoes which had no chart”16—they eventually found themselves confronted with a limit, a point at which, quite literally, the map stopped, where the ice meant that they could go no further. Here another reality began. The explorer Benjamin Morrell wrote, “it is a remarkable fact that the most interesting section of this terraqueous globe still remains unexplored, and almost totally unknown,” before going on to call the fact that they possessed “so little accurate knowledge” of “the polar regions of the southern hemisphere” a “reproach to every civilized country.”17 At the very least, this statement directs us to consider what it means to think transnationally about space in an age when, as yet, not all world space was known. To employ the lexicon of cartography, then, comes freighted with a conceptual universe that is not fully commensurate with the reality of the nineteenth century. Reading the image in this way grants us the corrective that the “cartographic narrative,” in a quite literal sense, was not as fully developed in the nineteenth century as contemporary transnational discourse appears to assume, although it was undeniably still operational. In the nineteenth century, maps of the world were often incomplete, provisional, full of gaps, speculations, and half-­truths. As the Symzonian map suggests, those forms of geographical action—exploring expeditions, mass national mapping, cosmic stargazing, oceanography—though prevalent, were by no means total in their effects or their hold over culture. The  historical specifics of the nineteenth century invite us to  take seriously the claim that transnational thinking in this era was as much an imaginative position, involving speculation, fantasy, the unknown, and the “unmapped,” as a set of knowable geographical routes for cultural, political, and economic exchange. That a considerable number of people, on the basis of this incomplete knowledge, thought that the earth was hollow should not be dismissed as aberrant or diminished as an assumed point of progression on our own journey toward modernity.18 This observation on the effects of the unmapped globe opens up a more profound point. It suggests that the logic of the “cartographic narrative,” which is to say the cartographic as a mode of thinking, may not have been as

Beyond Space


total as we have previously thought. That this was the case alerts us to the fact that there was an alien, almost unrecognizable form of spatial perception in circulation. Mapping and spatial perception, in this framework, are not interchangeable; one does not necessarily require the other. If we detach spatial perception from the map, we can gain access into a now faded phenomenological universe in which to perceive space was not necessarily to think in terms of the logic of cartography. That this might be true generates a critical injunction for us to name these different ways of perceiving the world and to explore how they might evoke a different sociopolitical universe. Building on this observation, we can go a step further and make some bolder claims. If we flip Williams’ statement on its head, rather than looking toward those elements of past culture that would soon come to be dominant, rationalized, and ossified and so trace the origins of these eventually triumphant modes, we might instead look toward the past to discover those forms of spatial consciousness that failed to produce a future. We should pay heed to those perceptive modes that came to be drowned out, cast aside, in the relentless tide of forward historical progression (in this narrative associated with the eventual sovereignty of the map) but nonetheless existed alongside that which become dominant.19 As Dana Luciano has recently argued, “multiple formations” can exist within the “‘same’ space” and to give critical voice to them can “activate it differently.”20 One of those modes, the image of the Symzonian globe, may be a starting point in the discovery of a form of spatial consciousness that evades the logic of cartography entirely (even as it existed within a shared intellectual terrain). To discover this alternative mode of perceiving space is to disrupt and activate differently the triangular relationship between map, mind, and text on which the “cartographic narrative” has depended. Doing so might allow us to discover places that existed outside of the map, as well as forms of spatial consciousness that emerged from and mediated such zones. Here I am adapting Peter Coviello’s productive diagnosis of the “earliness” of nineteenth-­century America, particularly with regard to sexuality: for him, our capacity to bear witness to the erotic life of the nineteenth century is deleteriously affected by applying paradigms of sexual behavior that emerged subsequent to it with the public, scientific, and legal codification of sexuality after the Wilde trial. Instead, he argues we ought to focus on those modes of erotic being that are, to our modern eyes, so radically unfamiliar as to be almost out of sight, but that nonetheless produced forms of emotional, affective, and bodily belonging. “What if,” he asks, “the sexual possibilities dreamed into being in the era before sexology proved not to be amenable to the forms of



sexual subjectivity and sexual specificity that would, in fact, arrive?”21 What Coviello does for sex, I want to do here for space (or at least to provide some introductory notes for what such an enterprise might look like). The point here is not so much that the past was different—though that truth, simple to the point of glibness, should always be kept in mind—but more that the past contains acorns of unactivated historical potential which might have, under different conditions, developed a different shape for history and, if foregrounded, grant us prismatic and refractive understandings of the workings of the historical mind.22 Indeed, to further relativize the discussion, as much work of social anthropology has demonstrated, historical distance is not the only variable in play, but geographical provenance is as well.23 Not only have we overstated the hold of the cartographical on nineteenth-­ century society, but also, crucially, its application has rendered invisible other forms of potentially more politically amenable forms of spatial perception that circulated simultaneously in that now distant but eerily recognizable era. If we accept that the cartographical imagination emerged in conjunction with the codification of an imperialist logic, then, by extension, to question the hold of the cartographic is, at the very least, to put forward dissonances within this logic and, more radically, to question the extent to which it actually had a hold over the nineteenth-­century mind. In this way, where transnationalist discourse has found more politically amenable modes located within a reorganized map, taking this approach might find sociopolitical possibilities that existed outside of it entirely. In contradistinction to the “cartographical narrative,” my term is the “beyond space,” both a critical injunction (to think beyond space) and an operative category of space in nineteenth-­century life (the beyond space). The beyond space refers, first, to those places where the logic of the map ceased to hold, second, to those zones where, perhaps, it never had taken hold, and, finally, to the sorts of forms of spatial perception that emerged in conjunction with these first two precepts and that, often, precede them (the cognitive “beyond space” of consciousness). To frame this in the language of geometry, we might think of the beyond space as a speculative fifth dimension that emerges from out of real space yet is not in thrall to its rules and that can, ultimately, transform them. If we stop assuming that there is an equivalence between the cartographical and the spatial, different methodologies that admit other forms of unmapped spatial perception enter into the discussion. These methods and forms of spatial consciousness, in turn, alter our understanding of the culture of the nineteenth century, particularly

Beyond Space


those fictions, of which there were many, with an aesthetic investment in the geographical. To circle back to the image of the hollow map that forms the opening of Symzonia, looking at that globe, I am drawn toward the strange overlaid geometry of the map, those parallel but untouching tectonic plates that curve around and within the earth, each of a subtly different thickness. I see also the strange, uneven, and irregular angularity of the lines that penetrate through the empty portals at the poles. More than anything else, I feel my eyes again gravitating toward those vast, hollow blank spaces that make up the bulk of the picture, that zone of emptiness that exists alongside the map of the known but, somehow, exceeds it. This space was a geographical reality, the icy, inaccessible, unmappable zone beyond the ne plus ultra. Yet, it was more than that, more than ­simply a wall that surrounded an as yet unexplored zone. Rather, the ne plus ultra was as much as an epistemological threshold as an actual one.24 It was a point that if traversed, either in reality or imaginatively, led into a domain of knowledge qualitatively distinct from what existed elsewhere in the known world. As Benjamin Morrell wrote, when he tried to explain how and why the Antarctic region had remained unexplored, “Some, it is said, have even been deterred by a superstitious notion that an attempt to reach the South Pole was a presumptuous intrusion on the awful confines of nature,—an unlawful and sacrilegious prying into the secrets of the great Creator” (Four Voyages, 29). Similarly, Richard Henry Dana Jr., in describing the huge icebergs that speckled the southern zones of the Pacific, reflected on how the lived reality of seeing an iceberg exceeded any pre-­extant representational tools that he, or anyone else, might possess: “No pencil,” for him, “has ever yet given anything like the true effect of an iceberg” as “the picture cannot give” any sense of “their chief beauty and grandeur,” which for him consists in “their slow, stately motion; the whirling of the snow about their summits, and the fearful groaning and cracking of their parts.”25 Dana’s lines here are particularly instructive, as they are focused on a question of space: his existing conceptions of geography, art, and writing simply cannot adequately capture either the movement or the sublime size of these icebergs that he sees nomadically wandering the seas from out of the Antarctic abysses. This question of space and representation would come to fascinate those authors who chose to write about the Antarctic beyond space. The foremost epistemological threshold that writers constantly returned to in their invocations of the Antarctic world beyond the ne plus ultra was a spatial one.



The space on one side and the space on the other were, somehow, different. As they crossed the boundary between the known, mapped world and the unknown Antarctic, they gave voice to an alternative spatial consciousness that disconnected itself from the imperatives and logic of cartography entirely. The terms by which Symzonia and Edgar Allan Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, another speculative Antarctic narrative, describe their respective journeys into the region are instructive in this regard. In both of these books, the narrators obsessively chronicle and standardize space (perhaps somewhat speciously in Poe’s case) while heading toward the Antarctic. Pym, for instance, writes of the Kerguelen Islands that “The entrance is in latitude 48° 40' S., longitude 60° 6' E.”;26 of Nightingale Island that “the smallest and most southerly” of a cluster of islands “is in latitude 37° 26' S., longitude 12° 12' W” (1121); and of an almost mythical set of islands that “The most northern is in latitude 52° 37' 24'' S., longitude 47° 43' 15'' W.; the middle one in latitude 53° 2' 40'' S., longitude 47° 55' 15'' W.; and the most southern in latitude 53° 15' 22'' S., longitude 47° 57' 15'' W” (1123). Similarly, before arriving in the Antarctic, Pym displays an aesthetic sensibility that celebrates images of order, homogeneity, and geometrical standardization in nature. The nest of the penguin is, for him, exemplary. He takes time to minutely describe the eerie designs of their abodes. In making their nests, “the birds proceed, with one accord, and actuated apparently by one mind, to trace out, with mathematical accuracy, either a square or other parallelogram” before they “partition out the whole area into small squares exactly equal in size” to create a society that is as orderly as any map ever made with there being “At each intersection of these paths the nest of an albatross . . . and a penguin’s nest in the centre of each square—thus every penguin is surrounded by four albatrosses, and each albatross by a like number of penguins” (Pym, 1118). Adam Seaborn was equally impressed by them: “The contemplation,” he tells us, “of these orderly, discreet, and beautiful amphibian, afforded me much pleasure” (Symzonia, 34) as they adumbrate the perfection of the civilization that must exist within the hollow earth. The standardized uniform geometries of the map, parceling out land into exact coordinates, reign supreme at this point. And, given that these patterns seem to occur intuitively within nature, they evolve from a state of historical particularity into that of eternal truth. However, the situation changes on the passing of the ne plus ultra. As they enter into the unmapped “beyond space” of the Antarctic, they find a world untethered from the normal rules of the map and so provide, in Hester Blum’s

Beyond Space


words, an example of the “weird, expansive promise of thinking of holes at the poles.”27 As she has suggested, we can think of the polar regions as countersites for modernity that generate alternative social and intellectual formations. For her, the self-­sustaining cultures that evolve on board on journeys to the polar regions lead to categories associated with the dawn of political modernity, particularly the nation-­state and the public sphere, getting differently aggregated.28 The same applies for space. This is a zone of dizzying perspectives, disproportion, varying scales, warped shapes, fluid geometries, and resistant lengths, which all lack any shared spatial standard or frame of reference that might render them uniform. Cartographic measurement no longer holds and the tools associated with it stop functioning: “The compass was now of no manner of use; the card turned round and round on the slightest agitation of the box, and the needle pointed sometimes one way and sometimes another, changing its position every five minutes” (Symzonia, 78). Similarly, Pym enters into the beyond space precisely at the moment when he and his shipmates’ commitment to cartographic standardization gets called into question. Having looked for islands minutely chronicled by previous explorers with a view to confirming their existence, he concedes that, after a careful search, “we were thoroughly satisfied that, whatever islands might have existed in the vicinity at any former period, no vestige of them existed in the present day” (Pym, 1124). The map ceases to communicate truth and instead, in an ironic reversal, starts to look something like a fiction or, at the very least, an entity whose claims on reality are partial, provisional, and contingent. With the map cast aside, both Pym and Seaborn meet with a reality no longer reducible to cartography. It becomes impossible to assign size to objects. Instead, there are invocations of measureless landscapes that exceed representation (Pym sees “a limitless floe” [Pym, 1131], “absolute mountains” [Pym, 1131], a “limitless cataract” [Pym, 1179] and owns that he has “no means of accurate examination” [Pym, 1164] for measuring distance; Seaborn comments on the view of a “boundless prairie” [Symzonia, 63] that greets him in this new world). Similarly, disproportionately sized animals speckle the landscape, their very bodies seeming warped and out of shape (for Pym, “a gigantic creature of the race of the Arctic bear, but far exceeding in size the largest of these animals” [Pym, 1132], “a singular-­looking land animal. It was three feet in length, and but six inches in height, with four very short legs” [Pym, 1135], a shrouded figure “very far larger in its proportions than any dweller among men” [Pym, 1179]; Seaborn finds “enormous bones” [Symzonia, 69] and his men flee a large animal).



Underpinning such observations is an extreme state of geographical dislocation.29 The characters seek to locate themselves in a world that is incommensurate with, and perhaps even resistant to, conventional cartographical techniques. As he heads southward, finding, to his surprise, the climate growing ever more temperate, Pym reflects that although this experience was little “in accordance with the generally-­received-­notions respecting the Antarctic,” it was, nonetheless, “a fact experience would not permit us to deny” (Pym, 1175). Unmapped reality clashes with the prior “truths” of mapped space. Similarly, Seaborn says of his crew that “They were perfectly bewildered; they knew not which way was north, south, east, or west” (Symzonia, 79) with one member going so far as to say “that we were near the equator, and must soon make the continent of Asia, Africa, America, or the Asiatic islands” (Symzonia, 81). Lacking any standard model to refer to as they journey into the beyond space, both Pym and Seaborn’s crew experience a reality in which proximity, distance, and location are relative and variable. The map simply does not work in this place. That space becomes fluid in this way opens up the possibility of homologous social reorganizations in a political reality that is suddenly terrifyingly malleable. If something as seemingly solid as space can be reordered as though it were merely a variable in a complex equation, so too can seemingly rigid sociopolitical distinctions get similarly reorganized. As such, in both Pym and Symzonia, the Antarctic beyond space becomes a palimpsest for radical experimentation that seeks to remake reality anew and on different terms and which grapples, to use Seaborn’s words, with a political “state of things . . . beyond the limits of possibility” (Symzonia, 129) in the utopian space of the Antarctic. In both cases, when the narrative goes beyond the limit, it comes, gravitationally, to orbit about issues of racial hierarchy in particular.30 Pym makes particularly clear the triangular link between the metamorphic capacity of the beyond space, the realization of an alternative social reality, and race. It does so through its description of how the local people of Tsalal rid themselves of Pym’s exploring comrades. To do so, they take advantage of a unique geological strata formation in a valley to collapse rocks onto the white crew as they journey through it. To phrase this event structurally, in this Antarctic beyond space a miraculous and total act of spatial reorganization, one that quite radically remakes the landscape of Tsalal, leads to an equivalent redistribution of power, away from the commercial, imperialist, and racist hierarchies of exploration toward that of the colonized people. In an imperial

Beyond Space


world system predicated on the hierarchical relationships between center/ periphery, white/Other, here/there, now/then, this act creates an inversion of existing power relations in favor of those peoples who would normally have fallen prey to the excesses of imperialist exploration. It does so by inverting the standard relationship of the era between race and power. Poe’s invocation of the “savages” being “both before and behind us in our progress through the ravine” (Pym, 1151) upsets progressive narratives of imperialism, which— as Johannes Fabian argued—depends on dividing the world according to a logic of time that denies the claims of the colonized to modernity (Time). They are simultaneously before and after the white colonizer in ways that upsets and transcends progressive history. Although the relationship between space, politics, and race is not as fully articulated in Symzonia, the hollow of the earth nonetheless is a space of racial inversion, even if such an inversion works to ossify extant racial hierarchies. Confronted with the astonishingly white and delicate skin of the Symzonians, the white Seaborn feels what it is like to live in a position of racial abjection: he speaks of how “it was my dark and hideous appearance that created so much distrust amongst these beautiful natives” (Symzonia, 107) for, when comparing himself with one local, he realized that “the sootiest African does not differ more from us in darkness of skin and grossness of features than this man did from me in fairness of complexion and delicacy of form” (Symzonia, 108). Race, like the space that surrounds it, and the maps that had ordered both in an era of geographical determinism, becomes less a categorical distinction that a relative entity that can be endlessly repurposed and reoriented. It is the beyond space that allows this to occur. Christopher Castiglia has called for an “aesthetics beyond the actual” in which we move beyond the realist imperatives of the nineteenth-­century novel, and the modes of critique which grew out of it, into unmapped zones of creative possibility.31 What we get in the beyond space of the Antarctic is a literalization of such an aesthetic, one that not only writers imagined but which certain explorers, mariners, and laborers could come face to face with at the limit of the known world. Indeed, it is tempting to think of this particular beyond space, almost perfectly white, waiting to be defined, as something like the page as yet unwritten upon before the moment of creation, an entity replete with counterfactual, open possibility—indeed, the events on Tsalal represent for Pym as much a “crisis of fancy” (Pym, 1170) in which events of such novelty occur that “we could scarcely believe in their reality” (Pym, 1172).



By unmapping the triangular relationship between map, space, and text that has underpinned much transnational critique of the nineteenth-­century United States, we are able to enter into actual, imagined, and theoretical zones of creative and political possibility that are otherwise simply off the map. Untethering space from the map reveals to sight potentialities that go beyond the imperialist urge that had such a prominent role in creating these same maps. This observation by no means seeks to deny the political advances made in the name of transnationalism—from cosmopolitanism to nomadism—nor to add to the sense that transnationalism as a mode might be in its end times.32 Rather, by opening out transnationalism into zones that exceed the limited logic and lexicon of the map, we can reanimate it and extend it by allowing it access to not only new geographical domains but critical ones too. Taking this approach has the potential to make all space essentially transnational, insofar as any place can always be alive and layered with the capacity for transformations that cut against or reorganize dominant ideological terms. Accepting the potential universality of such a possibility might even have the effect of rejuvenating our own political present as it encourages us to look for our own “beyond spaces,” which, silently, invisibly, exist alongside and within the map, awaiting, as those now lost nineteenth-­century pasts, their miraculous reactivation. As Adam Seaborn knew, it is in the beyond space that utopia can begin.


Exorbitant Optics and Lunatic Pleasures Timothy Marr

In the beginning all the World was America. —John Locke, 1690 The whole world’s a ball, as you scholars have it. —Old Manx Sailor in Moby-­Dick

Washington Irving claims he stayed up late at night wondering whether scientists on the moon would discover and civilize our globe. He sympathizes in Knickerbocker’s History of New York with the humanity of American Indians by satirically equating the arrival of European ships with the aerial invasion of earth from the moon. These visitants find our “obscure little dirty planet” to be a “howling wilderness” whose denizens imbibe their gift of nitrous oxide and “are utterly destitute of tails, and of a variety of unseemly complexions, particularly of horrible whiteness, instead of pea-­green.” The imperial Man in the Moon commands his settlers “to use every means to convert these infidel savages from the darkness of Christianity, and make them thorough and absolute Lunatics.” When we humans resist, they “hunt us with hippogriffs, transfix us with concentrated sun-­beams, demolish our cities with moon-­ stones,” until the converted remnant is offered a refuge in either the desert of Arabia or the ice of Lapland.1 Irving’s imagination exemplifies exorbitance because it delivers an extraplanetary ambit that distances cultural habits in ways that reveal outlandish angles of fresh perspective. The widely circulated 1972 image of the



earth taken from Apollo 17 materialized a parallax view of the planet from outer space as a “blue marble” that opened up new dispositions for planetary allegiance and environmental activism. My dual notions of National Geographic both were exploded after I unfolded that magazine’s 1983 map of a “Journey into the Universe Through Space and Time,” which graphically dramatized several mind-­blowing leaps of scale: the Earth nested within the solar system, but then the sun becoming a speck circling the Milky Way, itself then made miniscule within the ironically named “Local Group” of other clustered galaxies whose mighty magnitudes themselves paled before receding quasars. Even before this map, David Bowie’s “Major Tom,” who is “floating in a most peculiar way / . . . Far above the moon,” and Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” who is “burning out his fuse up here alone,” sang the existential fantasy of an individual speciously speaking back to “Ground Control” from the special sweep of space.2 The Irish Mexican philosopher Edmundo O’Gorman mused that the emergence of the peripheral American hemisphere in European worldviews first invented the capacity to view “the whole surface of the terraqueous globe . . . as a continuous whole.”3 Such powerful perspectivism helped to enable the designs of global imperialism, yet these horizons also unmoored the latitudes of imagination from the physical contours of the planet itself. Paul Giles’ The Global Remapping of American Literature posits the period before the Civil War as a transnational era when the boundless boundaries of the United States were unstable in ways that rendered its literary productions incapable of being contained by notions of the national.4 The unmapped aspects of antebellum America licensed literary writers to spawn inordinate vantages on the world. These exorbitant imaginations exposed readers to replenishing scopes and scales that refracted sublunary provincialisms within more critical, cosmic, and, in Irving’s case, comic relief. Thoreau, an exemplar of this earlier extravagance, writes how the strange irradiation of moonlight not only affects the tides of ocean and thought but also deracinates all humans “intellectually and morally” into an absurd collective of “Albinos.”5 A fascinating invocation of interorbital imagination can be seen in a lesser-­known work often considered the first American work of science fiction. George Tucker was a Bermuda-­born three-­term congressman whom Thomas Jefferson appointed as the first Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Virginia. (Jefferson described his interdisciplinary job offer as “mental sciences generally, including Ideology, general grammar, logic and Ethics”—belles lettres, rhetoric, and political economy were added later!) In

Exorbitant Optics and Lunatic Pleasures


1827, when Tucker was living in Pavilion IX on the Charlottesville campus, he penned his Voyage to the Moon, his account of “the People of Morosofia, and Other Lunarians.” One of Tucker’s students was Edgar Allan Poe, who borrowed elements of Tucker’s voyage when in 1835 he penned “The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall” to the moon.6 Tucker’s book begins with the narrator Joseph Atterley escaping his woes after his wife’s death, experiencing shipwreck in Siam, where he is held captive in an interior valley named Mozaun (21). There he befriends a venerable Hindu Brahmin known as the “Holy Hermit” (23) who shares a Sanskrit secret about a metal named “lunarium,” a substance that obeys the principle of earthly repulsion rather than gravitation and, because it is also attracted by the moon, empowers atmospheric flight (44). The pair navigates a primordial spaceship running on lunarium to the moon, where they find inhabitants who differ no more from terrestrials “than did the Hottentot from the Parisian” (37–38). One animated group of Lunarians, called Glonglims, each mysteriously absorbs and shares half the intelligence of an earthly counterpart (38). The narrator cites proof of this correspondence in residual forms of English expression that suggest lunatic resonances: one who is “moonstruck” is “distracted” and “deranged,” a “man beside himself,” whose mind “wanders” and who is “out of his head” (41). Tucker’s Swiftian satire extends human folly to the moon as he ludicrously compares the characters and tastes of Terrestrials and Lunarians. (One small example is that the garments of the Morosofs include turbans and are “light, loose, and flowing, and not very different from those of the Turks” (92). Part of the innovative perspectivism of Tucker’s work is the awe and delight his two travelers experience in rising above geography and transiting through the atmosphere into space as the earth spins beneath them. The panoramic view of the earth’s convex crust as it circulates below provokes conversations about natural difference between peoples and national character. For example, Atterley muses on the irony of Africa presenting a lighter hue because of the sands of the Sahara and that the physical size of a nation did not correspond with its worldly influence. When orbiting over the Pacific, the Brahmin tells how philosophers on the moon believe that their sphere was originally a fragment of the earth rejected from that mighty ocean that Herman Melville said “makes all coasts one bay to it.”7 The Hermit logically compares this disruption to the phenomenon of water separating and then coalescing into different-­size drops: “if they were composed of mingled solids and fluids, or if the solid parts rested on fluid, both the fragment



and the remaining earth would assume the same globular appearance they now present” (Voyage, 70). The book thus offers a radically secessionist cosmography where the earth fosters its own archipelagic satellite, materially expanding geology beyond the boundaries of the manifest planet. That astrophysicists presently consider the moon to be constituted from debris released from a collision of earth with another protoplanet seems on the surface to be equally implausible or ridiculous. So does the gradual tectonic separation of Gondwanaland, which produced John McPhee’s remarkable contention that Pilgrim Rock itself was a geological migrant from the British Isles or even Africa.8 As the Brahmin argues, “it is often difficult in science to distinguish Truth from the plausibility which personates her” (Voyage, 74). Similar to how Tucker illustrates the King of Siam and an American Indian chief each refusing to admit the existence of ice, his Voyage to the Moon fluidly dramatizes how “credulity and scepticism are indeed but different names for the same hasty judgment on insufficient evidence” (10). The lunar projections of Irving and Tucker imaginatively extend recent attempts of American studies to decenter national frames of allegiance. Moving beyond the bounds of the planet errantly (and arrantly) exposes the limits of both transatlantic and transpacific studies that, despite their abilities to world out pioneering cross-­hemispheric approaches, occlude what Emily Dickinson called “certain Slant[s] of light.”9 They dramatize an emergent parallactic shift important to planetary practices, one that denaturalizes U.S. Americans into ethnic others (while estranging their practices) in ways that resemble how Americans first appeared to others across the globe forced to encounter the newness of their alien difference within the frames of their own cultures. Mikhail Bakhtin noted that we might need the foreign to be able to more fully fathom ourselves. Bakhtin wrote that “in the realm of culture, outsidedness [one of the English forms of his Russian word vnenakhodimost’] is a most powerful factor in understanding” because “our real exterior can be seen and understood only by other people, because they are located outside us in space and because they are others.”10 Such alterity is often obstructed by powerfully provincial proclivities, some even pretending to be human or universal, that eclipse these angles from being glimpsed. Portuguese sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santos’s notion of “abyssal thinking” is useful for understanding this invisibility. Any radical difference is charted as incommensurable by a logic that defines social reality and civility as a “we” or an “us” that exists “this side of the abyssal line.” The copresences with realities on

Exorbitant Optics and Lunatic Pleasures


the other side of the line vanish into an abyss and are in fact rendered nonexistent, such as the heathen left beyond the pale and the barbarians beyond the gate. Such a process of power produces “cognitive injustice” as well as diminishes human diversities.11 Part of the epistemological range that often falls on the other side of the line is the human heritage of connection with the power of extraterrestrial forces. These connections were once conceived through metaphysics, mythology, and other forms of knowing that scientific modernity has since superseded, ironically by calling them hermetic. That is to say, the scope of the extraplanetary itself is too often an abyssal blind spot, which applies even to notions of the Anthropocene that endow humans with excessive agency to alter if not control geological and atmospheric transformations. Valuable here is Nigel Clark’s notion of “ex-­orbitant globality,” which “extends the destabilization of regional or national boundedness by social theorists to the perimeters of the planet.”12 It imagines the transit of the planet beyond earthly coordinates such that even transnationalism’s seemingly expansive comparativity becomes bound to the very provinciality of ideology it was designed to escape, what William Rasch calls a “systemic solipsism.”13 A sphere that is not planetary is by definition exceptional. The earth, only one sphere that circulates among and within many—almost all so distant as to be ungraspable—is rendered in relief into what Emerson called a “diminutive speck utterly invisible from the nearest star,” and what one stellar photo has registered (after Carl Sagan) as a “pale blue dot” that appears smaller than a pixel, infinitesimal amid the vastness of space.14 Clark sees the planet not as a bounded system of insularity but as one of many systems “open to the rest of the universe.”15 Terrestrial space is constantly bombarded by cosmic and inhuman processes whose eccentric variations cannot be controlled or measured. The irruptive impact of the ongoing showering of stellar objects (like the one that formed the moon) intimates a disaster much greater than any damage humans might cause. (Disaster’s etymological root, “aster,” connotes the catastrophic calamity caused by the unfortunate situation of a star.) For Clark such perviousness produces the “precariousness of embodied life” in ways that suggest how “our humanness might be in our sensuous and somatic susceptibility to a violating exteriority.”16 Twenty-­first-­century Americans have largely replaced knowledges that previously aided people, such as those in antebellum America, to ordinate themselves more widely in space and time. Such skills have become residual if not abyssal. The authority of the almanac has evaporated and been replaced



by the technes of artificial light, regimented time, and meteorological forecasting, not to mention the (p)latitudes of popular astrology. Gayatri Spivak asserts about “planet-­thought” that “If we imagine ourselves as planetary creatures rather than global entities, alterity remains underived from us; it is not our dialectical negation, it contains us as much as it flings us away.”17 One of the roles of the artist is to try, nevertheless, to create ways to imagine and expose erratic angles out of the abyss in part to reveal the insularities of insufficient universality. This seems to me to be one of the achievements of Henry David Thoreau as a mobilizer of exorbitant optics he called “home-­cosmography.” He anticipates the science of postplanetary new materialism explained by Nigel Clark when he announces that “There are perturbations in our orbits produced by the influence of outlying spheres, and no astronomer has ever yet calculated the elements of that undiscovered world which produces them.”18 Thoreau animated ideas of “extravagance” and “sauntering” as ways of expressing the imaginative reach of his material transcendentalism. Thoreauvian extravagance allied the vagaries of expressiveness with vagrancy of expansiveness, each word derived from the Latin vagari, to rove, roam, or wander. Interestingly, the equivalent Greek word for wander is the root of the word “planet.” Thoreau averred that “the universe is wider than our views of it” and that extravagant thinking wanders away from the isthmus of self and culture to discover a new scope of unexplored worlds whose magnificence recasts earthly empire as no more than “a hummock left by the ice.”19 He questions, “What are the earth and all its interests beside the deep surmise which pierces and scatters them?” Geography is by nature and definition written on to the earth, yet “an always unexplored and infinite region makes off on every side from the mind, further than to sunset” (Week, 292). In contrast to Horace Greeley’s call to “Go West, young man!” and Walt Whitman’s transpacific gaze back around the earth’s “rondure” to mother India in “Facing West from California’s Shores,” Thoreau’s mind keeps essaying its migration beyond the map: “Start now on that farthest western way, which does not pause at the Mississippi or the Pacific, nor conduct toward a wornout China or Japan, but leads on direct, a tangent to this sphere, summer and winter, day and night, sun down, moon down, and at last earth down too” (Walden, 597). In his essay “Walking,” Thoreau offers “sauntering” as such a radiating pilgrimage away from the map of the ordinary. He extravagantly imagines its etymology as French, sans terre—without earth—to intimate that such a strolling circulation makes one “equally at home everywhere.”20 Thoreau figured that the

Exorbitant Optics and Lunatic Pleasures


cosmic infusion of “incessant influx of novelty into the world” necessitated a corresponding language of exaggeration: “I desire to speak somewhere without bounds. . . . The volatile truth of our words should continually betray the inadequacy of the residual statement” (Walden, 586, 580–581). Thoreau is suggesting an expression of unruliness that cannot be coordinated on charts or defined by words, similar to the “true space” of Queequeg’s Kokovoko that is “not down on any map” (Moby-­Dick, 55). Thoreau asserts that “there is a nature behind the ordinary, in which we have only some vague preemption right and western reserve as yet. We live on the outskirts of that region,” and that “even this earth was made for more mysterious and nobler inhabitants than men and women” (Week, 311, 306). “We hug the earth—how rarely we mount!” wrote Thoreau, “Give me a wildness whose glance no civilization can endure” (“Walking,” 253, 240). Thoreau also speaks of his perennial “desire to bathe my head in atmospheres unknown to my feet” in order to experience the “novel and grand surprise on a sudden revelation of the insufficiency of all that we have called knowledge before” (“Walking,” 250).21 Thoreau queries, “Who knows where in space this globe is rolling?”, responding, “Yet we will not give ourselves up for lost, let it go where it will” (Week, 150), and “The roving mind impatiently bursts the fetters of astronomical orbits, like cobwebs in a corner of its universe, and launches itself to where distance fails to follow. . . . The mind knows a distance and a space of which all those sums combined do not make a unit of measure” (Week, 314). Strolling as a vagabond with Melville reveals similar pleasures. Melville’s latitudinal travels were revolutionary, but they also expanded a vertical axis to his worlding that stretched from the abyssal to the cosmic. The explosion engendered a creative provisionalism that ruptured provincial truth-­claims, much as the appearance of a different set of constellations in the South Seas revealed hidden heavens blocked to those in the northern hemisphere. Melville joined in the promiscuous minglings of sailors, roving across oceans by means of “celestial trigonometry,” but differed from most sailors whom he said “only go round the world without going into it.”22 Melville’s cosmic disruption reordinated his sense of allegiance, as noted in his pledge in White-­Jacket that “we expatriate ourselves to nationalize with the universe.”23 In Mardi (1849), Melville allegorized Polynesia (“many islands”) into an outlandish world that contains the rest of the earth’s geography, another imaginative projection of the Pacific into another sphere. “In other planets, perhaps, what we deem wrong, may there be deemed right,” White-­Jacket asserts, “even as some substances, without undergoing any mutations in themselves, utterly change



their color, according to the light thrown upon them” (186). During the half century when Melville was traveling and writing, scientific developments in geology, astronomy, and natural history quickened the dissolution of earthly fixity, presenting a bewildering chaos that untethered the planet into a “loose fish” in deep time (Moby-­Dick, 398). The planet performed its Greek etymology as a nomadic wanderer radically astray in an unknowable cosmos, a spinning eccentric outpost shaken by the frenzied flux of its own fluid depths and eruptions. Melville has the Mardian sage Bardianna voice the commotion of this unsettling vertigo: “There is neither apogee nor p ­ erigee . . . what to-­night is our zenith, tomorrow is our nadir; stand as we will, we stand on our heads.” “Much of the wisdom here below,” Melville attested in Mardi, “lives in a state of transition.”24 Let me conclude by celebrating how the diversions and digressions of literary art help to empower expatiation and expatriation as mutually correspondent processes for deterritorializing imagination. Literary prevarication sheers forth a parabolic transgression in which attitudes of wondering are creatively aligned with circuits of wandering. Any determination of what is exceptional, be it America or the world, depends on that effaced clause that haunts the denotative sentence with the possible reappearance of its unspoken enigma. Such a deviant passage radiates exorbitantly from an abyssal space that strays beyond the charts of both grammar and geography. The narrator of Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter’s “Standing on the Moon” watches the conflicts of the earth “all roll by” from a lunar lookout from where the Gulf of Mexico is “as tiny as a tear,” where “talk is cheap and vision true,” on which “Old Glory” is “standing stiffly / crimson, white, and indigo.” “A lovely view of heaven,” he exults, “but I’d rather be with you.”25


The Other South: Time, Space, and Counterfactual Histories of the Civil War Matthew Pratt Guterl

Let me give you the genealogy of another South. Not the one you surely already know—not, that is, the South of Dixie, moonlights, magnolias, and air-­conditioning. Not, either, the South of the Civil Rights movement, of Citizen’s Councils, of Bloody Sunday and Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. Let me tell you how to read or understand a South that never was, a dreamland South imagined in fiction and film. A counterfactual South, in which the Civil War was won by slaveholders, and the Confederacy was victorious, and everything that came afterward was different. A South in which white supremacy had won everything, and in which the cause had never been lost. This counterfactual South emerges in many different genres and takes many different shapes. It appears in science fiction, is a staple of mainstream military histories, is a proving ground for a professional methodology, a wellspring of satire and critique, and looms as a pipe dream of the alt-­right. Over the long haul, from its origins in the early twentieth century, it dramatizes a conservative, nation-­based speculation, a sort of strategic anachronism for the legions of readers and thinkers who cultishly enthuse over “the old South” as a figment of some lost, virtuous, and libertarian past. Such a fever dream shadows, in unusual ways, our newer, more recent scholarship on the hemispheric, global South, on the circum-­Caribbean, and on the internationalism of a region wrongly remembered as provincial and narrow-­minded. In its vision of the slaveholder triumphant, it reinforces the nostalgia for the “Lost Cause,” that ideology of refusal, celebrating the losing side of the Civil War and fancifully ascribing to it a valor and dignity the historical record cannot support.1



The imperial counterfactual South—the postwar South that never was— looks very much like the hemispheric slaveholding South that actually was.2 And it offers a different timeline for those who study the ideologies of racial and regional loss that have shaped Jim Crow and its heirs. This essay exploits that parallelism and that dissonance and asks readers to think hard about the ways in which popular histories and fictions long dismissed as inconsequential, as mere “fantasy,” need to be picked up anew, as proof of the old hemispheric South’s survival over time. It asks us to think about time and space and to identify for scholarly scrutiny historic moments that never were and never will be but that are, by virtue of their public celebrity, ever present and disturbingly impactful.

The Counterfactual There, on the cover of Harry Turtledove’s 1992 novel, The Guns of the South, Robert E. Lee stands, wearing a somber gray suit and defiantly clutching an AK-­47. Lee is inside, framed by the arched stained-­glass window and a set of dark red curtains, in a library of some kind. There are leather-­bound books and other signifiers of a studious interior. But this sober and intelligent backdrop only calls our attention to that AK-­47, which seems defiantly out of place and deliberately out of time, inside and not outside, in the nineteenth century when it surely belongs to the twentieth. In the plot of the book—a fictional account, obviously—the C ­ onfederacy’s inevitable defeat is staved off by a cell of time-­traveling Afrikaners, who, in the waning days of apartheid, deliver crates of AK-­47s and other modern technologies to their nineteenth-­century forebears, hoping to change the course of the war and to ensure the perpetuation of white supremacy. Styling themselves as an organization known as America Will Break, these time-­ traveling champions of racial hierarchy create a garrison in a small Virginia town, regularly introducing new technologies into the war, and serving as mechanical and logistical guides to Lee. With the help of the shadowy AWB, the outcome of the war is altered, the South emerges victorious, and Lee becomes president of a once-­more United States. The provocative, disorienting cover image of The Guns of the South is a dramatic reimagining of a very different, much better-­known portrait of Lee, taken on Easter Sunday 1865, a week after his surrender at Appomattox. In the original black and white, Lee’s civilian clothes are a reminder of the war’s

The Other South


Figure 8.1. The cover of Harry Turtledove’s The Guns of the South. Reprinted with the permission of Penguin Random House.

recent ending. His face is gaunt and drawn and shadowed, in contrast to the image on Turtledove’s cover, where the man is flushed with color and vigorously healthy. His expression in the original is enigmatic, even sorrowful. He carries no weapon, no reminder of his previous status as commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. In his right hand—the same



Figure 8.2. The original image of Robert E. Lee. LC-­BH831-­565 Civil War photographs, 1861–1865, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

hand that clutches the stock of the automatic rifle on the cover of Turtledove’s novel—there is only a hat. He is defeated and demilitarized. The Guns of the South is a genre piece, a rip-­off—of sorts—of Harry Harrison’s A Rebel in Time, published in 1983. There, a racist military officer in the modern age, disenchanted with integration, travels back to the Civil War to deliver to the Confederacy an easily manufactured submachine gun. It is an echo, too, of the story of Twain’s engineer, Hank Morgan, in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, who delivers nineteenth-­century technologies to the Dark Ages, setting off a chain of events that leads, in the end, to war.

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As a broader genre, science fiction is replete with time travelers attempting to bring something “back in time,” all to change the course of history. “Rip-­off,” though, might be too strong, because we have read this story many times. Or other versions of it, at least. Any fan of science fiction would recognize the fascination with the paradoxes of time travel, of tampering with the past, or trying to change our present and our future. Any fan of Twain’s work would recognize the inevitable plot points at the end of the book, when the modern and the medieval (cloaked as the Afrikaner and the Confederate) collide in a battle that leaves dead men everywhere. Twain’s satire is present in the general sensation that the moral hubris of the modern is always doomed to fail spectacularly, especially when it is cast backward in time. In The Guns of the South, Robert E. Lee and Andries Rhoodie, Confederate and Afrikaner, are parallel agents of their various white supremacies. In a clever reversal of Twain’s Connecticut Yankee, Turtledove collapses the geographical and temporal distance between the American South (a stand-­in for medievalism) and its white settler cousin in southern Africa (here a technological marvel). The science fiction element—time travel—demands, as usual, a suspension of disbelief. But the idea that there is an ideological and historical connection between Lee and Rhoodie, between the future tense of apartheid and the past tense of Southern slavery, is naturalized. It needs no explanation. When Twain’s archetypal Yankee, Hank Morgan, wakes up in the Dark Ages, he hasn’t a clue how he was transported, but Rhoodie and his brethren arrive at Lee’s encampment by design, because they recognize that their twenty-­first-­century fate (they come from 2014) is bound up, inexorably, with that of the nineteenth-­century Confederacy. They have named their shadowy organization America Will Break and have defined themselves as stakeholders in the Confederate States of America. And we, the readers, aren’t meant to question the intelligence of that design. Of course, there is also a comparative angle in play, a reminder that if the presumed connection seems natural, apartheid was not, after all, quite the same as slavery. Turtledove, after bringing together Lee and Rhoodie, and setting them in a Civil War context that he presents as richly detailed and historically authentic, repeatedly stresses that, whatever their common cause, the leadership of the old CSA was decidedly more honorable and more humane than the new Afrikanerdom. Time and time again, Lee is portrayed as a principled, reserved humanist, capable of respecting the contributions of Black soldiers and of seeing their potential as citizens, and the Confederacy,



by extension, is offered up primarily as a defense of state’s rights, without much concern for slavery in particular. This familiar portrait, a staple of the cultish devotion to Lee among Confederate enthusiasts, is boldfaced and underscored, though, by the visceral hatred of anyone and anything Black evinced by the men of America Will Break, whose extremely vigorous prosecution of a race-­war-­within-­the-­civil-­war has the effect of making Southern slavery seem benign, even considerate or well-­intentioned. The Afrikaners, in short, are there to make the Confederates look good. The sympathetic rendering of the Confederacy smacks, as well, of a certain kind of recognizable, regional conservatism, in which the leadership of the traitorous, breakaway Southern republic, hopelessly addicted to slavery, is re-­presented—against the grain of the historical record—as heroic and patriotic. This “retconning” of Southern history—the revision of basic facts on the ground, through fiction—is a familiar, casual trope, so common and everyday that it barely attracts attention. “When Strom Thurmond ran for president,” Senator Trent Lott enthused, in one expression of it, “[Mississippi] voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had of followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either.”3 Depictions of the Confederacy as noble, principled, and righteous, celebrations of the Lost Cause that might have been victorious, but for one tiny detail at one battle, are a part of this iteration of conservatism. In The Guns of the South, then, it isn’t just that the Confederacy wins but also that Lee is redeemed, and he’s proven to be the man of honor at the center of every Lost Cause myth. The redrawn portrait on the cover of The Guns of the South is, in part, a wish. On the first, most immediate level, it is a wish for a healthier Robert E. Lee (he is given nitroglycerine tablets for his heart condition by his Boer conspirators). It is a speculative wish for a different result in the Civil War, too, or for a chance to try on a different past. But on a deeper level, it is also a wish for a distinctive—but familiar—postwar history, in which the South’s traditions— and especially its racial traditions—are either kept intact, reformed to make them more durable, or ended on the region’s own terms. It is, finally, a wish for a very different present buried within. When guitarist Ted Nugent, writing of the Obama presidency, opines that “it would have been best if the South had won the Civil War,” or when country singer Hank Williams Jr. sings that “if the South would’ve won, we’d have it made,” they express all of the levels of this speculative wish perfectly, in synchronicity, and in the broadest brushstrokes.4 As someone who has tried to understand the place of the South and the Confederacy in the larger world of the nineteenth century, I’m eager to think

The Other South


about counterfactual histories focused on the end of the Civil War, and to think about their relationship to the newer scholarship on the global Old/ New South. For me, Turtledove’s book was a muse of sorts, a proxy puzzle for my struggle to make sense of Madame Le Vert’s pan-­American literary salon, or Eliza McHatton’s opportunistic wartime relocation to Cuba. His reflexive use—and that of his coconspirators in the counterfactual genre—of the larger, less nation-­based canvas was both fascinating and unexpected. The point here is really that his presentation of a South with another possible history, and his wish to explore that other past, is astonishingly unoriginal. Fantasies of the counterfactual South are common, even ubiquitous. And in their rewriting of the narrative of the Civil War and its aftermath, they reveal a great deal about time and space and race. These things might be unoriginal, but they are also dangerously important. This fantasy of the other South is the kind of thing scholars of time and space should be studying. If the historic South is marked by global and hemispheric ambitions, by borderlands and other transnational contact zones, the South of Turtledove is temporally dislocated, productively misaligned with the present, with “history” as we know it and as we debate it. Productively misaligned, I say, because it represents an alternative timeline, departing from “what actually happened,” but sharing an origin point on a common plotline. In a way, then, the other South is a sort of alternate reality. Sometimes, too, the other South masquerades as history—as a counterfactual, attentive enough to the details that it seems like a formal, methodological exercise. Counterfactual histories, as a general rule, aren’t actually histories. They aren’t even nominally nonfiction, so they blur one of the conventional divisions of modern prose. Despite their repeated claims to legitimate historiographical work, they aren’t—and cannot be—bound by the same rules of evidence, or by any of the same scholarly practices. At best, their aim is to provide an imaginative hypothesis, or a sort of mathematical proof of the interpretive conventions of scholarly writing. Pursuing a range of what-­if scenarios, they purport to probe, or verify, what really mattered in any given moment, or to assess what factor, among many, prompted a major social or political or economic transformation. But in defining “what really mattered,” they also unwittingly reveal the author’s interest. Hence, Lee’s basic nobility (for Turtledove, “what really mattered”) is proven once Confederate victory is ensured—through the unsubtle addition of a submachine gun. The point is to highlight one variable as the most important.



Gadfly and contrarian Niall Ferguson, after noting that counterfactualism has been consistently rebuked as “unhistorical shit,” (E. P. Thompson) or “history written by sore losers” (E. H. Carr), suggests that the goal of “virtual history” (Ferguson’s preferred term) is, primarily, to challenge the simple, knee-­jerk assumptions of inevitability buried within the smug operations of the historical profession.5 Positioning himself as the most moral voice in the room, Ferguson claims to eschew the worst of counterfactual histories— the winking emphasis on the vast impact of a single, “trivial” factor—but he can’t escape the field’s dreamy, “would-­that-­it-­were-­otherwise” ethos. In this, counterfactualism functions less as a method than as an explicit politics, an expression of intellectual contrarianism, of bucking the mainstream. Richard Evans, dating the formal interest in counterfactual histories to the 1990s, dismisses them as a colossal waste of professional time but also suggests that their emergence has something to do with the end of the ideal of progress, and with its less certain and more vexing replacements. “Linear notions of time have become blurred,” he concludes, and “truth and fiction no longer seem such polar opposites as they once did.”6 There is also a decidedly conservative flavor to this material. Much of counterfactualism seems aimed at amateur military history enthusiasts, a group less interested, perhaps, in more recent disciplinary debates about the role of culture in shaping armed combat. But when it comes to the Civil War, counterfactuals are more tightly connected to ongoing political theater, to all-­too-­current debates about the meaning of the Civil War and the lessons of the Confederacy. Provocative imaginings of a Southern victory are generally premised not on fact-­checking the discipline of history, nor even of a study of military strategy, so much as they are nostalgic provocation in the aftermath of the Civil Rights movement. It is all too easy for bucking the mainstream to be translated into a nostalgic provocation, a conservative’s lament for the way things ought to be—or might have been, but for a quirk of fate. One does not, after all, celebrate the victory of the Confederacy in the United States innocently or without intent. As Catherine Gallagher has shown, more recent counterfactuals about the South have grown to look more like histories. Rich with facts and statistics and data points, they present some other Souths as more reasonable, or more historical, than others. Describing her visceral reaction to a viewing of Kevin Wilmot’s mockumentary, C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America, Gallagher struggles to explain (to herself) why Wilmot’s version seems, at first blush, “untrue,” and why other counterfactual representations—other “alternate

The Other South


timelines”—have the texture of accuracy and realness. In C.S.A., not only does Lee win, but slavery becomes a modern institution, featured in television shows and advertisements. These seemed, to Gallagher, metaphorically interesting but less accurate, or less logical, that the prevailing counterfactual thesis, which has been that chattel slavery would have died out even if the Confederacy had been victorious. In the end, after a survey of some of the key texts written about the other South, she realizes that her historical sensibilities cannot allow for a vision of the twenty-­first century in which slavery persists, that, in short, she has bought into the truth-­claims of the genre. Gallagher’s essay is a lovely, existential consideration of historical truth in the age of counterfactuals.7 This brings us back to Turtledove’s The Guns of the South, with its macho, Reagan-­era emphasis on oversized weapons and technological mastery, and its enthusiasm for Lee as an avatar of the true-­South-­that-­never-­was—and with its celebration of the Confederacy as a more reasonable iteration of white supremacy, and its implicit critique of Afrikanerdom as a wild-­eyed, death-­dealing cult of fanaticism. In a way, The Guns of the South was self-­ consciously meant as a reflection on the looming end of apartheid in the early 1990s, as state-­sponsored white supremacy seemed doomed and multiracial elections became a South African imperative. On a deeper level, though, it spoke directly to the Lost Cause mythos and to the notion that the Confederacy had fallen primarily because of missed opportunities, bad luck, and squandered chances. Offering the Afrikaner’s intervention as a force for positive change, the novel asked readers to entertain a set of speculative propositions, and by doing so it added flesh to those speculations, filling out the details of an alternate timeline. There is, I think, no aspect of counterfactual history and literature that is more deeply wrapped up—wittingly or unwittingly—in nostalgia for “the way things ought to be” than that which deals with the ending of the Civil War. No one writes, for instance, to see how the world would be different if the Union had won sooner. There is no speculative tradition that envisions the end of slavery at Philadelphia in 1787. But, to ask, as many of the oft-­ referenced works do, how it would be different if the Confederacy had won the war, or if Lee had won at Gettysburg, or if Stonewall Jackson hadn’t died of pneumonia, is, for many, also to desire, at some level, a different result. Perhaps not surprisingly, many of these counterfactual works—and Turtledove’s in particular—passionately strive for a level of historical accuracy in the little things, so much so that they remind one of the hardcore Civil War reenactors



so sympathetically described in Tony Horwitz's classic, Confederates in the Attic. To write of the South, Horwitz reminded his readers, is to write of a conquered nation with an interest in perpetuating its own insurgent histories, and the zeal for accuracy in these nonscholarly venues—private museums, reenactor events, and counterfactual fictions—is a soft declaration of faith in the insurgency.8

The Hemispheric Counterfactual histories or fictions proposing alternative endings of the Civil War are built around global and transnational and comparative plotlines. The first systematically researched comparative portraits of Southern slaveholding and the Civil War—Peter Kolchin’s work, for instance, or Herbert Klein’s—were so bracing, and so thrilling to read, precisely because they were a strong corrective to decades of rather parochial or nation-­based writing about the war and slavery9 and because, more recently, in a complementary set of inquiries, scholarship has only just reimagined the nineteenth-­century South, challenging the old and persistent orthodoxy that the lines on a map mark the appropriate borders of scholarly writing. Older histories rooted in the nation-­state made the mistake of too strictly confining the South within national borders, denying or ignoring global parallels and connections. They framed the Civil War as a purely domestic dispute with little international resonance, as a war of brothers. Better portraits, we now suggest correctively, would be global, comparative, hemispheric, and unbordered. Better, I write, not merely because such portraits more accurately reflect the great fullness of the historical record and the debates and concerns of the day, but also because they are generally more useful. And getting to these new portraits requires imagination, a willingness to think outside of the nation, to see what is often hidden in plain sight. From Winston Churchill’s contribution to If It Had Happened Otherwise, to Turtledove’s  The Guns of the South,  to the recent mockumentary C.S.A, the longstanding tradition in this genre has been to imagine that the South that lost the war was forced to become parochial, constrained, and limited, in contrast to the Old South that was and the New South that might have been. In Howard Mean’s C.S.A., a potboiler set in an alternate South, Grenada, Cuba, and the Caribbean are collectively known as “the territories,” run by “the Caribbean corporation.”10 In MacKinlay Kantor’s imagining, the staging

The Other South


of youthful filibustering excursions to Cuba continues as a Southern pastime until well after the Civil War, when a military incident (a Southernized version of the sinking of the Maine) prompts war with Spain and annexation.11 In historian Roger Ransom’s portrait, the CSA and Britain are competitors for hemispheric domination and control everything south of the Florida Keys.12 In How Few Remain, another Turtledove novel—and a part of the Southern Victory series—a second war between the states erupts after the Confederacy annexes Mexico.13 In short, these counterfactual histories were already and always imagining another South that was global, already thinking about the supposedly inevitable, predestined expansion of the South into the global South, long before we began to think, as scholars, about the roots and routes of slaveholding in a larger circum-­Caribbean context. If a hundred library shelves are filled with books about the South and the Civil War, only a few of the books on those shelves have taken up the relations between the old South and the global South; in contrast, on a shelf of counterfactual portraits, nearly every title would describe a Dixie that was thoroughly stitched into the fabric of the world. It seems odd, to me, to have worked so hard, across two generations of historical practice, only to find that Winston Churchill was there first. And it is disorienting, in a way, to read works so implicitly steeped in “Lost Cause” veneration for Confederate generals and the Cavalier mythos—so wrapped up, intentionally or otherwise, in Ted Nugent’s wishful thinking—that also, without a blush, accept the land-­hungry, imperialist, expansionist aims of the deep South. In part, this disorientation is a consequence of a basic if counterintuitive truth: the genre also works hard to establish its patriotism. “We are Americans,” Lee reminds his South African time-­traveling allies in The Guns of the South, refusing to recognize the Confederacy as something other than “America” writ small. In doing so, these texts place their emphasis on the war as a conflict of “brothers,” temporarily estranged, and they diminish the most robust notions of national distinctiveness between South and North. MacKinlay Kantor’s 1960 barn burner, If the South Had Won the Civil War— another very influential example—began with the premise that Grant died unexpectedly and that Lee won Gettysburg. Texas broke off to re-­form itself, once again, as an independent republic. Slavery was ended, voluntarily, in the 1880s, and Cuba was acquired by the Confederacy after a turn-­of-­the-­century war with Spain. From there, it is just a hop, a skip, and a jump to World War I, with Woodrow Wilson serving as president of the CSA and Teddy Roosevelt



standing as the head of what remained of the Union. And then, like a Hollywood script, rapprochement comes when the various nations who were once bound together join forces to survive the world wars of the twentieth century. The book concludes with a profoundly utopian sense of optimism—utopian, of course, given the context in which it was written. If the South had won the war, Kantor suggests counterintuitively, things would be not merely different but better; race relations and sectional tension, more specifically, would be greatly diminished. Kantor’s text—originally an essay in Look magazine, and a ninth-­ grade favorite of Harry Turtledove—is a keystone of this genre.14 Likewise, Kevin Wilmot’s 2004 film, C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America, emphasizes that the warring regions share the same common heritage and culture. In Wilmot’s alternate universe, the Confederacy didn’t merely fight to a draw; it won the war outright. And the continental CSA that emerged from the war was a sort of parody of the historical real. Kennedy and Nixon still debate, only now they take up positions on the role of slavery. The CSA—like the USA—is still a consumer-­oriented society, but the list of products it consumes includes slaves, alongside other goods and services inflected with slave names and racist stereotypes. It is a version of our world, only with a more explicit connection to slaves and slavery. Wilmot’s film reminds us that counterfactual accounts of the global South can have a sobering critical edge, suggesting that that they aren’t merely subtly camouflaged white supremacist fantasy. One thinks, more recently, of novelist Ben Winters’ Underground Airlines, set in a present-­day version of this bizarre universe, wherein an ex-­slave works as a bounty hunter, hunting down escaped and still enslaved men and women. As a counter to the inevitability of Caribbean empire expressed in most counterfactual works, Winters’ book establishes that Texas went to war preemptively, that Jim Crow still persists, and that the United States now stands alone, an outcast nation hemmed in by free nations and hobbled by international sanctions against its perpetuation of nineteenth-­century racial schemes. Still divided into nominally free and slave regions, it is a weaker, inwardly focused nation. When he was asked by Slate magazine to establish a genealogy for the book, Winters gestured to Octavia Butler’s Kindred—and not to counterfactual histories.15 And interviewed by Kirkus, Winters seemed caught up in the tired but still relevant debate about whether he, as a white man, could possibly express Black subjectivity. Underground Airlines is an addition to the counterfactual history of the South, and a unique one, too, given that it keeps intact the nineteenth-­century borders of the region and the nation and that it connects

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the dark, existential dilemma of its protagonist with the diminished and declining state of the republic.16 It also reminds us that even the most well-­ intentioned revisions of the counterfactual genre are constrained by its most basic premise: that the South won. Butler’s Kindred—which Winters cites as a precedent—represents a radically different speculative tradition. The book, originally published in 1979, is the story of a Black woman named Dana who is inexplicably and repeatedly transported back to the antebellum South to save her ancestor, a white slaveowner named Rufus. Whenever Rufus’s life is threatened, Dana is yanked backward in time without warning. She appears out of thin air, dressed in modern clothing, embodying modern Blackness, and causing quite a stir. She rather pointedly refuses to pretend that she is an enslaved person. She won’t stay in her “place” as determined by the slaveholding regime or accept that she “belongs” in the antebellum South. Calmly and soberly, and against the grain of her surroundings, she insists on both her Blackness and her humanity. Over time, her reappearances keep Rufus alive and by extension ensure her very existence. By the novel’s conclusion, the attitudes of both Dana and Rufus are fundamentally changed by this recursive experience, leaving us to wonder about causality and inevitability.  Binding the past to her present, Butler’s text was meant to answer a simple question: what would you have done if you had been forced to confront slavery? She had heard many Black men and women of her generation insist that they would rise up and rebel, that they would die fighting against their enslavement. She wanted to dramatize what she saw as the overwhelming totality of slavery, the impossibility of simple, straightforward resistance, along with the importance—the deep and foundational importance—of knowing your history, and knowing that, in the end, it would never really change. Dana, the center of the novel, is nonplussed by her time traveling. Practical and level-­headed, she routinely confronts what would be horrific with thoughtful planning. In her California home in the present, she has the forethought to wisely assemble a bag of necessary supplies and ties them to her waist, so that they might travel back in time with her. When that bag gets lost, she quickly makes another. She brings maps and history books from the present into the past, destabilizing the certainties of slavery’s expansion. She brings knives and painkillers, soap and toothpaste and clothing. Like the author who created her, Dana is a woman of lists, a champion of organized thinking in the face of what should be overwhelming crises. This faith in relentless practicality saves her life. In the end, the knife she brings back in



time—the kind of weapon denied to any enslaved person, the kind of weapon she knew she might need—is what she uses to kill Rufus in the novel’s final pages, when he loses sight of her humanity, moves beyond redemption, and comes to see her only as a slave. She is prudent, canny, discerning, prepared, and willfully committed to her own survival. But the point of Kindred, in the end, was to show that all of Dana’s pluck inevitably leads right back to the present. There is no other timeline. No counterfactual. Her movements back and forth, from the antebellum South to the modern present, change nothing in her world. Except, that is, for the changes within herself. Her memories. Her sober understanding of the realities of slavery, an understanding that has cost her dearly but left her world, its structural inequities, and its inherent antiblackness unchanged. An unsettling work of extraordinary imagination, Butler’s Kindred leaves us bereft of any sense that some alternate past, present, and future are out there. Dana alone is changed, losing an arm in her final return from the slaveholding Chesapeake, becoming, at the very close, posthuman. “I really couldn’t let her come all the way back,” Butler said to Randall Kenan in 1991. “I couldn’t let her return to what she was. I couldn’t let her come back whole.”17 In contrast to Butler’s Afrofuturist imaginings, the counterfactual works under consideration here rely on a starkly changed narrative, in which all of history has been altered by some twist in the history of the Civil War. They are generally grim and apocalyptic, given the emphasis they place on war and conflict, on the perpetuation of slavery, even if for just a brief period of time. And even McKinlay’s cheery tale is one marked by lengthy fratricide. Most, as well, are prefaced by protestations of authorial innocence, as if these were written idly, in a moment of pure and innocent speculation. The idea for The Guns of the South, Turtledove explains in his acknowledgements, came to him whimsically, when a friend joked about the anachronism of a machine gun in the hand of a Confederate officer. As if, in other words, the astonishing image of Robert E. Lee holding an AK-­47—the weapon of third world liberation—wasn’t of a piece with the particular strain of conservative discontent that produced The Turner Diaries in 1978, or the lust for “second amendment remedies” in 2010, or the philosophical musings of Ted Nugent. And as if the scale of death in this new timeline—as ghastly as the wall of corpses created by Hank Morgan in Twain’s novel—weren’t meant, in the absence of satire, to serve as a certain kind of wish fulfillment. The conservative counterrevolution linked to the Lost Cause and manifested in counterfactuals is always questing for what Turtledove elsewhere calls the “historical

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breakpoint,” that single event that makes possible a different, and often more violent and cathartic, future.18 So, then, despite the routine use of a Caribbean and Latin American context for the faux postwar Confederacy, counterfactual histories and fictions rely, in a very old-­fashioned way, on manifest destiny and the presumed inevitably of expansion to explain how and why the old South might, under different circumstances, have continued to drive deeper and deeper South. They don’t take up the confusing, cosmopolitan social world of the Gulf South and the Caribbean. They don’t suggest, either, that absorbing vast stretches of the global South might have altered the cultural and social logic of the Confederacy, of the Gulf South, and of the people and ideas within the region. They don’t accept that the South was a liminal region in a hemisphere in flux. In other words, they presume the righteous, ironclad domination of social, political, and cultural forms, flowing out of the CSA and refuse the idea that absorbing, say, all of the Caribbean might well have changed the very idea of “the South.” And, just as importantly, by positing even this narrowly conceived, globally ambitious South as a counterfactual, they shore up the convention that the “real” postwar South was, just as the old history books said, confined with the nation-­state, a bordered region without ties to the world, locked in an all-­consuming embrace with the North. I don’t mean to suggest here that the counterfactual South is equivalent in some fashion to the hemispheric South currently in academic fashion. The two mobilize, distend, and scramble the borders of the region in similar ways, and they centralize a singular historical epoch—the age of slaveholding—in ways that seem, at first glance, rather similar. Still, there are also profound distinctions based on the archive, one that seems, viewed historically, to be “the truth” of our past. The hemispheric South uncovered by historians, literary critics, and many others in recent years was not, by the standards of the genre, a counterfactual. And the return of this deeply historicized hemispheric, like all such uncoverings, is a reminder that the long-­lived history of the South as a region walled off from the world—except in bizarre science fiction and speculative military histories—was the most powerful counterfactual of all.

The Echo Imagine, if you will, sitting with a group of friends and musing—as Turtledove did, with a pretense of innocent speculation—about what might have turned



the tide for Lee, for the Confederacy, and for slaveholding. Imagine thinking that this would make a great novel. Imagine knowing that such a novel would keep the dreams of another South alive. And imagine tracing the impact of that conversation forward, following that dream right up to the present. In one of the very first “found” photographs of Dylann Roof, we see the evidence of the other South. Roof is off-­centered, wearing a black windbreaker, his face tilted down, giving him a scowl. A young man with a troubled past, he had just been arrested for the murder of nine churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, and interest in his background had led the press to a website archive of photographs taken in the woods and to a manifesto laden with a century’s old tropes of scientific racism. The photos are fascinating. In one, a distinctly Southern topography is in the backdrop, reminiscent of the work of William Faulkner and Eudora Welty. Tall cypress trees push out of a swampland and are draped with Spanish moss. Brambles intrude on the frame, darting here and there at odd angles. The sky is gray, a match for Roof ’s grim expression. On the breast of his jacket there are two flags—one of Rhodesia and one of apartheid-­era South Africa. Another image, culled from the same collection of photographs, shows Roof holding a Confederate Stars and Bars flag. Most critics, in struggling to make sense of this pairing of long-­dead, state-­sponsored white supremacies, have emphasized the symbolism of these flags. Few have dwelled on what it means that all three flags represent societies lost to a more diverse, presumably less racist present. Dylann Roof ’s “race war” was an attempted return, a form of time travel, and a gesture to the lingering, dangerous power of Southern counterfactualism. The race war he hoped to start was meant to change the future. His shootings in the church that day were meant as a kind of historical breakpoint, meant to mark the beginning of a new age that drew deeply from the antique ideologies and practices of apartheid, segregation, and slavery. The image of Roof, clutching the Stars and Bars and wearing the historic emblems of white supremacy, galvanized an opposition to the symbols of the Confederacy that linger on the Southern landscape. As South Carolina debated whether to remove the flag from a ceremonial pole nearby, activists began defacing the myriad monuments to the Confederacy in the state and in the region. Another young activist, Bree Newsome, frustrated with the delay and the debate, scaled the flagpole and simply removed the flag herself. In the midst of all this, columnist David Brooks offered a defense of Robert E. Lee, describing him as a man of extraordinary “personal character.” “It is almost

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impossible,” Brooks continued, “to imagine a finer and more considerate gentleman . . . he was a man of impeccable honesty, integrity and kindness.”19  Readers of The Guns of the South might nod their heads while reading Brooks. Nod their heads, that is, because buried deep inside this text (and others in the genre) is an argument about the Civil War, about whether it was fought over slavery, about whether racial bondage was merely expedient, and whether it would have gone away quickly after the war. Lee’s image is central to the “heritage not hate” storyline, to its counterfactual myth making. More significantly, Turtledove’s reimagining of a postwar Robert E. Lee stunningly presents him as a man who becomes defiantly antislavery at the end of his life, and who goes to war with his former allies in the AWB. In a scene starkly reminiscent of the near ending of Twain’s Connecticut Yankee, Lee leads an army of nineteenth-­century troops against the twenty-­first-­century technological vanguard, and the casualties mount. In Twain’s telling, though, the reader’s sympathies are with Hank Morgan, the time-­traveling avatar of modernization, who is holed up with his engineers fighting a war against the ignorance of the Church. Turtledove asks his readers to side with Lee, presented as a reformed and enlightened man, in contrast to his former Afrikaner allies, who are revealed as liars and thugs. Those recalcitrant Afrikaners, so determined to keep white supremacy alive that they are willing to go to war again, are a kind of “proof ” of Southern innocence. Proof, that is, that commemorations of the Civil War— monuments and flags—are presumably about heritage, about the “honestly, integrity, and kindness” of the South’s leadership class, and not about hate. Such a proof is a prerequisite for those who wish, like Roof, for a return. Again, we return to the image of Roof, hunkered down in the Southern wild, adorned with the flags of Rhodesia and South Africa, carrying the Stars and Bars, imagining global connections between white supremacies lost to history. Lost in time. The historical, hemispheric Confederacy and the counterfactual South are intertwined, like the ghostly echo of a future and a nation that might have been, lingering over a long-­ago conquered region. An echo, when it returns, is an archive of the past, but it is also a fixture of the present. It is old and new at once, out of sync and in sync. To think of the various counterfactual imaginings described here as echoes is, then, to recognize that these supposedly innocent, whimsical, fictional treatments are meant to be heard on a different register, as half-­conscious memorials of the Confederate past, and as half-­thought wishes for a different present. Roof is a murderer, but he wasn’t misguided in making this connection between Lee,



the Afrikaners, and post–civil rights America. He was simply listening to the echo and its returns. These nineteenth-­century reverberations are, I think, overlapping and impossible to tease apart. We should try anyway. Some better, necessary understanding of our present may well come from our winnowing of these histories of other Souths, and our attempt to think harder and more imaginatively about where and when we presently are. It may well be, in some extraordinary way, that the world imagined in the counterfactuals—a world in which slavery often persists, in which the United States usually becomes an empire, and in which the South regularly wins the Civil War—is closer to the truth of our present than we’d like to admit. But the South of monuments and memorials is also, in its own way, another counterfactual confection. Those tall pillars of marble and statues of bronze, presenting nineteenth-­century visages of uniformed Confederates, have a dark magic attached to them, a magic that labors to transmute murderers, slaveholders, and traitors into heroes and statesmen. The resulting mirage intoxicates, much like the fantastical visions of AK-­47s in the hands of Robert E. Lee. To live among these souvenirs of a past-­that-­never-­was is to breathe in another fantasy, another falsity that soothes and distracts. This other counterfactual South has a human cost, too. In June 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina, the price for this illusion of nineteenth-­century white greatness was nine Black lives.


Apocalypse Then: Southern Speculative Fiction, Slavery, and Civil War, 1836–1860 Coleman Hutchison

These days, it never seems to be the time or the place to talk about the literature of the nineteenth-­century South. Several generations of Americanists have agreed by common assent that there just isn’t that much of note or interest in southern literature before Faulkner. Indeed, an assumption about the dearth of compelling nineteenth-­century southern literature structures not one but two emergent fields of inquiry. The “new Southern studies” betrays an increasing presentist bias, with scholars impatient to get to the twentieth century and the so-­called Southern Renaissance. In turn, despite the invigorating energies of the recently formed Society of Nineteenth-­ Century Americanists, the South remains largely off the C19 map.1 Not surprisingly, then, the last book-­length overview of the literature of this period and region appeared forty years ago. J. V. Ridgely’s 1980 study Nineteenth-­ Century Southern Literature was also quite slight, coming in at a mere 144 pages, including a lengthy bibliographical note and index.2 But it has not always been so. Early twentieth-­century Americanists like Vernon Parrington (1871–1929), Montrose J. Moses (1878–1934), and Jay B. Hubbell (1885–1979) thought long and hard about the pre-­1900 literature of the U.S. South. Hubbell, the founding editor of American Literature, spent some twenty years researching his 987-­page magnum opus, The South in American Literature, 1607-­1900.3 Writing in 1954, the same year as the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling, Hubbell noted that one of his “chief aims has been to integrate the literature of the Southern states with that of the rest of the nation” and thus to treat the South not “as a thing apart” (viii).



To Hubbell’s mind, the literature of the South “cannot be understood and appraised if one neglects its many and complicated relations with the literature of the rest of the nation” (x). His exhaustive study is a testament to the wealth of material available to the enterprising scholar and teacher. (As he notes, there is “more and rather better writing in the Old South than is generally supposed” [xii]).4 It is also a reminder that we should not leave the study of the literature of the U.S. South to “southernists” alone. As several critics have noted, the institutionalization of southern literary studies was more or less synchronous with the publication of Hubbell’s book.5 However, as southern literary studies gained traction at places like Louisiana State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Vanderbilt University, and Yale University, Hubbell’s more integrative approach lost out to methodologies that would treat the South as exceptional, very much a “thing apart.” As a result, Hubbell’s methodology remains a road not taken in American literary studies. In the following pages, I want to make a case for the “many and complicated relations” between regional and national literatures in the nineteenth-­ century United States by briefly examining the ways that two proslavery southerners imagined the future of the country circa 1836 and 1860, respectively. Nathaniel Beverley Tucker (1784–1851) and Edmund Ruffin (1794– 1865) remain two of the nineteenth-­century South’s most fascinating and troubling figures. Both men were diehard and stalwart Virginians with deep commitments to Jeffersonian ideals. Both were also prolific and fierce advocates for states’ rights and in particular the right to secession. Both saw slavery as a beneficial social institution, one that aided an “inferior population” and promoted Christian fellowship among slaveholders. Finally, both were sometime novelists who published ambitious, propagandistic fictions on the eve of important national elections.6 Tucker’s The Partisan Leader; A Tale of the Future (1836) and Ruffin’s Anticipations of the Future, to Serve as Lessons for the Present Time (1860) are extraordinary and underread texts that foretell southern secession and civil war avant la lettre, as it were. Yet, despite intellectual historians’ ongoing engagement with these figures, literary studies has next to nothing to say about Tucker and Ruffin: in the aftermath of the Civil War sesquicentennial their apocalyptic novels remain mere literary curios. In reintroducing these texts, I want to consider what is at stake in Tucker’s and Ruffin’s decisions to frame their political screeds as future-­ oriented fictions. In addition to their ideological sympathies, these tales of the future share striking generic similarities. I have described elsewhere a

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pre-­Confederate southern obsession with literary futurity that helped to encourage the so-­ called “growth of southern nationalism” (Hutchison, Apples, 1–62). Such an obsession reached its zenith in these two novels, with Tucker and Ruffin offering detailed accounts of the futures they both feared and hoped would come to pass.7 In this way, The Partisan Leader and Anticipations of the Future are speculative fictions. The novelist Margaret Atwood deftly differentiates speculative fiction from science fiction. For Atwood, science fiction depicts “things that could not possibly happen” (for instance, “an invasion by tentacled, blood-­sucking Martians” in H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds); speculative fiction, on the other hand, describes “things that really could happen but just hadn’t completely happened when the authors wrote the books” (for instance, “submarines and balloon travel” in Jules Verne’s tales).8 Atwood favors a definition of the genre first proposed by Ursula K. Le Guin: speculative fictions as those fictions that “extrapolate imaginatively from current trends and events to a near-­future that’s half prediction, half satire.”9 As we will see, such imaginative extrapolation was the sine qua non of Tucker and Ruffin’s novels. In attending to the genre of these texts, I hope to tout their fundamental literariness. Whether we deem these novels “enduring art” is beside the point. Tucker’s and Ruffin’s futuristic texts need to be read as literary documents and in literary ways, even if we find their politics repellant. (As we will see, these novels actually complicate both literary politics and what counts as politics in literature.) It bears repeating: both Tucker and Ruffin worked in a number of genres. Their decision at these moments to turn to fiction in general and to speculative fiction in particular demands our consideration. Writing in the most imaginative form of imaginative literature, Tucker and Ruffin used their speculative fictions to try to envision and then shape the future that was to come. As we will see in the concluding section of this essay, their fictions heralded a still urgent American literary tradition, one in which writers shuttle between the world as it is and the world as they would like it to be. In recent years, critics like Madhu Dubey, Ramón Saldívar, and Michael Elliott have underscored the political ethics and efficacy of speculative fiction—of imagining not just a world otherwise but also “a world elsewhere.”10 Although it might feel uncomfortable to think of proslavery, white supremacist writers like Tucker and Ruffin alongside the more traditionally “progressive” writers that Dubey, Saldívar, and Elliott treat, these privileged white southern men have an immense amount to teach us about the relationship between time and place, past and present, region and nation, literature and politics.



Days of Future Past By 1836, Nathaniel Beverley Tucker’s writings were known in and well beyond the South. Born into one of Virginia’s most important legal families in 1784, Tucker practiced law first in Virginia and then in Missouri, where he gained national prominence as an advocate for states’ rights. Tucker returned to Virginia in 1833, taking up a professorship in law at the College of William & Mary, a post his father, St. George Tucker, had previously occupied. Once back home in Virginia, Tucker became a mainstay on the pages of Thomas Willis White’s new Richmond-­based periodical, the Southern Literary Messenger, which published several of his essays—including two notorious defenses of domestic slavery, “A Note on Blackstone’s Commentaries” (January 1835) and “Slavery” (April 1836)—as well as poems, translations, and reviews. Indeed, the January 1837 issue was something of a panegyric for Tucker: it included four of his poems, his review of a play by Edward Bulwer-­Lytton, and lavish discussions of his novels George Balcombe and The Partisan Leader, which were published, remarkably, in the same calendar year. The first of these novels, George Balcombe, was a Walter Scott–worthy love letter to tidewater Virginia that extolled the virtues of the slaveholding gentry. Tucker had hoped that the novel would offer what he deemed a more realistic portrait of plantation life in the South; however, George Balcombe received little contemporary notice, save for a sycophantic review by a young editor at the Southern Literary Messenger named Edgar Allan Poe, who called George Balcombe “the best American novel” to date.11 Poe’s piece of puffery notwithstanding, Tucker’s first attempt at fiction was an inauspicious one, despite being published by Harper & Brothers, a major New York publishing house. His second novel proved much more auspicious—in every sense of that word. The Partisan Leader was written in February, March, and April of 1836 and rushed to print that summer in the dim hopes of influencing the outcome of the presidential election. Initially Senator William C. Preston of South Carolina arranged a clandestine publication with A. S. Johnston, proprietor of the Columbia Telescope, but Tucker was impatient for its publication and went instead went with Duff Green, a political ally and editor in Washington, D.C. By September of that year, two thousand copies of the two-­volume novel were in print. Tucker hoped that The Partisan Leader would circulate both nationally and internationally, helping readers throughout the United States and England to see the folly of supporting Martin Van Buren.12

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The novel’s deadly earnest pages offer an alternative history of a future, one in which Virginia struggles to free itself of the burden of federal occupation and oppression. The year is 1849, and the tyrannical Martin Van Buren has just secured a fourth term as president of the United States. In response to his draconian rule, the lower South states have seceded from the Union and formed a league of independent states—a hugely prosperous league of independent states due to a commercial treaty with England. Poor Virginia has been kept from joining its seceding “sister states” by Van Buren’s “henchmen,” and the commonwealth is on the verge of brutal guerrilla conflict with federal troops. Against this backdrop, Tucker tells the tortured tale of the Trevor family, an august and noble clan of Virginians whose allegiances are spread thin among nation, region, and state. By the end of the bewildering narrative, the Trevor family is in fact a house divided, with one of its sons, Owen, fighting steadfastly for Van Buren’s henchmen, and another, Douglas, fighting for Virginian independence. Douglas is a disgraced U.S. Army officer who, emboldened by the encouragement of his uncle, Bernard Trevor, his cousin and love interest, Delia, and the mysterious separatist leader Mr. B—, becomes the titular hero of the novel, the partisan leader. Along the way, Tucker’s characters make political digression after political digression about free trade, the separation of powers, and states’ rights constitutionalism, among many other topics. But it is the threat of secession and civil war that dominates this 1836 novel. As one prescient character notes, “We are on the eve of what you will call rebellion. I shall call it a war of right and liberty.”13 Tellingly, it is the tariff, not slavery, that leads to the secession of the southern states and the birth of a confederacy, and it is a free trade agreement with England that eventually leads to out-­and-­out civil war. This is not to say that Tucker avoids the issue of slavery; far from it, in fact. The novel makes a number of direct defenses of the institution, including one scene in which loyal slaves aid and abet the southern cause by duping federal officers with exaggerated dialect and buffoonish behavior. Such representations of slavery are of a piece with the novel’s central, “positive good” argument about the “peculiar institution.” While celebrating the steadfast fidelity of Virginian slaves, Mr. B—, the novel’s heroic voice of secession, suggests that Yankees “have not the qualities to comprehend the Negro character. Their calculating selfishness can never understand his disinterested devotion.” Mr. B— goes on to tie northern ignorance of slave–slave master relations to a broader misunderstanding of southern character:



They know no more of the  feelings of our slaves, than their fathers could comprehend of the loyalty of the gallant cavaliers from whom we spring; and for the same reason. [. . .] The only instance in which they have ever seemed to understand us, has been in the estimate they have made of our attachment to a Union, the benefits of which have all been theirs, the burthens ours. Reverse the case, and they would have  dissolved the partnership thirty years ago. But they  have presumed upon the difference between us, and  heaped oppression on oppression, until we can bear no more. But, when we throw off the yoke, they will still not understand us. (II: 6–8) Taken out of context, this may seem like standard Cavalier-­Yankee boilerplate.14 After all, during the cold war years of 1830 to 1860, arguments about North-­South misunderstandings were legion. As a result, it is possible to read a passage like this one flatly, as political invective and nothing more. But we have to remember the narrative frame through which The Partisan Leader broaches arguments like this. Tucker is looking more than a decade into the future and imagining the reasons for secession and civil war. He does so not by way of prophecy but as a warning to contemporary readers. More than anything else, Tucker’s novel seems aimed at influencing popular opinion in order to avert the future he projects. Herein lies the speculation of his speculative fiction. Nonetheless, few critics have noted how resolutely Tucker maintains his speculative-­fictional frame.15 There is little indication of an outside to the novel; its subtitle, “A Tale of the Future,” offers the only knowing acknowledgement of artifice. Indeed, Tucker even violates convention and postdates The Partisan Leader by some twenty years: the title page reads 1856, not 1836. Not surprisingly, the subsequent dedicatory preface is replete with the rhetoric of historicity and retrospection. “Edward William Sidney” (Tucker’s romantic pseudonym) speaks of his “admiration of the gallant people, whose struggle for freedom I witnessed and partook,” suggesting both that the author was present for the events of the novel and that the events described are long since passed (I: iii). He goes on to describe a future present in which “Virginia at this time, honors with high places in her councils, I see, with pride, the names of many with whom I once stood, shoulder to shoulder, in the eye of danger. . . . The record of their praise, and the reward of their glorious deeds, is on the page of history” (I: iv). This remarkable claim suggests that in 1856 Virginia has not only “achieved her independence; lifted the soiled banner of

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her sovereignty from the dust” but also set up a government and begun writing histories of its genesis (II: 201). Thus, Tucker is insistent about the veracity of the tale he is telling; “E.W.S.” feels keenly a “duty to testify of what I have witnessed” (I: iv). Lest we miss the point, he even appends a postscript to the dedication: “P. S. My date reminds me that this is the anniversary of that glorious day, on which Virginia first declared herself an independent State. May its auspicious return ever find you FREE, HAPPY, and GLORIOUS!” (I: v). Taken together, these future effects—the postdated publication information, the rhetoric of historicity and retrospection, the allusions to records, histories, and anniversaries—work stubbornly to root the novel in time, 1856 to be exact. Tucker’s history of the future is nothing if not thorough. As I have argued in Apples and Ashes, this bizarre novel and the futures it imagines can be read most fruitfully in relation to the nullification crises of the early to mid-­1830s and in the shadow of the 1831 Nat Turner rebellion, which, as Carl Bridenbaugh reminds us, would have been very much on Tucker’s mind in the early 1830s.16 However, most readings of the novel are more interested in Tucker’s purported powers of prophecy—that is, what he got right and what he got wrong about the Civil War—a common fate for many speculative fictions. Put another way, most scholars read Tucker’s novel as if it were not a novel, reducing his narrative to mere presagement or propaganda. Doing so, I argue, significantly underestimates the “activity of imaginative abundance” that produced The Partisan Leader.17 Of course, it didn’t help matters that Tucker also left his narrative unfinished, wanting to gauge public interest before continuing the story of Douglas Trevor. Because there was little to no public interest, additional volumes of Tucker’s “history” were never published. Nathaniel Beverley Tucker’s speculative fiction appeared in print in September 1836. A few weeks later, and much to his chagrin, Martin Van Buren won the presidency with the help of Virginia’s twenty-­three electoral votes.

The Known World The famed fire-­eater Edmund Ruffin (born 1794) claimed to have read Tucker’s The Partisan Leader twice, once in 1836 and again in the fall of 1864, four years after the publication of his own speculative fiction, Anticipations of the Future, To Serve as Lessons for the Present Time. Calling Tucker’s an “interesting” and “curious political novel,” Ruffin notes in his wartime diary that



posterity had been kind to The Partisan Leader, which had “nearly passed into oblivion” before the American Civil War brought attention back to his fellow Virginian’s “Tale of the Future.”18 Feigning no “self-­love & conceit,” Ruffin goes on to brag that his 1860 speculative fiction would no doubt meet a similar fate, since Ruffin had been “much more of a true prophet than the author of the ‘Partisan Leader’” (III: 593). It is no small wonder that Ruffin produced a “wonder tale” in the first place. By 1860 Ruffin was a well-­known and at times strident southern advocate for agricultural and banking reform, states’ rights constitutionalism, and, of course, domestic slavery. A witness to John Brown’s execution and someone who claimed to have fired the first shot at Fort Sumter—at age 67, no less—Ruffin seems to have been everywhere in the antebellum and bellum U.S. South. He was also a prolific essayist, publishing a series of conspicuous pieces during the lead-­up to the Civil War, including The Influence of Slavery; or, of Its Absence, on Manners, Morals, and Intellect (1852), Consequences of Abolition Agitation  (1857), The Political Economy of Slavery  (1857), African Colonization Unveiled (1859), and Slavery and Free Labor Described and Compared  (1859). As this list suggests, imaginative literature was not Edmund Ruffin’s métier. The idea for the novel was suggested to Ruffin by John Beauchamp Jones’s Wild Southern Scenes, A Tale of Disunion! And Border War! (1859), a sprawling speculative fiction that seems more interested in its many marriage plots than its imagination of the future.19 Ruffin read Jones’s convoluted novel in late February 1860, and while he found the “prospective narrative” “very foolish,” it inspired him to write his own tale of the future (Diary I: 407). Once stirred to action, Ruffin worked at a fever pitch, producing a manuscript that would yield some 426 printed, 12mo pages in just over two months’ time (Diary I: 426). Ruffin would later admit that he had “scarcely ever written more steadily . . . or with more pleasure” (Diary I: 416): “Being in the form of a narrative, & the events being of the supposed future, & entirely imaginary, I could make them as I pleased, within the limits of probability, & of the connexion & influence of known causes upon unknown effects” (Diary I: 413). Such imaginative freedom was, it seems, invigorating for the elderly Ruffin. The process even led him to “wonder at the facility of the composition of romance writers” like Sir Walter Scott and William Gilmore Simms, both of whom Ruffin read and admired greatly (Diary I: 413). That sense of freedom, pleasure, and narrative possibility is everywhere on the pages of the novel. Although he was rewriting and reimagining many

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of the historical forecasts he had made in the 1850s through essays like “Cassandra—Warnings,” Ruffin also indulged his fancy again and again.20 As Fred Hobson has pointed out, Anticipations of the Future offered Ruffin an overwhelming sense of wish fulfillment: “it is here, more than in anything else he wrote for publication, that he lets his hatred of Yankees and his fury toward abolitionists run unrestrained.”21 Suffice it to say that Anticipations marked a radical departure from the form if not the content of Ruffin’s previous writings.22 Anticipations is an epistolary novel, narrated through a series of letters to the London Times from a prosouthern Brit living in the United States. As a result, Ruffin’s narrative is not focalized through specific characters; it offers none of the domestic settings or “romantic realism” of The Partisan Leader.23 Moreover, unlike Tucker, Ruffin breaks his narrative frame in a brief preface and appendix, both of which confess the novel’s artifice. Ruffin writes in the June 5, 1860, preface: “When speaking of the obscure and doubtful future as if it were the known past, [the author] merely aims to present his general propositions and argument in a novel, and therefore a more impressive form, by using illustrations and examples of supposed actual occurrences, as the consequences of previous conditions.”24 This, then, is a novel of both probability and imagination, one with clear designs on its readers. At a moment of great urgency, Ruffin chose a narrative form that would make the greatest impression on the public. Following a partial serialization in the Charleston Mercury, Ruffin sought book publication for his fictive dispatches. J. W. Randolph of Richmond agreed to split the production costs with the author, and one thousand copies of the novel appeared in print by the end of the ­summer—just in time for the 1860 presidential election. The novel opens in 1864: William Seward has just been elected president of the United States, succeeding a disgraced Abraham Lincoln. Having effectively undermined slavery through a series of shadowy legislative appointments and expanded executive power, the Lincoln–Seward administrations make abolitionism the de facto policy of the U.S. government—and the new president is hard at work on the de jure part. Seward first appoints nearly every famous abolitionist to a “lucrative and important office” in the government: Horace Greeley, Wendell Phillips, all of the members of John Brown’s “Secret Six”; even Frederick Douglass earns a diplomatic position in Haiti. In quick succession, the Supreme Court reverses the Dred Scott decision and redefines the terms of admission for new territories. As a result, free states quickly outnumber slave states and a constitutional amendment outlawing



slavery is at hand. At long last, the Lower South states secede from the Union, at first peacefully and in a reasonable manner. But federal incursion soon follows, the Upper South states join the southern confederacy in protest, and a short-­lived civil war breaks out. As with Tucker’s novel, the tariff and other purportedly antisouthern economic policies play a central role in Ruffin’s novel. And, as with The Partisan Leader, southern slaves are crucially important in repelling the “Yankee invaders.” Federal troops make no fewer than three attempts to turn slaves en masse against their southern masters. All efforts fail in the face of the slaves’ widespread love for said masters. The slaves are, Ruffin insists, in their place. Indeed, in narrating these chaotic events, Ruffin seems to take particular glee in satirizing the northern embrace of “Negro Citizens and Negro Officers of Government” (53). For instance, Ruffin’s description of the Haitian minister—an “ugly negro” “of features intensely African,” called the “Duke of Marmalade”—is as offensive as it is revealing of Ruffin’s racial politics and anxieties. He concludes his description of the duke’s acceptance in Washington social circles by noting, “No doubt his attentions will be acceptable to sundry fair daughters of distinguished abolitionists” (56). Ruffin’s disgust at the prospect of miscegenation is palpable, both here and throughout the text. But it is in the second half of the novel that Ruffin’s imagination runs wild. In bloody scene after bloody scene, he narrates the humiliation and decimation of northern soldiers, abolitionists, free Blacks, and fugitive slaves. Indeed, these chapters have the feel of the final act of a revenge tragedy. Nowhere is this bloodlust more evident than in Ruffin’s narration of an invasion of Kentucky by “an abolitionist and negro army” (251). In the novel, Owen Brown, John Brown’s son, organizes and arms some 3,500 troops for an invasion of the seceded state. Of those troops, 2,700 are “northern negroes,” the majority of them fugitive slaves, which the novel describes as “ignorant and improvident and deluded victims of northern philanthropy” (252–253). Offering to free any southern slave who would fight in his army, Brown and his troops cut a merciless swath across the state, destroying property, burning houses, and commandeering goods. Behind them lay a “scene of devastation, in which scarcely a living being remained” (255). Ruffin writes with no small amount of pathos, “All the men, women, and children so captured were butchered—after the infliction of still greater horrors” (254).25 Predictably, these acts of inhumanity merely set up Brown’s inevitable retribution. Following widespread desertions—the wayward slave proves loyal—and southern slaves’ steadfast refusal to be freed—the stalwart slave

Apocalypse Then


stays true—this band of brothers is greatly diminished and finally captured. Owen Brown and his 27 subordinate officers are all hanged from the same tree, their bodies “left there, to be devoured by carrion vultures.” Ruffin notes with delight that it is the “negro prisoners, who, when invited, readily volunteered to perform the required duty, and appeared to enjoy much pleasure in the performance” of the executions (264). Of the 800 white soldiers who had entered the state with Brown, “every one was either killed, or, if captured, was afterwards hung” (264–265). And what of those remaining 2,700 “northern negroes”? Ruffin is pleased to report that “Nearly 1900” were “either restored to their former owners or sold” (265).26 Given this sadistic and borderline-­delusional fantasy of southern victory, the conclusion of the novel is somewhat anticlimactic. By October 1868, the western states have joined the confederacy and the war is over. The South is victorious, and New England is in shambles. New York, Philadelphia, and Boston have all been sacked and rioted, and the rest of the North is overrun with foreign immigrants. As in Tucker’s novel, the South is also on the verge of hugely lucrative trade treaties with various European countries. The South will rise again—and soon, Ruffin avers. As the above suggests, Ruffin’s is a deeply and troublingly inventive text. This is no mere novelistic reworking of his previous proslavery, anti-­Union sentiments. The novel’s speculations suggest a dark, vengeful “imaginative abundance” at work behind the scenes. Ironically, Ruffin hoped that his sanguine speculative fiction would help to convince readers that secession was a reasonable course of action for the southern states, one that would not lead perforce to war.27 Again, I remain more interested in Ruffin’s form than his powers of prophecy, but it is worth noting that this “anticipation of the future” proved dead wrong. While few of Ruffin’s “countrymen” read his novel, many lost their lives in the war that began less than a year after its publication.28 Four years after that, on June 18, 1865, Edmund Ruffin declared his “unmitigated hatred to Yankee rule,” wrapped himself in a Confederate flag, and put a gun to his head (III: 946). The future had finally arrived.

Yesterday’s Omissions and Regrets In the twenty-­first century, these southern speculative fictions continue to elude our critical vocabularies—even and especially in the wake of the spatial and temporal turns in American literary studies. Regional fictions aimed at



national audiences, Tucker and Ruffin’s novels offer histories of the future that challenge commonplace literary-­critical definitions as well as traditional literary-­historical periodization. (To my mind, The Partisan Leader and Anticipations of the Future represent an idiosyncratic part of the “literature of slavery”29 and the earliest forms of “Civil War literature.”30) But these novels are also part of a long tradition of speculative fiction aimed at influencing contemporary American politics. Examples include Frances Hopkinson’s “A Pretty Story, Written in the Year of Our Lord 2774” (1774), Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward: 2000–1887 (1888), Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here (1935), and even Dinesh D’Souza’s 2016: Obama’s America (2012). These fictional representations of the future reveal a great deal about the present conditions each writer tried so ardently to change. Whether conservative or progressive, their fictions suggest an “imaginative abundance” of which literary studies is best situated to give an account. I have used Elliott’s evocative phrase, “imaginative abundance,” throughout this essay as a reminder of the profoundly creative work that inheres in any piece of speculative fiction, including alternative or allohistories like Winston Churchill’s “If Lee Had Not Won the Battle of Gettysburg” (1931), Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle (1962), and Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America (2004). In examining these texts, Elliott writes, “I want to understand the literary writing of history not as a compensation for loss or absence, but rather as an activity of imaginative abundance” (139). Ramón Saldívar shares with Elliott an interest in “historical fantasy,” speculation, and the ways fiction can imagine worlds otherwise and elsewhere. Like Elliott, Saldívar sees at play in such fiction a mixture of imagination and desire—imagination and desire that looks both backward and forward.31 However, Saldívar’s is the more aggressive literary-­historical claim. He argues that the twenty-­first century has witnessed “the inauguration of a new stage in the history of the novel by twenty-­first-­century U.S. ethnic writers,” who create “something more,” “something new, something we might call historical fantasy” (585). (And indeed, we appear to be in a golden age of ethnic speculative fiction.) For Saldívar, the result is literary works that link “fantasy, history, and the imaginary in the mode of speculative realism in order to remain true to ethnic literature’s utopian allegiance to social justice” (585).32 He concludes with a characteristic flourish: “But when fantasy and metafiction come into contact with history and the racialized imagination, vernacular cultures, and the stories of figures from the American

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global south, they become something else again, a fantasy-­shaped realism that bids to create a new form, a sur-­realismo, a global south realism, within the speculative regions of fiction” (593). Saldívar is thinking here of “public progressive” writers like Salvador Plascencia (born 1976) and Junot Díaz (born 1968), who, he argues, use their fictions “to imagine a state of achieved social justice” (592–593). Given these stated literary politics, Saldívar might be surprised or even dismayed to hear Plascencia and Díaz mentioned in the same breath as white supremacists like Tucker and Ruffin. But look closely at the formal and thematic elements Saldívar cites. Tucker and Ruffin were absolutely invested in fantasy, metafiction, history, the racialized imagination, and vernacular cultures; both hailed from and wrote about the “American global south,” and both worked “within the speculative regions of fiction.” Where Plascencia, Díaz, Tucker, and Ruffin diverge is in their respective definitions of “achieved social justice.” While all likely saw their fiction as “progressive” in nature, the former pair of writers imagine a very different world than the latter. Thus, speculative fictions like Tucker and Ruffin’s encourage us to think more provisionally and conditionally about the literary politics of given genre, if not of a given time and place. Indeed, that is one of powers of speculative fiction: in imagining worlds otherwise and elsewhere, writers often confound definitions of the literary, the political, and the relationship between the two. In doing so, speculative fictions also betray keen insights about the literary and political contexts of their own historical moment. And so there is truly nothing new under the sun. American literary fiction has been imagining histories of the future since before the formation of the United States. Perhaps inadvertently, then, recent work by scholars like Saldívar, Elliott, and Dubey offer us a deft critical language for describing earlier, more problematic texts like Tucker’s and Ruffin’s.33 In rereading their novels qua novels, I hope to have drawn attention back to the literature of the nineteenth-­century South. Given southern literary studies’ ongoing neglect of nineteenth-­century texts, and nineteenth-­century American literary studies’ ongoing discomfort with proslavery writers, it is little wonder that ­novels like The Partisan Leader and Anticipations of the Future are rarely read or criticized. Although these are in many ways repugnant texts, they nonetheless represent uncommon opportunities for scholarly and pedagogical innovation, not least because they embody Hubbell’s “many and complicated relations” among regional and national literatures and encourage us to take a



more “integrative” approach to southern literature. Finally, these novels also return us to an older, weirder America, one in which the traditional boundaries of time and space—not to mention literature and politics—prove far messier than one might expect or hope. Such temporal, spatial, and cognitive flux has a great deal to teach us about the history—and perhaps the future— of nineteenth-­century American literature.


Editing Melville’s Pierre: Text, Nation, Time Robert S. Levine

Herman Melville’s seventh novel, Pierre (1852), is one of the most fascinating and difficult novels of the nineteenth century. It is an especially difficult novel to teach, not just because of its odd, almost faux, literary style (which many students find hard to get a grip on), and not just because of its length, but also because of its wide range of references—literary and historical—that Melville brings to bear on his “local” story of a mid-­nineteenth-­century New Yorker. I’ve recently coedited a Norton Critical Edition of Pierre with Cindy Weinstein, producing the first fully annotated edition of the novel since the Hendricks House edition of 1949.1 Our goal was to make Pierre more accessible to today’s readers. As with other Norton Critical Editions, we annotated the novel with classroom audiences in mind, we included contextual materials, and we offered a selection of critical essays. All very straightforward. And yet as most editors know, creating an edition often involves engaging theoretical issues that are never straightforward. In this essay I want to address three large questions that came up while editing Melville’s richly allusive novel: (1) What is the Pierre text? (2) What do Melville’s wide-­ranging references reveal about the transnational dimension of the novel? (3) And what do they reveal about its temporal dimension? These questions about text, nation, and time speak to issues currently at the center of nineteenth-­century Americanist studies. First, the text itself. For the past thirty years or so, most editors of a Melville volume have tended to reprint their selected work from the Northwestern-­ Newberry edition. And why not, for that edition of Melville’s writings, which adheres to the editorial principles developed by Sir Walter Greg during the 1930s and 1940s, has been celebrated for providing readers with texts, as the



Northwestern-­Newberry editors put it, representing “as nearly as possible the author’s [Melville’s] intentions.”2 But times have changed, and a number of scholars have become suspicious of MLA-­approved editions that claim, somewhat mystically, to provide what the author intended, as if authors existed apart from the processes that helped to bring their writings into print (and as if textual editors could read their minds).3 Ultimately, and problematically, these editions offer texts that never actually existed in historical time. When we read the 1988 Northwestern-­Newberry Moby-­Dick, for instance, we are not getting the first-­published U.S. 1851 edition in which printers’ errors have been corrected, but an amalgam that brings together various published editions (English and American), along with any and all evidence, such as knowledge of Melville’s use of language in his larger corpus, that Melville might have “intended” something other, and often something quite different, from what was published and read in 1851.4 Consistent with such an approach, the editors of the 1987 Northwestern-­Newberry “Hawthorne and His Mosses” work with an early surviving manuscript (which the editors regard as conveying Melville’s original intentions), and not with what Melville actually published in the August 17 and 25, 1850, issues of the New York Literary World. Thus in the Northwestern-­Newberry version of “Mosses,” regarded as standard and widely reprinted in anthologies and Melville editions, Melville declares in a crudely nativistic voice that “if Shakespeare has not been equalled, he is sure to be surpassed, and surpassed by an American born now or yet to be born.” But in fact Melville revised that early draft, perhaps in response to editorial suggestions, developing a more complex perspective on global literature that led him to state in print that “if Shakespeare has not been equalled, give the world time, and he is sure to be surpassed, in one hemisphere or the other.”5 There are compelling reasons for returning to the texts that Melville published during his lifetime and asking questions about the Melville texts we are reading now. All of which is to say that the text of Pierre that we chose for our edition is that of the first American printing by Harper & Brothers—the text that readers and reviewers encountered in 1852 and beyond (there wasn’t a second U.S. printing during the nineteenth century, and the only nineteenth-­century British printing followed the American edition). The current Northwestern-­ Newberry Pierre is based on this first edition, although the editors make some changes because of obvious typographical errors (as we did) and make other changes because of their informed but ultimately intuitive notions that Melville meant something else here or there apart from what was actually published (we decided not to do that kind of editing).6

Editing Melville’s Pierre


The editorial goal of attempting to recover Melville’s true or original intentions leads me to Hershel Parker’s “Kraken Edition” of Pierre, published in 1995 by HarperCollins, the legatees in some respects of the Harper & Brothers that published Pierre in 1852. Though this is clearly an idiosyncratic text, the Kraken Edition nevertheless does in extreme what the editors of the Northwestern-­Newberry edition have been doing all along: it presents readers with the text of the novel that Parker, himself a Northwestern-­ Newberry editor, believes Melville intended to publish before veering in other directions (the directions that I and many others believe led him to produce his wild masterpiece of a novel). There is a long prehistory to the Kraken Edition. In 1977, Parker published an essay arguing, on the basis of a letter that Melville’s lawyer-­brother Allan wrote Harper & Brothers in January 1852, that Melville had originally composed a “tautly drawn” psychological novel of around 350 pages, for which he hoped to receive an advance contract from Harpers. Parker regards that shorter version of Pierre as “surely the finest psychological novel anyone had yet written in English,” which is an odd claim indeed, given that no one has ever seen the manuscript that Melville’s lawyer-­brother Allan mentioned in his letter (but it’s clear that if an early manuscript had survived, the Northwestern-­Newberry Pierre would be considerably different). According to Parker, Melville veered from his original intentions when he became distressed by the mixed to negative reviews of Moby-­Dick appearing in late 1851 and early 1852. Parker asserts that Melville “surely introduced the satirical Books on the publishing scene” after reading such reviews (Melville calls Pierre’s long chapters “Books”) and that Melville “very likely” decided to make the character Pierre an author around the time (late February or early March 1852) when he may have angrily confronted his former friend Evert Duyckinck about Duyckinck’s negative review of Moby-­ Dick in the November 22, 1851, Literary World (though Parker concedes that “There is no documentary proof that such an encounter took place”). Convinced that Melville wrecked the potentially great psychological novel that Pierre could have become with these supposedly last-­minute changes (and there is no manuscript evidence of what was added when), Parker in his 1995 Kraken Edition chose to cut all references to Pierre as a writer and as much as possible from Melville’s descriptions of the publishing world of the time. Accordingly, Parker excised from the 1852 Harpers edition of Pierre the entirety of Books 17, 18, and 22, along with the descriptions of Pierre as a writer in Books 19, 21, 23, 25, and 26 (for what it’s worth, these are among recent readers’ favorite Books and textual moments).7



One can’t help wonder what Melville would have thought of such editing, here in the Kraken Edition, and even throughout the Northwestern-­ Newberry edition. Do Melville’s final decisions as a writer not matter? Is he (or any writer) simply a victim of editors, publishers, readers, and his own self-­vexing emotions? And then there’s Pierre itself. From the very beginning of the novel, no matter what the edition, there is an elevated, almost parodic prose style that seems self-­consciously about Melville as a writer and not so much about acute psychological analysis.8 Consider, for example, the opening description of Pierre’s beloved Lucy: “there always will be beautiful women in the world; yet the world will never see another Lucy Tartan. . . . Her eyes some god brought down from heaven; her hair was Danae’s, spangled with Jove’s shower; her teeth were dived for in the Persian Sea.” Even as Melville archly deploys clichés to suggest that he is not writing a conventional novel, psychological or otherwise, Pierre himself, in passages that Parker retained in his edition, thinks self-­consciously about novels in the way of an author or literary critic. The narrator describes how Pierre, who “had read more novels than most persons of his years,” had become thoroughly disillusioned by the ways in which “the countless tribes of common novels laboriously spin vails of mystery, only to complacently clear them up at last.” Melville will not be doing such clearing up in Pierre, nor will Pierre in the novel he is described as writing, all references to which have been cut from the Kraken Edition. But in his zeal to excise Pierre the writer, Parker missed one key moment. At the end of Book 11, when Pierre departs from Saddle Meadows, he leaves a note for his servant, Dates, which Parker retains in the Kraken Edition. In that note, Pierre asks Dates to bring him his “writing-­desk” and to burn his papers.9 Now, a writing desk could be used by a merchant, or by anyone writing letters, but still, it is a writing desk, and Pierre himself later burns some of his literary writings. Parker also retains the figures of Plotinus Plinlimmon and Charlie Millthorpe, who, even in the Kraken Edition, help to satirize the philosophical perspectives and literary endeavors of the Transcendentalists. In short, the novel’s Books about writing and publishing work organically in a novel that, from beginning to end, self-­consciously engages writing and publishing. If those Books were added late, it was because Melville chose to add them late, knowing that they could be added without fundamentally altering the novel. Such is the nature of a work that ultimately challenges the notion of the tightly unified psychological novel championed by Parker (and never by Melville). Odd that Parker, drawing on a letter by Melville, should dub his edition a Kraken, given that a Kraken is a sea monster. What better

Editing Melville’s Pierre


way of reading Pierre as Melville actually published it than as typical of those nineteenth-­century novels that Henry James characterized as “large loose baggy monsters.”10 My point here is that textuality is a vexed issue that is worth addressing in pedagogical and other contexts. With respect to Melville, scholars have succumbed to the lure of texts that did not exist at their historical moment of production and are the results of an approach to textual scholarship developed nearly a hundred years ago. The Kraken Edition in particular, which is committed above all else to the notion of Melville’s transcendent genius, seeks to locate the “true” Melville in a literary space that does not include bad reviews, literary rivalries, thwarted ambition, and the like. This is an ahistorical and even depersonalized Melville whose writings exist only in relation to great literary traditions (such as that of the psychological novel). To be sure, my insistence on raising questions about the Kraken and Northwestern-­ Newberry editions begs questions about my own coedited edition. What is the connection of a 2017 Norton Critical Edition of Pierre with the novel that was published in 1852? After all, the Harpers edition didn’t have annotations, contextual materials, and critical essays. I’ll leave it to others to judge our edition, but I’ll concede that in many respects we are seeking to have things both ways, using our contextual section (which has selections from such writers as Daniel Webster, Thomas Cole, Cooper, Hawthorne, Cornelius Mathews, and Susan Warner) to situate Pierre in a pre–Civil War national context, while using our critical materials (essays from the past twenty-­five years) to show how Pierre is being read at a time when critics are increasingly interested in exploring the often interrelated topics of transnationalism and temporality. The annotations that Weinstein and I have developed for our edition speak directly to these topics, for despite the fact that the novel is set in New York around 1850, a number of Melville’s references and allusions in the novel have little to do with the American scene. To give a random sampling of thirty references or allusions that speak to the global dimension of a novel that is clearly about much more than its titular U.S. hero in the U.S. nation, we have the following: the Congress of Vienna, Palmyra, the thief knights of the Norman, Muggletonians, Mary Stuart, Salique law, Jugglarius, Anacreon, Circassia, Flaxman’s Homer, Greenwich Time, Ephesian Matron, Sir Francis Bacon, Prince Mausolus, Napoleon, Spartacus, Caspar Hauser, Utilitarians, Zend Avesta, Piko, Enceladus, Cenci of Guido, Spanish Inquisition, Memnon Stone, Nubian, St. Dominic’s Cathedral, and numerous references to the Bible, Dante, Shakespeare, and the French Revolution. There is much to learn from working



on such annotations. Clearly, Melville uses his references and allusions to challenge hermetic or bounded notions of U.S. space or history, particularly with respect to the American Revolutionary history emphasized in the novel’s opening chapters. Through his numerous allusions to other revolutions in history, Melville makes clear that the American Revolution is hardly exceptional and is best understood in larger geographical and temporal contexts. The revolutionary context is important to the novel’s plot as well. In a retrospective scene between the young Pierre, at age twelve, and his outlier aunt, Dorothea, Pierre learns about his father’s apparent involvement with a French woman fleeing from the French Revolution. That secret history works to link the American Revolutionary genealogy of the Glendinnings with the French Revolutionary history that may have led to the birth of Pierre’s possible half-­sister Isabel. Melville playfully underscores the importance of that context when aunt Dorothea prefaces her story about Pierre’s father by telling the young Pierre that he would know all about “the cruel, blood-­shedding times” if he had read “the little history I gave you, a good while ago.” Pierre the good reader dutifully reports, “I know all about it;—the French Revolution.” And his aunt responds, “What a famous little scholar you are, my dear child” (81). This comic exchange helps to create some distance between the “cruel, blood-­shedding times” in France and the current historical moment in New York. But several scholars have persuasively argued that the French Revolutionary context is absolutely central to Pierre, not only for the plot elements about Pierre’s father’s past and Isabel’s secret paternity but also for the novel’s larger transnational vision of democracy in the postrevolutionary moment. Taking Isabel’s scream at her first sighting of Pierre as an irruptive and even violent event that brings about a revolution in Pierre’s consciousness, Dominic Mastroianni contends that “the novel portrays the postrevolutionary United States as exposed, at every moment, to fresh outbursts of violence”—outbursts that, by posing a threat to established (aristocratic) order, are all for the good of democracy. In a complementary reading, Dennis Berthold explores how the novel’s engagement with Italy’s revolutionary history via its allusions to Dante, Machiavelli, and a host of other Italian figures contributes to Melville’s effort “to search more deeply within his own country’s past to understand the meaning of democracy, nationalist art, and America’s place in global culture.”11 Mastroianni regards Melville as to some extent embracing radical revolutionary culture; Berthold sees more of a recoil from that culture’s excesses. Whatever Melville’s specific views on the long history of European

Editing Melville’s Pierre


revolutionism, the fact is that, unlike Margaret Fuller, he wasn’t an actual participant in the European revolutions of 1848. In this respect, the transnational or global dimension of Pierre has a lot to do with Melville’s wide reading. In a letter to Sophia Hawthorne that says nothing about the revolutionary context, Melville playfully remarks that Pierre is analogous to “a rural bowl of milk.”12 But this was not a novel for the typical farmer. Based on his use of such a wide range of allusions and references, we can say that Melville clearly had in mind a reader of world literature who possessed the literary competence to read the novel without footnotes. Still, I wonder whether the deployment of a wide range of literary allusions necessarily results in a transnational or global perspective. Are the Duke and Dauphin in Twain’s Huckleberry Finn transnational literary and global thinkers? They invoke the French Revolution and Shakespeare, but they selfishly appropriate and Americanize both and seem to have an understanding of neither. To pose this question in relation to nation and temporality in Pierre: Do the novel’s wide range of references take readers to what Wai Chee Dimock calls “other continents,” or do they “Americanize” those continents? Or, as the narrator of Pierre might ask in typically elliptical fashion: global or local? One way to address these questions is through a consideration of time. As my representative list of thirty annotations would suggest, Melville’s numerous allusions connect his characters, settings, and plot to long histories going back to classical antiquity and extending across the globe. Melville’s linking of Pierre in particular to such figures as Memnon and Hamlet pulls the eponymous hero out of his delimited familial and social contexts and undercuts his American exceptionalism. In this respect, the concept of “deep time,” which Dimock developed in her 2006 Through Other Continents, might usefully be brought to bear on Pierre, even as we can raise questions about the viability of such a concept by adducing the cult leader Plotinus Plinlimmon’s pamphlet “Chronometricals and Horologicals,” which suggests the difficulty of transcending the limits of one’s time-­bound perspectives, national or otherwise.13 Contra Plinlimmon, Dimock makes claims for transtemporal possibilities. To briefly sketch out the main argument of her important book: At the outset of Through Other Continents, Dimock points to the limits of U.S. nation-­time by invoking the Iraqis (at the moment of the 2003 invasion) as having a longer sense of history that allowed them to understand their situation in 2003 in relation to the earlier 1258 Mongol invasion led by Genghis Khan’s grandson. The U.S. could be seen, she says, as “the new Mongols,”



and she goes on to argue that Americans en masse have trouble thinking beyond their own sense of nation-­time. (What she leaves out from her discussion is that many U.S. Americans of the nineteenth century, and beyond, understood themselves in relation to stories about the Chosen People of the Old Testament.) In her overall book, Dimock focuses on writers like Thoreau, Emerson, and Fuller, who imagine themselves through their reading in relation to longer non-­U.S. nation-­based histories, and she coins a new (and now widely used) term—“deep time”—to argue for how reading itself, especially of texts from other continents and other times, can liberate writers and readers from the constraints of their present moment. For example, she argues that Thoreau’s references to the Bhagavad Gita in Walden work to make it a global text that, as she puts it, “flows outward, circumnavigating the globe, gliding past Europe and Africa on its way back to India.”14 Arguably, with his incredibly wide range of references, Melville in Pierre does the same sort of transtemporal and global circumnavigation. But is reading as liberating and time-­transporting as Dimock suggests? Aren’t texts themselves mediated by somewhat coercive and delimiting temporalities? As Dimock notes, Thoreau read the Bhagavad Gita in Massachusetts in a 1784 translation by the Englishman Sir Charles Wilkins. What is the relation of that 1784 translation to the much earlier Sanskrit text, and what was the transatlantic history of that translation that helped bring it to Thoreau’s attention? In taking up such questions, we might explore Thoreau’s and nineteenth-­century American culture’s relation to a probably second-­century BCE Hindu text by analyzing what I would call, in my own coinage, “shallow time”—the ways in which texts are debated and understood at particular historical moments, even when reading across centuries and continents.15 In Pierre, I suggest, we can see Melville engaging the tensions between deep time and shallow time, and he does this most powerfully in his portrayal of Pierre’s highly mediated and appropriative reading of Dante. It should be noted that Melville’s own reading of Dante was highly meditated. According to Merton M. Sealts Jr., Melville obtained his copy of Dante in New York City on June 22, 1848. He purchased the third edition (1844) of the Briton Henry Francis Cary’s translation of the Divine Comedy, first published in 1814 as The Vision of Dante Alighieri, which was the main text of Dante circulating in England and the United States until Longfellow published his translation in 1867. Offering an extensive introduction and notes, Cary framed his Dante translation in relation to the revolutionary culture of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and in the 1844 edition,

Editing Melville’s Pierre


as Joshua Steven Matthews explains, Cary himself “characterizes Dante as something of a prophet who spoke to nineteenth-­century European and American issues of revolution and nationalism.”16 In this light, it is not surprising, as Berthold argues, that Melville should have made use of Dante in Pierre to evoke the revolutionary politics of the Risorgimento.17 Pierre’s Dante, however, is initially much more personal, offering him wisdom about the human condition, especially his own, across temporal and geographical boundaries. In an early description of Pierre’s reading, for instance, the narrator remarks that it was “the sublime Italian, Dante, . . . who, in a former time, had first opened to his shuddering eyes the infinite cliffs and gulfs of human mystery and misery” (60). Here we might say that the New York “aristocrat” Pierre Glendinning has been pulled out of his nationalistic Glendinning orbit through his encounter with the great Italian poet—an encounter that breaks down the distance between the fourteenth and nineteenth centuries as well as between Italy and the United States. But as Melville makes clear, Pierre in the present of the novel cannot read or think about Dante without reference to the “human mystery and misery” of Isabel, and in a key representation of what I am terming “shallow time,” Melville’s narrator shows how at every step of the way Pierre’s reading of Dante is heavily mediated by his personal circumstances and revolutionary consciousness in mid-­nineteenth-­century New York. Just before Pierre’s decision to cross “the Rubicon” and head for New York City with Isabel and Delly, he hides away in his bedroom with “the Inferno of Dante, and the Hamlet of Shakespeare” on “his accustomed round table.” Melville describes his reading of Dante: Soon he found the open Inferno in his hand, and his eye met the following lines, allegorically overscribed within the arch of the outgoings of the womb of human life: “Through me you pass into the city of Woe; Through me you pass into eternal pain; Through me, among the people lost for aye. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . All hope abandon, ye who enter here.” He dropped the fated volume from his hand; he dropped his fated head upon his chest. (170)



Is Pierre reading Dante or himself? To some extent the narrator suggests that both kinds of reading are going on, though the storyline of the novel points to something much more temporally delimited. Pierre at this moment feels belittled by his mother and Falsgrave, who are presented as metonyms for the heartless alliance between wealth and religion among the propertied landlord class of New York State. And so when Pierre turns to the writings of “[t]he man Dante Alighieri,” he reads him as a figure who, just like himself, has “received unforgivable affronts and insults from the world.” Initially suggesting that Dante offers Pierre something like a universal or transtemporal knowledge of the “horrible,” the narrator pointedly remarks that Pierre’s particular way of reading Dante, which ignores the journey to Paradiso, is (in an Emersonian sense) all about his revolutionary temperament as he turns against his aristocratic family background: “Judge ye, then, ye Judicious, the mood of Pierre, so far as the passage in Dante touched him” (171). The narrator makes similar suggestions about Pierre’s reading of Hamlet. Pierre then takes his two favorite books, tears them “into a hundred shreds,” and tramples them in his fury. “Dante had made him fierce,” Pierre thinks, and “Dante had taught him that he had bitter cause of quarrel” (172). But is this Dante? In a wild closing sentence to this section, the narrator underscores that no matter how great the imaginative distance Pierre may have traveled in linking himself to the Inferno (and Hamlet), he remains thoroughly himself and still very much enclosed by the walls of his room: “Now indeed did all the fiery floods in the Inferno, and all the rolling gloom in Hamlet suffocate him at once in flame and smoke. The cheeks of his soul collapsed in him: he dashed himself in blind fury and swift madness against the wall, and fell dabbling in the vomit of his loathed identity” (174).18 For the remainder of the novel, Pierre never gets beyond the material reality of the walls and the other physical and cultural spaces that enclose him. To adduce one other example of what might seem like “deep time” in Pierre, but which Melville presents as not quite as deep as one might think: Near the end of the novel Pierre is analogized, by the narrator and Pierre himself, to the titan Enceladus, who attempted to challenge the Gods of Olympus. In this self-­conception, Pierre is certainly pulled out of nation-­time and joined to a longer classical tradition that spans millennia. But that isn’t really where Melville goes with the analogy: through the extensive chapters on Pierre as an American writer dealing with American editors and publishers, he emphasizes the limits of the appropriation or analogy by underscoring that Pierre is an “American Enceladus” (342)—just as it’s clear that he’s earlier

Editing Melville’s Pierre


an American Othello and American Hamlet.19 Melville also emphasizes that the Enceladus analogy emerges from a kind of fever dream ultimately revealing not that Pierre has traveled through continents and time, but that he is as walled in as Bartleby. Melville describes how, in a deep-­time sort of way, “Pierre, in his strange vision, displaced the four blank walls, the desk, and camp-­bed.” But it is within those walls that he dreams of himself as the repulsed heaven assaulter Enceladus, and he awakens, as Melville describes him, from “that ideal horror to all his actual grief ” (342). As with the scene of Pierre reading Dante, the narrator makes clear that “each man reads his own peculiar lesson according to his own peculiar mind and mood” (338). Pierre’s mind and mood have much to do with his battles with publishers and family in circa 1850 New York. Those scenes when Melville underscores Pierre’s precise situation at moments of seeming transtemporality would be at the center of a shallow-­time approach to the novel, as would a material culture emphasis on the textual sources of Melville’s many allusions. Shallow time only makes sense in relation to deep time, as Melville well knew, despite never encountering these terms. After all, in Book I of Pierre he refers to the tension between “the sacred Past” and “an everlasting uncrystalizing Present” (13). That tension, as we have seen with the example of Dante, informs the novel. In this respect, Pierre can be read as a theoretical work useful for our own disciplinary moment, a time when many are concerned about the limits of critique. In her recent book on precisely this concern, Rita Felski programmatically calls for “postcritical reading that can better do justice to the transtemporal liveliness of texts and the coconstitution of texts and readers,” while issuing the equally programmatic assertion that “Context Stinks!” My concern is that her rejection of context would, among many things, diminish the importance of what Melville does with Dante in his novel, which is to say that it would diminish the importance of what Jeffrey Insko calls the “now” of the historical past. Coining the term “Romantic presentism” to describe “a particular mode of historical being rooted in an understanding of the present as the fundamental sphere in human action and experience,” Insko argues that Melville and some of his contemporaries (especially Emerson) imagined history “as an experience rooted in a fluid, dynamic, ever-­changing present.”20 Given the presentness of the past in this formulation, Insko, we could say, enlists the idea of “deep time” in the service of what I am calling “shallow time,” or, perhaps more accurately, collapses the concepts in an effort to push readers to think about Melville, Emerson, and other antebellum writers as conceiving of themselves in a present moment



that is not part of an already written and thus unalterable historical narrative. There is no nineteenth-­century U.S. novel that more powerfully conveys the potentials and risks of such a mode of historical thinking than Melville’s Pierre, which is another way of saying that this is a novel that both anticipates and speaks to current debates in the field of U.S. literary studies about temporality and reading. All of which brings me back to the Kraken Edition and the matter of the Pierre text. Parker retained the passages on Pierre’s reading of Dante, while cutting the powerful passage on Enceladus, insisting that Melville must have added that late in the novel’s composition. But given the lack of manuscript evidence, for all we know Pierre’s dream of Enceladus was the starting point of the novel. It certainly resonates with the novel’s challenging treatment of reading and temporality. Cutting this and other passages and sections for the Kraken Edition ultimately works to suggest that the 1852 published version was a symptom of Melville’s anger or confusion, and something similar could be said about the Northwestern-­Newberry editors’ decisions to favor prior manuscript versions over what Melville actually published. In their influential essay on “Surface Reading,” Stephen Best and Sharon Marcus argue against symptomatic reading in an effort to encourage less suspicious engagements with literary texts, and in response to Best and Marcus, Heather Love in “Thin Description” calls for nonsymptomatic analyses of the way literary texts, in the manner of the best sociological writings, use form and language to observe and describe their worlds.21 Viewed metaphorically through the incest motif of Pierre, “surface reading,” “thin description,” “deep time,” and “shallow time” can be regarded as close cousins that insist on the ways that texts do their own critical thinking at their own historical moment, even as such thinking has transtemporal implications for other historical moments along a continuum of perpetual presents. The unexpurgated Pierre, the version that Melville published in 1852, has much to say about text, (trans)nation, and time as Melville theorized those issues in 1852 for his and our present moment. It is my hope that our edition of Pierre will attract new readers to a novel that can contribute to and indeed help to shape critical conversations about these and other vital issues in nineteenth-­century Americanist studies today.22


American Literary Studies @ Scale Caroline Levander

Does “America” signify the United States, the hemisphere, the continent, or more? What is the validity of the nation-­state as a meaningful category? What other forms of location shape the study of nineteenth-­century American literature in the transnational, postnational, and posthuman era? Over the last few decades, these and related questions have productively engaged those of us who work, think, and write about nineteenth-­century American literature. And, at their core, these are questions of scale. From Wai Chee Dimock’s observation that a different “scale of analysis” would be productive for American literary studies to Hsuan Hsu’s exploration of the different spatial scales that American writers create to Susan Gillman’s attention to the fluctuating scales of time and space that result from adaptation across languages, nineteenth-­century Americanists have grappled with the geopolitical and temporal dynamism of scale. In fact, the essays in this collection are part of this collective endeavor, further enunciating the ongoing need to focus on scale, on the myriad times and spaces of American literature. And yet, during the same period of time that we have focused on questions of scale to rethink American literary studies—to conceptualize the field as transnational, global, and postnational in scope—we have paid relatively little attention to how the technological modes of our scholarly analysis might converge with, and further, our transnational or global research programs. In other words, we have focused “on scale” but have not worked “at scale”—we have not scoped the critical lens we bring to our field imaginary to accommodate the “brilliant technologies” that Andrew McAfee saliently argues have



“fundamentally changed the economic landscape as we know it” over the last few decades.1 Matthias Oppermann points out this oversight, asserting that “the success of efforts to transnationalize American studies largely hinges on our ability to recognize digital environments as generative sites for social interaction and cultural critique.” In short, the very same digital media, information theory, and global communication networks that have changed the scale at which we research, write, and think have, in Oppermann’s estimation, had “little impact on the project of transnational American studies.”2 Oppermann’s challenge to those of us invested in the transnational turn in American literary studies is to “understand that digital media have not only blurred the boundaries between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ the United States, but have begun to substantially transform the epistemologies and pedagogies of transnational American studies” (307). Nineteenth-­century Americanists, it seems, need to work at scale as well as on scale if we want to create the most robust, far-­reaching, and informed critical analysis. And yet, to work at scale seems to take us far afield—into neither the time nor the place of our discipline, as we have long understood it. After all, the powerful capabilities of digital technologies and digital innovation, in the form of mobile, analytics, social media, sensors, and cloud computing, are largely twentieth-­and twenty-­first-­century phenomena, seemingly far removed from the world in which Emerson, Hawthorne, and Melville lived and wrote. If “brilliant technologies” ease our access to these authors’ work through digital repositories and archives, they don’t seem, at first glance, to fundamentally alter the substance of nineteenth-­century American literary studies. Single-­ author digital archive projects, whether focused on Emily Dickinson (https://​ www​.edickinson​.org), Ralph Waldo Emerson (http://​digitalemerson​.wsulibs​ .wsu​.edu), Mark Twain (http://​www​.marktwainproject​.org), or Walt Whitman (https://​whitmanarchive​.org), to name but a few, reinforce a lone genius notion of authorship and a model of literary production that is time and location bound. In other words, we can now surf the Whitman archive from anywhere in the world with internet access, but his writing remains, to crib Talking Heads, “same as it ever was,” only more easily retrieved, searched, and annotated. Or is it? Let’s begin to answer that question by taking up a nineteenth-­century American literary classic that has been the subject of much excellent transnational work in recent years. Eric Sundquist’s magisterial analysis first brought Herman Melville’s 1855 Benito Cereno to the attention of Americanist scholars

American Literary Studies @ Scale


focused on race, nation, and empire, and in the last few decades the hitherto little-­known story has become one of the most frequently read accounts of nineteenth-­century U.S. geopolitics. Most recently, Susan Gillman and Kirsten Silva Gruesz have turned to this particular text to model a “worlded American literature” that conceives of individual texts as nodes of a larger global network, rather than as firmly geopolitically fixed.3 Gillman and Gruesz persuasively argue that if we are “bent on bringing ‘America’ into conversation with the rest of the globe,” we need think in terms of “the movements of texts across space, time, and language.” Doing so is essential to create a “worlded analysis that maps out a network of crosshatched, multidirectional influences rather than drawing one-­way or even two-­way lines of comparison.” And they make their case by showing how Benito Cereno “spreads in mysterious ways” (245), charting its adaptive path from the French poet, novelist, and dramatist Victor Hugo’s Bug-­Jargal (1826) to Leitch Ritchie’s The Slave King (1833) to Gomez de Avellaneda’s Sab (1833) to C. L. R. James’s Black Jacobins (1963) and beyond. This is a worlded text indeed, creating transnational linkages that ultimately refuse national rubrics and linear time lines. They focus on how the major and minor chords of Melville’s text are inextricably embedded in a larger meaning-­making enterprise connecting different parts of the globe, but they also predict that digital media can “world” old text networks in ways that could be dramatically “different from what we thought we knew” (245). We can begin to see this dramatically different text network, enabled by digital scale and the resulting architecture and capabilities it affords, by following Benito Cereno’s path through e-­space and time, as well as through nation space and time. As Gillman and Gruesz show, the material conditions of texts—for example, the impact that the rise of print culture and the cult of the author during the nineteenth-­century had on texts’ publication and republication history—do reorient Melville’s narrative within global contexts. But, as the following pages delineate, born-­digital, multimodal communication capabilities place Benito Cereno in spaces and times well beyond the world that we thought we knew. In other words, once we recognize a nineteenth-­century American literary world that operates at scale as well as through transnational text networks that include Hugo, Melville, James, and Ritchie, we can see how a text that is literally “out of this world” radically bends the time and space curve of our discipline. In Jay Bushman’s 2008 born-­digital adaptation of Benito Cereno, we find a case study of nineteenth-­century American literature @ scale—a timely



example of how American literature leverages brilliant technologies to create a space and time network sufficiently robust to bring past, present, and future into dynamic play. Set in the future time of the twenty-­second century and in intergalactic space, The Good Captain takes us into neither the times nor the places we associate with our field imaginary, and it does so by using authoring tools that also reconceive the time and space of American literary production. Recognizing and exploiting the fact that space looks, feels, and acts differently because of digital scale and its resulting architecture and capabilities, The Good Captain propels us into fabricated spaces that seem to leave the “real” world behind. This particular born-­digital adaptation makes for a long and nonlinear nineteenth century, reaching from the late eighteenth to the mid-­twenty-­second century and beyond. And it makes for an America worlded in all sorts of unexpected ways—space occupied and contested between galaxies rather than nation-­states. Though it largely takes place within a twelve-­hour period, Benito Cereno has, of course, long defied neat chronologies. Focused on a 1799 slave rebellion on board a Spanish merchant ship, published in Putnam’s Magazine over three months in 1855, its primary source material and some text deriving from Amasa Delano’s 1817 Narrative of Voyages and Travels in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, with adaptations including Robert Lowell’s 1964 stage performance The Old Glory and poems such as Yusef Komunyakaa’s 1996 “Captain Amasa Delano’s Dilemma” and Gary Whitehead’s 2003 “Babo Speaks from Lima” in 2003—this is a text network that reaches aggressively backward and forward in time. But time takes on new dimensions in Jay Bushman’s 2008 text. Self-­ describing as a transmedia producer and designer as well as “a purveyor of platform agnostic fictions,” Bushman exploits digital technologies and innovations in his adaptations of major American literary texts. Using the twitter feed created by those who took part in Bushman’s broadcast in late 2007 and early 2008, The Good Captain is a story that is written 140 characters at a time, by multiple people whose words are strung together in two-­or three-­line paragraphs. There are no chapter breaks other than these short paragraphs, no page numbers, and the temporal nature of twitter exploits the temporal compactness of the events that Melville’s text describes—the roughly twelve-­hour period during which another ship’s captain boards a Spanish merchant ship in the wake of a successful slave rebellion. The Good Captain exploits the digital medium not only to capture the temporal urgency of the events as they unfold but also to experiment with the

American Literary Studies @ Scale


first-­person point of view that has made Melville’s story so ripe for multiple, contradictory interpretations. Rather than being written in rural Massachusetts with pen and paper, The Good Captain is authored in a place that doesn’t have latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates—the fabricated space of cyberspace. As such, this adaptation of Melville’s text defies geolocation even as it depends on the worlded nature of the “original” narrative. A human-­made domain created when individuals connect all the devices, satellites, fiber optic cables, routers, and computers that let us move large amounts of data at high speeds, cyberspace is literally space conceived at scale. Such a space seems, at first glance, as far away from Melville’s nineteenth-­century setting as possible. And yet, once we think more about this digitally created space, we can begin to see its alignments with those elements of space that have long interested transnational American literary scholars. Cyberspace is, at once, like and unlike other geopolitical domains that have been the subject of Americanist inquiry. As with land, sea, and air spaces, cyberspace is home to activities that have felt social, civil, economic, and political consequences—it is a place where activities that benefit or harm individuals, entities, and governments occur. Yet cyberspace exists purely in the space of representation and communication—within a computer space, distributed across increasingly complex and fluid networks. As such, it is an imaginative place, creating a sense of social setting through adjacencies that are more invented than found. It is exactly the kind of space that literature would dream into being. Which probably explains why the word originates in the writing of American Canadian sci-­fi novelist William Gibson, who coined the term in a 1982 short story and then further developed it in his seminal 1984 cyberpunk novel Neuromancer. And just like the other spaces that interest nineteenth-­century Americanists, cyberspace has politics. In fact, it is cyberspace’s facility with adding new dimensions to both economic competition and politically driven conflict between nations, governments, and people today that makes it of urgent concern for governments. Major General Brett Williams, director of operations, U.S. Cyber Command, for example, contends that cyberspace is part of the global commons and, as such, should be treated like other physical domains, with governance mechanisms analogous to those applied to land, sea, and air spaces to protect individual, business, and nation-­state rights. In short, its distinctive manufactured and constantly changing features do not preclude cyberspace from being subject to the same “policy, domestic and international



law, safe operating procedures, individual rights, commercial use, national interests and myriad other issues that we have worked through for the maritime and air domains.”4 The fact that cyberspace can be accessed for good or evil easily, cheaply, and without attribution, with a facility and immediacy unavailable to other geopolitical spaces, makes it a domain more, rather than less, in need of government oversight and management. The recent General Data Protection Regulation passed by the European Union to protect all EU citizens’ personal data signals a substantial step in developing this oversight. Shot through with real-­world politics, populated with virtual bodies, originating in American literary imagination, this is dynamic space indeed. Like other kinds of space with which transnational Americanists have been concerned, cyberspace creates opportunities for resistance and revolution as well as submission and compliance. What needle does American literature thread through such a space and what kind of literary fabric is woven as a result? In the case of The Good Captain, cyberspace becomes the literary ecosystem for writing a story that takes us out of the spaces and times of American literature with which we are familiar and into worlds bizarre and far away. Written by nameless contributors from all over the world, The Good Captain is a text that reaches back to nineteenth-­century American literary roots to reimagine the geopolitical and temporal parameters of Melville’s tale of slave insurrection as well as the modes of writing and forms of collaboration that constitute the text-­networks of a worlded—or rather “other-­worlded”— American literature. With its born digital apparatus, The Good Captain offers a radical future reenvisioning not only of how the original story looks on the page but of the content of Melville’s story as well. Repurposing an American literary classic replete with its distinctly American story of slavery and emancipation, Bushman’s version of Benito Cereno envisions a time in 2143 when carbon fiber– skinned slaves are known as artificials, or fishes for short; when American empire has taken on intergalactic proportions such that ships from the Namerican Branch of the Mercantile Empire of the Greater Earth mine planets’ water and minerals throughout the solar system; and when the live-­cargo ships carrying fishes from alien worlds on both sides of the Empire’s borders collide with comets and meteors that cause their onboard reactors to melt down and human spacers (as fish overseers are called) to die from radiation poisoning. It is in this world that Ty Lockham, captain of the Skipstone, spies a Russian ship wandering off course, which he boards to render assistance. Once on board the Mother Volga, Captain Lockham hears a story of woe told by

American Literary Studies @ Scale


Captain Dziga, with the help of his fawning fish Babo, that explains the deteriorated state of the ship but not the actions, glances, and behavior of the fishes and spacers on board. Just as the slaves on board Melville’s San Dominick played a desperate game to free themselves, so too are the fishes in search of freedom at all costs, and the now-­freed fish control every action, word, and gesture of the spacers to throw Lockham off the scent. In this twenty-­first-­ century born-­digital adaptation, Benito Cereno is a worlded text in multiple senses: not only does it now reach to the galaxy but, as importantly, textual production is multimodal, transnational, and crowdsourced—the net effect of Bushman working at scale with digital tools to reach a global community of Melville fans who know the story well and jumped at the chance to take part in a global literary flash mob of sorts. If the events that Melville describes take place over a twelve-­hour period, Bushman’s story ran four months, from November 3, 2007, through February 2008. During this period, world economic markets plummeted in what would become known as the global financial crisis of 2008, initiated by the Chinese correction of 2007 and the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis. Vladimir Putin ended his first term as president of Russia, lauded by Time as Person of the Year. Fidel Castro resigned as president of Cuba. A massive earthquake shook Chile, a cyclone hit Bangladesh, and a total lunar eclipse crossed the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Southwest Asia. The New Horizons space probe made a gravitational slingshot against Jupiter, which changed its trajectory toward Pluto, and the Messenger space probe had its first flyby of Mercury. But most importantly for our purposes, 2007 and early 2008 were a watershed in technology innovation, and the tech developments during this brief period have irrevocably transformed how humans and machines interact. In early 2007 Steve Jobs publicly pulled an iPhone out of his pocket as part of an announcement that Apple had reinvented the mobile phone, and the following months, as Thomas Friedman has persuasively shown, saw an explosion in technology innovation unprecedented in the modern world.5 During this one year, Amazon brought Kindle to market; an open standards platform that helps smartphones scale, called Android, launched; a crucial company for cloud computing called VMware went public; the microblogging company that Bushman was using, called Twitter, spun out as its own separate platform, enabling it to scale globally; AT&T invested in software-­enabled networks that permitted it to scale mobile data traffic on its national wireless network more than 100,000 percent from 2007 to 2014; and IBM began building Watson—these examples only scratch the surface



of innovations in computationally enabled communication that happened in 2007 and that have irrevocably transformed how we have lived, worked, and connected with each other in the past decade. In sum, during the period in which Bushman was curating the authorship of The Good Captain, the tools of his digital literary trade revolutionized, and he and his coauthors were able to experiment with digital tools empowered as never before as they rewrote an American literary classic. This watershed year in communication technologies and computational innovation not only coincided with the text’s creation, enabling and supporting its development, but became an important theme and element of Bushman’s adaptation. As futuristic versions of the slaves that were aboard the San Dominick, fishes do the routinized, menial labor on the ship—but even more than the mutineers in Melville’s text, they seem to be real automatons, doing only what they are “programmed to do and not a thing more.” The fish “work mechanically, never looking up from their tasks,” their “circuits humming while they work away at their mindless” tasks. Captain Lockham interprets the workroom slogan of “follow your leader” to be “some sort of programming reinforcement,” observing that “it must be nice to follow the simple programming you’ve been given by your superiors.” Racial hegemony and oppression have been replaced with a seemingly depersonalized technology-­ enabled workplace in which fishes are “slaves to their programming,” rather than slaves to their masters. They automatically follow the orders that have been uploaded into their operating systems and, as a result, are an ideal workforce, compliant, want-­less, need-­less, built to serve. In short, every employers’ dream.6 And Lockham admires the technological advancements of these particular fish, which have stronger, more flexible parts and next-­generation system upgrades. Because “fishes are too stupid to do anything but follow orders, while humans are responsible for all kinds of choices, moral and otherwise,” Lockham cannot imagine a world in which the fish would disobey their programming and revolt. And yet the substantial improvements in the artificial intelligence of Babo’s model raise a small concern, causing Lockham to “wonder if their programmers fully understand the complexity of what they’ve created.” One fish in particular indicates that human intelligence might be in danger of being outstripped by computer intelligence, a concern that was realized only a few years after publication of The Good Captain when the IBM supercomputer Watson beat Jeopardy long-­time champions at their own game in 2011. A2fl is the same model and make as Babo and refuses to comply with his master’s demand that he ask forgiveness—in short, A2fl “won’t

American Literary Studies @ Scale


respond to master codes or respond to new programming.” As a result, A2fl is in a standoff with Dziga, who refuses to “deactivate or jettison him,” but instead insists that the fish be brought to him three times a day to be asked if he is ready to apologize. A2fl clearly has a bug in his system, but his master’s refusal to deactivate him reflects a bug deep in the ship’s power structure. Lockham belatedly comes to understand that this bug has enabled the fishes to successfully revolt against the humans who programmed them. Once discovered, such malfunctions are easily dealt with, and Babo is “marched to an incinerator and melted down into slag.” Symbolically, however, Babo continues to exist: the crystals of his eyes are mounted and publicly displayed “as a message and warning of the growing danger of artificials” to humans. But for Dziga that lingering danger is not only that AI might be in danger of outwitting human intelligence but more fundamentally that distinctions between fishes and the humans who built them do not finally hold and thus that the resulting power structure is in danger of deconstructing. With its early twenty-­ first-­ century engagement with communication technology innovations, multimodal authorship modality, and futuristic intergalactic setting, neither the time nor the space in which The Good Captain was composed nor the time and space it focuses on seem to be the stuff and substance of nineteenth-­century American literature. And yet, on closer inspection, these unlikely times and spaces—times like 2007 or 2143 and spaces like cyberspace and the Namerican Branch of the Mercantile Empire of the Greater Earth—may indeed be part of the time and place of our field, a logical extension of the American exceptionalism with which transnational American literary scholars have long grappled. The times of nineteenth-­century American literature, it seems, extend not only further backward than we supposed, to the seventeenth-­and eighteenth-­century slave systems driving American abundance, but further forward as well, to a world envisioned as the logical result and net effect of American-­style, Silicon Valley–enabled capitalism unchecked, operating at and beyond global scale. In such a world, national spaces have given way to larger-­scale systems of power and trafficking in computationally enabled subordinates, built to serve. The affluent extend their scope of operations into outer space, which becomes the new frontier economy of a world developed from and beyond its nineteenth-­century imaginings. While it sounds far out there, the future that Bushman imagined only a decade ago seems to have already arrived, Siri and Elon Musk’s SpaceX just two cases in point. In the age of acceleration that began the year of The Good Captain’s authorship, the future is now.



As The Good Captain’s adaptation of Benito Cereno suggests, nineteenth-­ century American literary studies @ scale encompasses not only the seventeenth-­and eighteenth-­century legacies of slavery and colonization that are part of our national past but, as importantly, it grapples with the brilliant technologies that are the defining element of our current age of acceleration. Consequently, American literary studies @ scale is integral for understanding not only American literature but, as importantly, American technological innovation—its past, present and possible futures. And so, when we think of American literary studies @ scale, we can begin to see that American writers long ago began to imagine the age of acceleration in which we now live. Long before technologists and scientists engineered it into being, American Renaissance figures conceptualized the robust networked interconnectivity that has come to define our times. When Walt Whitman imagined a future global era in which “the earth [will be] spann’d, connected by net-­work”—a network so powerful as to cause “the oceans to be cross’d, the distant brought near” and the “lands to be welded together”— he seemed to be foretelling the present time.7 And Whitman’s vision had its own genealogy extending back to communication systems in early New England. As Matt Cohen has cogently observed, long before technologies like the printing press transformed how textual and literary expression circulated, native American peoples depended on intricate informational topographies and sophisticated networks that demanded that people understood communication as a system and network of meaning making.8 Edgar Allen Poe understood the networked nature of literary language only too well, exploiting the mutually enabling features of code breaking and literary writing in his 1839 cryptographic challenge, published in Alexander’s Weekly Messenger. Gaining notoriety by challenging readers to submit cryptographs and declaring he could solve them all, Poe published his solutions to the one hundred ciphers in the Messenger and then in Graham’s Magazine, where a year later he also published “A Few Words on Secret Writing.” This essay caught the attention of a code maker who submitted two cryptographs that defied Poe’s skill. Whether this mysterious contributor was, as some thought, Poe in disguise remains a question, but quite clear is that the links that Poe forged between encrypted code and linguistic systems precede and enable the work of contemporary cryptographic pioneers of the digital age, in particular Claude Shannon, the twentieth-­century MIT scientist who has been widely hailed as the founding father of information theory and the communications systems that have made the age of acceleration possible.

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Indeed, Shannon and others repeatedly turned to American writers of the past for direction, instruction, and inspiration for their own work. T ­ wentieth-­ and twenty-­first-­century scientists, mathematicians, and software engineers continued to cite stories like “The Gold Bug” as powerful models for their own scientific work. Poe’s contributions to cryptography are part of the official histories of efforts to crack the Enigma code, for example. Top secret official National Security Association histories contain long discussions of Poe’s cryptographic writing, and arguably the most famous war cryptographer, Colonel William. F. Friedman, had a career-­long involvement with Poe’s work. In fact, Friedman mused that “it is a curious fact that popular interest in this country in the subject of cryptography received its first stimulus from Edgar Allan Poe.” Friedman recalled that his own boyhood was filled with “excitement about a world he had discovered through Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Gold Bug.’ ” 9 Playing as he does at the boundaries of literary and computational code, Poe is, unsurprisingly, integral to the beginnings of the field of information theory that Shannon founded and on which current networked infrastructure depends. Shannon had a lifelong fascination with Poe’s work, and he self-­described as a great fan from the moment of reading Poe’s cryptograms as a boy. Late in his life Shannon continued to remember fondly the details of Poe’s literary career—and not only Poe’s literary depictions of intrepid cryptographers but also his challenge to the American public to decode the cryptograms that he published. Shannon found in Poe’s confidence both inspiration and provocation for his own pioneering work. More fundamentally, Poe’s sensitivity to the tempo and rhythm of language, and his attention to the endemic coding properties embedded in sentences and lines of poetry, stimulated Shannon’s sensitivity to the literary dimensions of communication coding. If Poe’s literary genius came, in part, from seeing literary lines of text as code, Shannon’s computational genius came, in part, from being aware of the literary properties of word strings. Shot through with double, encrypted, and secret meanings, Poe’s work helped Shannon evolve a theory that, at its core, grappled with the problem of time and communication—that sought to build a computational environment able to ensure the successful transmission of accurate but encoded information over time. American literary studies @ scale, among other things, shows us that the scientific underpinnings of our current age of acceleration didn’t suddenly emerge in the “second machine age” with no antecedents, nor did it spring into spontaneous being at MIT, in the scientific labs of Claude Shannon and



other scientific pioneers like Vannevar Bush. Rather, it is, at least in part, the result of communications systems and networks that were enabled in American contexts long before the printed word, extending back to foundational encounters between native Americans and settlers in the new world. Bushman’s early twenty-­first-­century born-­digital text, in other words, takes part in a longer American literary history in which authors engage with and help to architect technologically innovative communication systems. From such a vantage point, the current time of brilliant technologies can be seen as a kind of fantastic realization of what antebellum-­era American authors like Poe only could imagine in his cryptography essays, of what Whitman wishfully envisioned as America’s future, and of the complex communication networks that early inhabitants generated before the United States was formally founded. In such a brave new world, Melville not only would be part of a global network featuring unlikely literary figures like James, Ritchie, and Hugo. He would be part of a multimodal network that includes information theorists like Bush and Shannon—part of an ecosystem of those who architect the internet and the information systems that are its backbone. American literary studies @ scale therefore not only links the antebellum era to 2143, air and land space with cyberspace, the space between galaxies with the space between nation states. At its core, it colocates figures like Melville and Shannon in a multimodal communication network forming the backbone of the era of brilliant technologies in which we now live. A scaled approach to American literature is not one in which we simply have faster, easier, and better access to nineteenth-­century literary material because of high-­speed internet and digital archives. Rather, it is one in which we recognize how the authors whose materials we download have helped to inspire and bring into being the technologies on which we have come to depend, much as Dziga relies on his fawning fish Babo to anticipate his every need. In other words, approaching our field with an eye to scale requires, among other things, recognizing that picking up Poe’s “The Gold Bug” doesn’t temporarily transport us away from the accelerated pace of our current time nor relieve us from the ongoing distractions of our smartphones, instant messaging, and twitter feed. Rather, turning to our old literary favorites and the less fragmented and distracted America in which we might imagine they are set leads us directly back to our present time, a time characterized by a dramatic change in the pace of change that we have experienced over the last century. And so, it is no accident that Thomas Friedman describes how he finds in Ralph Waldo Emerson wisdom and inspiration for navigating this

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accelerated pace of change—the title of his book, Thank You for Being Late, an intentional adaptation of Emerson’s “in each pause, I hear the call” (4). Just as Poe’s and Whitman’s writings have served as inspiration and provocation for those who developed the technological infrastructure of the present day, so too can we find wisdom and direction in American writers like Emerson for how to steer our course in this age of acceleration.


Place Out of Time: LatinX Studies, Migrant Fictions, and Israel Potter Rodrigo Lazo

Herman Melville wrote LatinX fiction. And I don’t say that because of the completely unmoored signification of the term LatinX. As Claudia Milian has so powerfully articulated, the X in LatinX is unknowable, dispersed, perhaps even unthinkable. She writes of X as an unexpected effect and celebrates “X as a helix ushering in the methodologically experimental. . . . X as your trajectory. . . . X as ____.”1 Milian’s X as LatinX has so many potential meanings (infinite?) that it becomes meaningless, which might allow me to make the claim that a writer once grouped among the white males of the American Renaissance is actually X and also to argue that his fiction has something of the Latin part of LatinX. Latin also has multiple significations, going back to a nineteenth-­century notion of a Latin people that includes ancient Rome and France. But my point is not to float LatinX into an indefinite signifier that allows us to plug in a writer without Spanish American heritage. I say Melville wrote LatinX fiction because the temporality of migration, which is so important to current conceptions of LatinX, is a critical dimension of his work. Milian gestures toward temporality in her epistemologically unknown LatinX: “LatinX research of and in the moment, revealing how and what we process today” (LatinX, 84). It’s a suggestive line but not clear about which moment or who we are or how today is actually to be processed. The line suggests a temporality of today (presentism), which has been an important aspect of LatinX studies, previously known as Latino/a studies (during yesterday’s presentism).2 The X is of today (at least for a day), most recently represented in the academic field’s ability to shed its skin and come up with a

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new name with an X in it. And thus I move today—the up-­to-­the-­minute language of the field—out of its place to turn toward Melville. In this iteration of LatinX’s today, the important context is the repression of migrants at the U.S.–Mexico borderlands. This walling off of migratory movement has been a recurrent part of the borderlands for more than half a century and intensified after the events of September 11, 2001, which led to an intensification of the military homeland security apparatus in charge of gatekeeping, incarceration, and expulsion. The notion of a walled-­off border and the detention of migrants gained momentum under the Trump administration. As Robert T. Chase has shown, “The post 9/11 security environment changed immigration practices to reflect the punitive pursuit of criminal justice.”3 The apprehension of those arriving at the borders, which overwhelmingly targeted Mexicans and Central Americans, morphed into the widespread incarceration and establishment of a prison system that excessively takes in impoverished populations, with hundreds of thousands of immigrants apprehended and detained each year, culminating in the types of abuses that led to the putting of children in cages. These should be the most pressing concerns of LatinX studies today; however, it also reaches out before today. A temporality of the past is not only important to the history of migration and immigration in the Americas but also is a dynamic built into the very structure of migration, which is always driven by a geographic past. In LatinX studies, temporality is complicated by place, particularly the relationship of the United States to countries such as Mexico, Cuba, and Chile that are part of the temporal disjunction of the field. The field’s today is always in tension with the yesterday of a country outside of the United States. That yesterday ranges geographically from the historical (acquisition of Florida, U.S.–Mexico War, Bay of Pigs) to the personal (immigrants or their parents born in other countries). LatinX studies is haunted by yesterplace in part because migration is central to the field, even though the people that we can call LatinX historically speaking have been in North America for hundreds of years and even precede the founding of the United States. Migrants and immigrants are not far from mariners and castaways. What if we turn considerations of migration, its effects on people and its temporality, into interpretations of Melville’s fiction? Melville was obsessed with the types of questions motivated by migration, and thus it is no surprise that his books take up matters of importance to today’s LatinX studies. To be clear, my argument is that Melville’s fiction shares many concerns with LatinX studies, not that he is a LatinX person, especially since (via Milian) one



cannot be sure who or what LatinX is or is not. Rather, I show how Melville’s fiction presents a retrospective gaze at a yesterplace that is also a place out of time. The result is a conjunction of unexpected (out of place) textualities: the text of Melville’s fiction and the textualities of LatinX studies. Together. As C.  L.  R.  James did in 1952 while incarcerated on Ellis Island, I want to propose that Melville “painted a picture of the world in which we live.”4 To read Melville in this way is to show how his fiction anticipates (out of time) the sociopolitical concerns of today, in this case to interpret how a literary emplotment is in dialogue with migrant conditions from another century. The presentism of LatinX studies is the migrant world of Melville. And nowhere is this more apparent than in Israel Potter, a book that captures the migrant spirit and raises question about the role of the nation in delimiting movement and integration. Israel Potter is not the most obvious of Melville’s books to discuss Latinoamérica because other works have a more direct geographic connection either by painting scenarios in South America (e.g., Benito Cereno and The Encantadas, or Enchanted Isles) or discussing the people in places such as Lima (“The Town Ho’s Story” in Moby-­Dick). But Israel Potter takes up migratory experiences through a biographical portrait of an immigrant soul and by concluding with an important volley on how the U.S. nation-­state can be capricious in excluding certain people from its governmental operations. Israel Potter not only addresses the migratory experience of its titular character but also points toward questions about how a country treats refugees fleeing persecution. As I have argued elsewhere, the conditions that Israel Potter faces at the end of the book—the refusal of his pension and thus bureaucratic exclusion from the nation-­state—resonate with the notorious case of Jilmar Ramos-­ Gomez, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan who was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2019 and almost deported, saved at the last minute by his family’s legal interposition.5 Ramos-­Gomez’s service as a lance corporal and tank crewman earned him “a National Defense Service Medal, a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, an Afghanistan Campaign medal, and a combat action ribbon.”6 Despite these decorations and his service, Ramos-­Gomez, a U.S. citizen born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was detained by ICE and held in a facility to await deportation, most likely singled out because of his ethnic background. The case gained attention in the media because his skin color and Hispanic surname led authorities to assume that he was not a U.S. citizen. It appears Ramos-­Gomez suffered from some type of posttraumatic mental stress that prevented him from proving that he

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was a U.S. citizen during his detention. We could say, to quote Israel Potter, that “His scars proved his only medals.”7 The story of Israel Potter shares a process of exclusion with the Ramos-­ Gomez case: government officials deny a veteran’s right to national inclusion, while Israel was “repulsed in efforts, after a pension” (Israel Potter, 192). We could apply to Ramos-­Gomez the point that Hester Blum has made about Israel Potter: “As an American citizen unable to claim the ‘protection’ of his nation, whether at sea or on foreign shores, Potter discovers that his rights are neither inalienable nor independent of the will of sovereign states.”8 The Ramos-­Gomez situation does raise the question as to whether in today’s United States Israel Potter could face deportation.9 But beyond noting the structural exclusion of a state that rejects its own soldiers, Israel Potter also introduces a temporality of perception—a nostalgic look back at a home in another place. Melville’s book ends with Israel longing for home in another country and thus calls attention to the importance of this retrospective gaze for those who go through the process of migration and immigration. Israel Potter is an example of what I call migrant fiction, which offers a literary narrative of the migratory experience, whether in relation to immigration or to migration, the latter a temporary passing through one place on the way to another. Migrant fiction also refers to a narrative that gets away from itself, which is to say a narrative that seems to be going one way and ends up in a very different situation. Like Israel Potter, a migrant fiction might start out with an auspicious tone and end up at a gravesite. In other words, migrant fiction escapes its own terms and suggestions, instead moving the reader in unexpected directions. My gesture toward the Ramos-­Gomez case is a noting that migrant fiction is part of a larger discursive field (fictions in the plural) that include media and political accounts of migratory processes. In U.S. literary history, the relation of migration to fiction is often refracted through labor. The word migrant is regularly appended to worker in the broader field of media and political conversation, and fiction picks up on this connection. Migrant fiction takes us into the experiences of the working class as it narrates the trajectories of people who make their way from another country into the U.S. labor market, the classic example being Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (1906). LatinX studies is not without important ­examples of migrant fiction, including Tomás Rivera’s . . . Y no se lo tragó la tierra (1971), a classic novel of Mexican American migrant workers whose title has been translated as . . . And the Earth Did Not Devour Him as well as This Migrant Earth. A book such as Helena Viramontes’s Under the Feet



of Jesus (1995) tells the story of field workers through a modernist aesthetic that begs the question of how this book works even as it represents characters doing migrant labor. A more recent example with a focus on migrants who arrive in Miami from Colombia is Juliana Delgado Lopera’s Fiebre Tropical (2020). These books are a trickle in a much wider river of migrant fiction, which includes migrants from various parts of the world. A capacious consideration of migrant experiences is what opens a reading of Israel Potter. Migrant fiction prompts a question about how literary language relates (and relates to) the trajectory of migrant work. The most suggestive turns are not about sociological conditions but about the way language can challenge the notion that home-­bound citizenship is a universal aspiration. In her book Migrant Imaginaries, Alicia Schmidt Camacho considers the way border crossers who hold a subordinate position to that of the citizen imagine new types of social interactions. Paying attention to how migrants use language, Schmidt Camacho proposes that migrant imaginaries “narrate a condition of alterity to, or exclusion from, the nation,” even as they also “enunciate a collective desire for a different order of space and belonging across the boundary.”10 In other words, the types of mobile subjects that populate migrant fictions conceptualize themselves in more than one nation. But here Schmidt Camacho, through the term imaginaries, opens fictional accounts to the larger discursive field of fictions that circulate in society. My concern in this article is with the literary text and how it opens spatial and temporal terrains. Migrant fiction is about movement, the movement of characters across national borders, the movement of culture from one place to another, and the movement of imagination across various conceptual limitations. Migrant fiction plots trajectories and situations that differ from the teleological assumptions of the immigrant narrative—which implies a single destination and assimilation in terms of language, dress, and culture as well as participation in the economic well-­being of the self and nation, as articulated in the classic formulation of Abraham Cahan’s The Rise of David Levinsky (1917). Kirsten Silva Gruesz has shown that the intention assumed in the immigrant trajectory (settling and integrating) should not be assumed across centuries or contexts, and she points to nineteenth-­century intellectuals who moved around the Americas and were “errant” rather than settled.11 Many of the writers who moved through the Latino nineteenth century, landing in different parts of the hemisphere, lived through the types of unpredictable relations to nations that are part of migration. If a migrant fiction is anything, it is a narrative that escapes—and thus escapes also the very term migrant fiction. What I’m going

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to argue in Israel Potter is that the movements undertaken by Potter (and by the narrative itself) bring questions of migration and identity into the center of this text, which ultimately presents the U.S. subject as simultaneously within the nation and outside of it, as marked nationally but living a transnational experience, as longing to be a part of a home (whether nation or a house or a hill) and wanting to run away from that home. As migrant fiction, Israel Potter displays an unstable generic quality that intertwines novelistic elements with biography and even travel writing. Israel Potter was published in the same years as Melville’s periodical fictions of the mid-­1850s, including Benito Cereno and The Encantadas, which also show elements of travel writing as they take readers to South American regions.12 As a group, these texts betray a migratory quality that moves toward unstable islands and a coast where everything is gray, as well as Potter’s migration to England and back; their settings mirror an unstable generic effect. In Israel Potter, the Bunker Hill dedication opens with a critique of biography as a genre, a point that Peter Bellis has elucidated in relation to Melville’s fictional response to history.13 Chapter 1 tosses in yet another generic possibility, travel writing, by opening with a reference to “The traveler who at the present day is content to travel in the good old Asiatic style, neither rushed along by a locomotive, nor dragged by a stage coach” (Israel Potter, 3).14 In rhetoric, Asiatic style is not about travel but about oration and is also known as “grand style.” Laurent Pernot explains, “This is a showy and recherché style, practiced by orators and writers from Rhodes and Asia Minor (whence its name)” and could be, per Cicero, bombastic and filled with word play and flair.15 In other words, the traveler addressed in the opening of Israel Potter is not rushed but willing to circle a bit and take the interesting way toward a destination. Asiatic would contrast to the Attic style, which Pernot describes as marked by “clarity and verbal exactitude,” which is to say, direct (Rhetoric, 117). The reference to Asiatic style connects to a migratory impetus in Israel Potter, whose main character is not on a locomotive going to a particular destination or even “dragged by a stage-­coach” but rather is caught in a dialectic of historical force and personal agency as he navigates and negotiates the possibilities before him. Rather than fitting into a predetermined trajectory, the migrant moves from one destination to another, or is forced to move from one detention center to another or is even deported. We could say that the migrant trajectory is a bit more like the Asiatic style to which Melville alludes in the opening sentence of Chapter 1. Such is the narrative promise of the book.



The terms used to describe Israel are about movement, separation, and loss of the self. Israel is variously described as undertaking “adventure” (Israel Potter, 8), “travel” (13), “sailing” (16), and “escape” (17) and is described as a “wanderer” (192), a “peddler in the wilderness” (10), a “Wandering Jew” (188), a “runaway rebel” (7), and an “alien Israel” (186). The word alien appears again when he accidentally ends up on a shuttle with English sailors and tries to fit into the crew, only to be viewed as someone who “had somehow an alien sort of general look” (155, italics mine). The crew begins to interrogate “the strange man before them” (155). The master-­at-­arms then issues a judgment: “He don’t seem to belong anywhere” (159). Israel is also imprisoned in a place “appropriate to runaways” (24), which is to say he is constantly deterritorialized as a result of his own decisions or the historical effects brought on by warships and the great men of the revolution (e.g., Benjamin Franklin). The transient experience of migration, sometimes through escape, overtakes Israel. Early in the book, when he first gets captured as a prisoner of war and is taken to England, Israel is held aboard a ship “like Jonah in the belly of the whale” (Israel Potter, 16), and then he escapes. This sequence captures the spirit of evasive action catapulting him from place to place: “No sooner does Israel see his companions housed, than putting speed into his feet, and letting grow all his wings, he starts like a deer. He runs four miles (so he afterwards affirmed) without halting. He sped towards London; wisely deeming that once in that crowd detection would be impossible” (16). Like someone trying to escape immigration authorities in today’s United States, Israel is constantly trying to avoid detection, changing outfits and directions to keep himself out of detention. In many parts of the book, as other critics have pointed out, his outfits cloak whatever identity he may be trying to hide. Bill Christophersen writes, “Israel’s career consists largely of his changing clothes (every ten pages, it seems), losing himself in one crowd or another, sailing under different flags and figuratively dying and being reborn.”16 These sartorial shifts have much in common with migrants and immigrants who try to fit into a new country or place. But if the narrative on his first arrival in London frames Israel as someone who is mutable and movable, it also situates him as a lower-­class worker (perhaps a migrant laborer) who must contend with poverty. When he trades the dress of an English sailor for the tatters of “an old ditcher tottering beneath the weight of a pick-­axe” (Israel Potter, 21), Israel becomes “the very picture of poverty, toil and distress” (21). And in a sentence that combines his migrant movement with hard labor, we are told that the wretched rags he wore were

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“but suitable to that long career of destitution before him; one brief career of adventurous wanderings; and then, forty torpid years of pauperism” (21–22). If we take Israel’s life as representative of a certain type of migrant experience, we might consider how the actual migration might be a brief episode in someone’s life, an adventure that gives way to years of sedentary labor. Potter has much in common with today’s Latino/a/x laborers in the United States, especially if we consider that his is a story about a guy who leaves his hometown and ends up migrating to another country, where he lands a job as a gardener on the grounds of a retreat frequented by King George III. That scenario is reminiscent (and here the temporality of a Melvillian LatinX studies is at play) of the undocumented people working on Donald Trump’s golf club. One of those workers, Margarita Cruz, was quoted in the New York Times saying that Trump “would come over and say hello, ask your name and how long you had worked at the club. He would ask how you liked a rug, or a picture on the wall, things like that.”17 While George III’s conversation with Israel is on more weighty matters of battles and armies—“Were you at Bunker Hill?” the king asks (Israel Potter, 33)—the hierarchical labor conditions related to care of upscale domestic grounds bring together the “king” of the realm and workers keeping up the place. Israel does share with Latino gardeners the simultaneity of taking a job in one place while retaining parts of the self, whether familial or economic, in another country. While Benedict Anderson emphasized the importance of simultaneity to the nation-­state—the “meanwhile” of an imagined national space—for migrants the simultaneous experience is one that involves at least two countries and sometimes many different places. Scholars of transnationalism have discussed migrants whose experiences involve simultaneous economic, familial, and social connections to more than one country.18 They describe transnational migrant labor as the taking of jobs in one place as aspects of life, including immediate family, are in another country. In other words, migrants experience life in more than one place simultaneously, and thus we could say that time cuts across place. Presence in one location is not predicated on a complete separation from another. An excellent example of transnational duality is at the end of Chapter 1, when Israel’s life is summed up as, “This little boy of the hills, born in sight of the sparkling Housatonic, was to linger out the best part of his life a prisoner or a pauper upon the grimy banks of the Thames” (Israel Potter, 7). The “hills” here could include Bunker Hill, which becomes one of the defining moments of his life, but also the hills of his home, which Israel has not relinquished at the end of the book. Viewed



from a Latino studies perspective, that line from Israel Potter prompts a consideration of the many people from hills in Guatemala or Honduras who live parts of their lives under oppressive labor conditions (prisoners and paupers) while touching the banks of various rivers around the United States. Transnational experiences challenge the presumed singular national affiliation on which so much patriotic discourse—and even the bureaucracies of nation-­formation—is premised. Can’t a person have an allegiance to more than one country, meaning not only affective commitments but also communal affiliations? Are the interests and well-­being of a particular nation so exclusive as to preclude someone’s connection to another nation? Israel Potter puts these kinds of questions in tension with the nationalist impetus that structured life and thought in the early nineteenth-­century United States. As Andrew Taylor has written, “In its rejection of the monumental in favour of the stylistic and ontological complexities of disruption, Israel Potter is a concentrated interrogation of how the transatlantic space hollows out the shibboleths of literary and patriotic belonging.”19 These complexities and disruptions, as I am arguing here, emerge both in Israel’s movement and in the book’s generic instability and, as we will see, change in tone. In discussing Melville and British culture, Paul Giles has argued that when Israel Potter is in Falmouth, England, doubly hunted as both an American and an Englishman, “this perplexing situation functions as a microcosm of the novel’s wider pattern, in which the whole idea of loyalty to a particular nation becomes hopelessly ‘snarled,’ lost in ‘bewildering intertanglement.’ ”20 The reference is to the passage in Chapter 19, in which the battle between the Bon Homme Richard and the Serapis is described as follows: “Never was there a fight so snarled. The intricacy of those incidents which defy the narrator’s extrication, is not ill figured in that bewildering intertanglement of all the yards and anchors of the two ships, which confounded them for the time in one chaos of devastation” (Israel Potter, 136). Just as the two ships of state are snarled, so are narrative intricacies which confound even the narrator, who struggles to explain how a Bunker Hill patriot becomes an Englishman. The weight of patriotism, particularly as it is filtered through the wartime (revolutionary) elements of the novel, is why Israel Potter has often been read not in relation to its transatlantic or transnational dimensions but as an engagement with the U.S. nation-­state. Certainly, the novel encourages a national consideration with its dedication “To his Highness the Bunker Hill Monument” and the setting up of the title character as a lad seeking independence from the “tyranny of his father” (Israel Potter, 9) and gaining “that

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fearless self-­reliance and independence which conducted our forefathers to national freedom” (10). Over decades critics have picked up on how the narrative’s ironies and ambivalences are a response to the mythology of nationhood. John Hay, for example, considers the history of stunted construction of the Bunker Hill monument to argue that Israel Potter “emphasizes gentle disillusionment (rather than harsh apostasy) regarding patriotic ideals.”21 Russ Castronovo notes that “Israel enacts his American story in a prose whose religious and political overtones replay the national history of revolution and liberation.”22 And Robert S. Levine brings it back to how a nation treats its veterans and its people. “The novel is ultimately rejuvenating in the spirited way that it presses its readers to reflect on the value of wars that are made in the name of nations but not necessarily in the service of the ordinary people who inhabit them.”23 But despite the associations of Israel with national consideration, the trajectory of his adventures presses a nationalist reading to account for fifty years outside the country of birth. Israel Potter even goes to “Porto Rico.” Potter is deported or pushed into running so many times and lives in exile so long that he does have something in common with contemporary migrants who seek refuge from political turmoil or other hardship. Among the many words that the novel holds out to account for Israel’s migration, two that stand out are exile and refugee. The book’s title emphasizes, “his fifty years of exile,” which in that case presents that term exile not as a noun referring to a person (an exile) but as a description of a situation or state in which Israel lived for a half century. The book also calls Israel a refugee, as presented in the title of Chapter 4, “Further wanderings of the refugee” (Israel Potter, 24). In some ways, Israel is a war refugee because the clash of armies is what sends him across the Atlantic and into a life on the run. He seeks refuge in various places and then settles into a life of toil in England, able to return to the place of his birth only at the end of his life. The narrative opens with Israel attempting to escape familial restrictions and a love gone wrong and concludes with an attempt to find refuge in the past. Refugees, exiles, and migrants share an uprooting of the self and even a confusion that comes from moving across borders and nations. In one particularly hard reading, Melville’s use of refugee was taken very seriously. The publishing house of Theophilus Beasley Peterson (a.k.a. T.B. Peterson and Brothers) pirated Israel Potter and published Melville’s main narrative word for word in 1865 under the title The Refugee. Cutting out the dedication to Bunker Hill, Peterson’s The Refugee billed the book as an adventure tale and described Melville on the title page as “Author of ‘Typee,’ ‘Omoo,’ ‘The Two



Captains,’ ‘The Man of the World’ etc. etc.” Melville had not written the latter two, and the following year T.B. Peterson published a book titled “The Man of the World” by William North, an English novelist who had published science fiction.24 Although Melville did not care for the pirating and published a letter separating himself from the publication, The Refugee as a title does capture the estrangement in the life of Israel Potter as well as the textual roving of Israel Potter.25 But Melville’s most prominent usage is exile, as emphasized in his title. Exile implies an uncomfortable separation from home. Edward Said has written that exile “is the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home . . . [exile’s] essential sadness can never be surmounted. And while it is true that literature and history contain heroic, romantic, glorious, even triumphant episodes in an exile’s life, these are no more than efforts meant to overcome the crippling sorrow of estrangement.”26 Melville does not give up that sadness, and we see it emerge at the end of the book in relation to Israel’s look at his life of exile. In a recent article about Israel Potter, Emilio Irigoyen argues that “one significant way in which the story represents the experience of exile is by textually embodying the sense of suspension (in time) and of detour (in space) often associated with it.”27 Irigoyen uses the suggestive term “moving stasis” to describe Potter’s condition, and he relates this to form. In his reading, the form of the text enacts a material example of the endless deferrals of the exile condition, a home that is an absence. Exile becomes a way for us to enter into the temporal-­spatial dimensions of this novel, which I described above as relevant to migrant fiction and LatinX studies. After decades in England, Potter gives himself up to “the stir of tender but quenchless memories” (Israel Potter, 186). He looks back on his life not unlike a migrant wishing to return home; he lives a present (end of his life) temporally displaced to another place (where he grew up). In 1800, “back to New England our exile was called in his soul” (186). Israel’s thoughts return to his early days, even imagining he hears Old Huckleberry, his “mother’s favorite old pillion horse” (186). This is an experience of yesterplace, which is out of time. Keeping in mind the temporality of this backward contemplation, the book enters a temporality of nostalgia, which can be brought on by exile. Nostalgia attempts to arrest a historical past and is not uncommon in recent LatinX fiction, most prominently in a book such as The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (1989) by Oscar Hijuelos. Nostalgia also allows us to move

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outside of literary time and toward the discursive space of migration in that the contemporary United States is full of people whose nostalgia colors their conception of a true home, including populations from Cuba, Iran, and Vietnam. Somewhere between the might-­have-­been and the actual condition is the imagination of a comfortable return to what was. Israel Potter speaks to such situations. While my view of nostalgia is informed by contemporary LatinX literature and the work of scholars of immigration (not to mention my personal experiences), Israel Potter also raises the importance of a particular history informing Melville’s vision: how would the mid nineteenth century view nostalgia? In an article that recalls the use of nostalgia as a medical diagnosis related to slavery, Jonathan Schroeder writes, In marked contrast to its current status today, in eighteenth-­and nineteenth-­century Europe and the Americas, the medical concept of nostalgia was the only pathology that related exclusively to forced mobility. It was solely used to diagnose sailors, soldiers, convicts, slaves, and other groups whose labor forcibly separated them from home. Above all, it was diagnosed in the white ethnics and black Africans who made up the bulk of this labor force and whose extreme reactions to compulsory mobility were said to reveal a latent vulnerability to this deadly variety of melancholic insanity.28 Melville’s book does not dwell on the psychological effects of Israel’s exile. The few pages devoted to his decades in hard labor hint at the hardships faced by the working class, and we don’t get a picture of what he experienced. But nostalgia as a longing, perhaps brought on by old age, emerges when Israel Potter ends with a yearning for reconnection with a different time and place in life. The occasion for the “returns of his boyhood’s sweeter days” (Israel Potter, 186) were the many episodes of financial hardship, extreme poverty, and even injury that he suffered, the latter causing “a prolongation of his exile” (184). That is to say migrant nostalgia is brought on by his being “In want and bitterness, pent in, perforce, between dingy walls” (186). There is a transnational dimension to this nostalgic experience. Nostalgia is my word. Melville is not as kind. He uses hallucination: “Sometimes, when incited by some little incident, however trivial in itself, thoughts of home would—either by gradually working and working upon him, or else by an impetuous rush of recollection—overpower him for a time to a sort of hallucination” (Israel Potter, 186). Schroeder notes that nostalgia



was known to induce hallucinations that could lead to suicide, and thus Melville’s diction is not far off from the way nostalgia was described medically in his day. And it is the appeal of that hallucinatory thinking that draws Israel back to the United States, however, at a point in life when he is a brother to the “white-­haired old ocean” (189). Exilic nostalgia is about a place out of time, distant from the present from which it is imagined but recalled as a memory that never was (or perhaps only partially was). Nostalgia’s delusion is also a migrant fiction, one that is persistent and yet eludes the present. I have described the literary version of migrant fiction as getting away from itself, and nostalgia offers an analogical counterpart of a life trajectory that has gotten away from itself. Who intends or plans a life to end up with nostalgic longing? Israel Potter begins with an upbeat tone, only to end in a downcast death without a pension. In the opening we get “ample food for poetic reflection in the singular scenery” (Israel Potter, 3), “crests or slopes of pastoral mountains, while far below, mapped out in its beauty, the valley of the Housatonic lies endless along at your feet” (3). And then, we hear that “In fine clear June days, the bloom of these mountains is beyond expression delightful” (5). The hopeful tone of the book’s opening makes one wonder whether Israel went swimming at the beach during his sojourn into the Caribbean. Despite the humor associated with the episodes involving Ben Franklin, John Paul Jones, and Squire Woodcock, the book gets progressively darker and at one point we are left to wonder if “civilization [is] a thing distinct, or is it an advanced stage of barbarism” (148). In the final chapter, Israel is left to suffer the indignity of the nation-­state, and his son has to tear him away from a “dismal, damp wood” (192). Israel is stunned, faced with the uncanny realization that neither nostalgic vision nor hallucination (Irigoyen’s “moving stasis”) can stand up to the changes of time. By the end Israel Potter is a fiction that has migrated away from itself. The story of a young man on the move jumping into transatlantic revolutionary encounters, changing and shifting as he goes along, gives way to the heaviness and tired limbs of old age. “Few things remain” (Israel Potter, 192). If one is inspired to go back to an imagined place of origin, it is likely that one will find “the roads had years before been changed” and “new orchards, planted from other suckers, and in time grafted, throve on sunny slopes nearby, where blackberries had once been picked by the bushel” (191). These lines are a reminder that a migrant, even with nostalgia as the driver, might not be able to return to something that resembles home. At the end, Melville sends Israel Potter to an unrecognizable other world, and thus Israel Potter cannot

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remain a travel account, biography, or revolutionary war story, not even a sea tale. The book’s generic instability mirrors the migrant fiction of a book that takes many and unexpected turns. These turns are reflected in the changes in tone as the narrative progresses. Despite hardships, including the type of hard labor that Israel Potter did, migration is also an adventure, and one that demands a gamut of tones: hopeful, adventurous, sad. As a wandering novel with a wandering character, Israel Potter pushes us to consider how easily national belonging can be undone. In addition to the importance of migrant experiences to fictional accounts, what the book shares with LatinX studies is a concern about the ways national subjects can become unrecognizable. Israel Potter calls attention to the ways refugees and migrant workers are expelled from the nation when they are rejected as being foreign, or as not belonging within the national space; even a decorated veteran can face deportation because bureaucrats and immigration enforcement police do not see him as belonging to the nation. LatinX as a field of study has always considered the relationship of ethnic subjects to national integration and exclusion. Migrant fictions frame a vexed relationship to nation(s) in part through the narrative telling of stories outside of national confinement. And it is along this transnational line that Israel Potter pushes us to consider how migrant subjects—like its titular veteran who was “repulsed in efforts, after a pension”— can be excluded by “certain caprices of law” (Israel Potter, 192).


Shame and the Emotional Life of the Realist Novel Stephanie Foote

The history of the novel—particularly the realist novel—has been famously cast as the story of the rise of the middle class. In this version of its history as a print cultural phenomenon, the novel served as both education and entertainment for middle-­class readers, particularly women. The novel’s circulation as an object of public exchange and its enjoyment as private pleasure constellates the strange historical position of the middle class, for the novel’s pleasures depended on having leisure time to consume them, and on the riveting dramatization of the consequences of individual choices about how to spend the new commodity of leisure. Historians of the novel link the emergence of the middle-­class individual as consumer to the formal qualities of the novel. In particular, the novel’s organization of its characters’ interior lives against a complex historical setting produced the middle-­class individual as the product of and interpretive principle for understanding the workings of larger social, economic, and political forces. The novel form thus expresses the economic ambition and robust self-­confidence of an emerging class while at the same time paradoxically detailing an individual’s sense of separation from that class. In such analyses of the rise of the novel and the evolution of its form through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, individual characters’ private lives unfold as a personal story, but those stories in their aggregate trace out a teleology of ordinary and ordinarily successful lives. That is, though all characters have their own stories, the comprehensive story of realism in particular asserts that the middle class as a class has only one impersonal,



triumphant, world-­historical story.1 But the novel form, because it focuses on individuals, tends to focus on wayward subjects who at first seem to resist or be impervious to social conscription or conventional narratives. That is because, as Nancy Armstrong has recently argued, it is also the form in which the political and social limits of individualism in a social structure are imagined and tested. In her reading, the novel form is designed to pay attention to the emotional life of resistant characters who can be at last regulated and contained by the forces against which they struggle.2 But if we can ask how the novel represents the emotional lives of its characters, can we also ask if the novel itself has an emotional life? Is trying to find its emotional life the same as trying to find the emotional life of the middle class? We can pose such questions in all kinds of ways. In some sense, the history of the novel form is always a history of how readers could or should feel about literature. There is no shortage of available models to think about emotion, affect, or feeling in relationship to the novel; the emergence at different periods of certain genres and various critical schools of interpretation provides a rich history of how readers and critics have felt about literature, and more precisely how individuals have learned to think about feeling as a kind of thinking, or as the narrativization of a subject’s relationship to thinking. Virtually every current school of critical thought—from affect theory’s understanding of embodied response that can be transmitted to another body, to psychoanalytic readings of the feedback loop of displaced feeling, to reader response’s examination of the intensity of a seemingly individualized experience of encountering texts, to Foucauldian explorations of the political structure of the feeling of everyday life—shares something with the most common readerly response to novels: how do they make us feel?3 Indeed, most of us are familiar with another version of that question, which I introduce here as a parallel to the better-­known official history of the novel with which I began this essay. Teachers of literature are accustomed to students whose first reaction to a novel is articulated as an emotional response (“I loved it”; “it terrified me”; “it was so sad”), and we are also used to mining this immediate response for its constitutive elements (“who is we?”; “what is sorrow now and what was it then?”; “how are fear and suspense narratively produced?”). We might even use the classroom itself as a way of foregrounding the essentially emotional disciplinary logic underwriting the academy’s demand that we correctly coordinate reading and feeling in and through a text, for the very act of reading “correctly” in a university classroom—of

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interpreting the text in the right way, of coming up with the best and smartest answer, of paradoxically leaving behind the initial affective response to a piece of literature in favor of a more distanced evaluation—can produce tremendous anxiety and resistance in students. And why not? If reading a novel “for fun” involves the belief (however partial) that one can forget oneself and lose oneself in a text, reading a novel in a classroom involves disciplining one’s responses by observing oneself making sense not just of a text but of one’s own first responses to it in a social situation. Disciplining feeling is an uncomfortable yet key element in the sociability of reading in each of the literary histories I have given—the strong version drawn from literary historians, and the ephemeral version drawn from a university classroom—and yet each of these histories ask us to think about how to discipline feeling in particularly classed ways. In this essay, I want to think about the novel’s meeting line of feeling and thinking by looking closely at shame, one of the most paradoxically social and yet private affective states, as the signature feeling in and around the realist novel. Shame is an intensely textual experience, involving observing oneself from the perspective of another, and because of this, it is a particularly useful lens through which to understand the specificity of an emotional response to an event that might not have the same affective weight for contemporary readers (would we or our students, after all, really be so devastated by the subtle snubs of a weekend in a country house?). But it is also a particularly useful lens through which to understand the power of an affective response to break open the inner life of a historical moment and reveal the artificiality and provisionality of its social arrangements. Shame is the core of realism’s emotional life precisely because it elaborates the fragility of a middle-­class identity that depends on feeling distance from the very group that gives one psychic coherence. Realism was not the genre that provoked the most public debate about the novel’s ability to manipulate its readers’ feelings, and the late nineteenth century was not the period in which debates about the relative danger of the novel form itself were most anxiously staged. Realism is not even the genre in which the category of emotion is especially high on the list of privileged interpretive vantage points. In the context of the United States, that honor must go to the sentimental fiction of the early nineteenth century. Sentimental fiction, according to its critics, who had themselves been whipped into a frenzy of outrage by their English compatriots who had long devalued that



form, produced unregulated feelings in its women readers. Indeed, the argument, more finely made, was that the texts of novels trafficked in exaggerated, even false, feelings that would erase the line between fiction and the real world, between false and real emotions. The link between feeling and understanding is clear in the example of sentimental fiction; if readers only understood more, they would either feel less or feel more rightly. And as many critics have pointed out, the feelings that reading sentimental fiction were supposed to encourage blurred the boundaries between public and private spheres, assumed to be an especially fraught issue for women. A great deal of work has been done on the genre of the sentimental novel, especially the way it figures emotion and tries to solicit emotional response.4 Sentimental fiction is an object lesson in the historicity and materiality of emotions and reading practices, for very few people could pick up Charlotte Temple, for example, and feel the passionate sorrow felt by its early readers. Paradoxically, our historical distance from the form—didactic, thinly descriptive—of such a novel as well as our distance from its content— innocent young girl punished for her love affair—means that contemporary readers cannot feel what its first readers felt. The sentimental genre, that is, is now experienced by readers almost entirely intellectually, and analyses of sentimental fiction focus less on sentiment than on its possible public uses. But the realist novel of the later nineteenth century is not only closer to our own era, and its strategies and representations of personhood more familiar to us, it is “our” genre in the sense that Nancy Armstrong has argued in How Novels Think. That is, the realist novel produced a subject in writing “that proved uniquely capable of reproducing itself not only in authors but in readers” (3). The realist novel tasks itself with trying to represent at once the subtleties of interior lives as well as the nuances of the social world. As critics like Amy Kaplan and Nancy Bentley have shown, realism’s strategy of figuring consciousness against a richly depicted social backdrop was indebted to contemporary discourses that also attempted magisterial summations of an imagined social totality. Kaplan famously argues that realism was a privileged form that tried to manage competing social realities, in which case we might imagine the development of a rich interiority as an effect of an unevenly integrated and evaluated range of experiences, and Nancy Bentley provocatively maps the development of anthropology on the development of realism, linking the rituals of membership and exclusion in the former to the representational strategies that measure successful personhood in the latter.5 It is a genre in which consciousness is most fully articulated as a property of

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the individual, a genre the formal properties of which develop the full, rich interior life of a character who is both part of and apart from the social. But shame is at the heart of realism precisely because, as I shall argue, it is a feeling that is always imbricated in reading itself, a feeling that tacks back and forth between a spectacular revelation of one’s role in the social as well as in a painful (and often ecstatic) embodied experience of individuality and isolation. Shame blooms when the subject appears, for shame happens when an individual suddenly observes herself being a bad character, failing to follow even the most loosely written script about how one maintains individuality within a social group. Experienced in the body when its subject suddenly recognizes what she must look like from the eyes of another, shame relies on the sudden recognition of one’s difference from oneself, and the further identification with the other’s perspective. A total embrace of abjection, shame is a novelistic feeling; experiencing it locates a subject in an ongoing narrative, one in which she is shown to be playing a part of which she has been unaware. Although I argue that shame has a peculiarly stable relationship to narrative, it is of course a historical emotion in the sense that all emotions and feelings are historical. The events that cause shame are not the same in the fourteenth century as they are in the twenty-­first century. The subjects of shame, the people who can be shamed and who can be made to feel shame, are also not the same, given that the relationship to the category of abjection is historically specific as well. Every historical and social particularity gives shame its shape and force in any given moment. But shame is a narrative relationship to one’s own experience of consciousness and the social, and it unfolds a narrative even as it punctuates time by freezing the subject in an awful moment of alienation. That is, shame is a moment that both reveals the historical specificity of how a subject should behave and announces the existence of an outside to those norms. The operation of shame is particularly easy to identify in the realist novel by looking at parvenus, key figures in realist fiction. Parvenus can be easily identified—they are figures without that pesky interiority or consciousness that are the hallmarks of the full, rich, realist subject, and the success or failure of their social careers can be measured by following their trail of social mistakes. Parvenus are compendiums of social errors. They are either doing the right thing at the wrong time, or they are too obviously doing the right thing at the right time. Their manifold social mistakes ought to produce shame in the parvenu, but they don’t. Rather they produce the knowledge of shame in the reader and in others around them. Parvenus, in other words,



never know that they are leaving hints about the crime of social ambition, or leaving narrative traces of the difficult work of how the novel forms the realist subject as someone who must watch herself from the perspective of another. It is up to the multiple readers, as it is to the detective, to organize social errors into a narrative of shame. The archive of the parvenu produces a kind of shame by proxy, a shame felt in the people who witness the errors of the parvenu. In this argument, the particular sort of social shame I’m talking about— shame explicitly enacted by excluding a person from a given social group—is not an individual feeling, although it might be registered as that by the subject of exclusion at some later point, or even perhaps at that very moment by those who have excluded her. It is not a public feeling, but it is a feeling that understands that there is a public, and as such it accomplishes some critical and productive things. First, it realizes a subject who has been shamed by a judgment that produces her as like but not exactly one of a group she wishes to be asked to join. But perhaps even more importantly, shame materializes a subject before a tribunal of readers, and it therefore materializes that tribunal of readers and endows them with the extraordinary power of the norm, even if this is a power that they might wield without intent and without definite aim. That tribunal might be, in objective terms, only abstract, never constituted in a single place as an actual group, but it is materialized nonetheless because the moment of shame produces, if seen from the point of view of—if not in fact by—the person who has been shamed, its normative group coherence. The social tribunal appears to be a single force gathered to witness the spectacle of shame, and if their judgment is narrated by, say, the fabled omniscient narrator of a nineteenth-­century novel they, perhaps more than the one who ought to be feeling shamed, are imputed a communal subjectivity at the moment that they are assembled as a group to shame another. It is possible, in fact, for that group to feel a shame on behalf of their victim not because they either intentionally or unintentionally seek to shame her, but because they must, when confronted by a violation of their norm, understand that they have a social power and a social identity that will manifest itself whether they seek to use it or not.6 Let us take a consummate example from realism. In one of the great parvenu books of the nineteenth century, William Dean Howells’s 1885 The Rise of Silas Lapham, the title character is invited to the house of the Corey family. The Laphams are a good-­hearted rural family made wealthy because

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they have a paint mine on their Vermont farm. The Coreys are hereditary members of the Boston elite, not particularly snobbish or rude, not particularly kind or cruel. Their dinner party involves a lot of forks, French words about architecture, and nicely phrased bafflement at the popular taste. The novel makes a point of narrating the class difference between the newly rich Laphams and the genteel but impoverished Coreys, and the scenes leading up to the dinner are filled with the Laphams’ search for the right gloves, the right clothes, and with their discussions of the right things to say and do. Alas, though, they could not predict everything, and wine is served at the meal. Because the Laphams do not drink wine, Silas Lapham does not know how to refuse it, and over the course of the dinner party, he gets very drunk. He begins to tell stories that have no discernible point or end, talks and laughs very loudly, and as he is leaving the dinner party, he makes lavish gestures of undying friendship to everyone in the house. The next day, Silas can remember just enough to know that something might have gone horribly wrong, and after a morning of a hangover that is only exacerbated by terrible fear, he asks Tom Corey if he had, in fact, been drunk at Tom’s house. The mere fact that he must ask Tom about his behavior makes Silas miserable and ashamed, for it puts Tom in the position of judge, reversing the local dynamics in which Silas is Tom’s boss and reinforcing the larger dynamic, always imperfectly buried their business relationship anyway, in which Tom is Silas’s social superior. For his part, Tom Corey is intensely ashamed on Silas’s behalf—not so much ashamed at how Lapham behaved as he is ashamed to be reliving the experience with him the next day. Yet all Tom says to him is, “You were among gentlemen.”7 Of the many things that can be said about this cringe-­inducing scene, three I think are relevant here. First, it is not exactly the memory of the event or the event itself that produces shame in Lapham and in Tom Corey, Silas’s reluctant confessor. It’s the putting into narrative the moment of Lapham’s deviance from a social norm that produces shame, for the very act of narrating it, even though the narrative avoids a blow-­by-­blow account, definitively arranges the drunken faux pas into a scene in which Tom Corey must affiliate with the values of his family, values he had not even known he believed in until the moment he is forced to relive the evening in Silas’s presence. The scene in which narrative is invoked (“Out with it,” Silas demands) materializes Silas’s deviance, and it produces the norm against which he has transgressed, and it produces an audience that witnesses and judges (209).



The second relevant issue here is that the norm is clearly a class norm. Tom Corey says to Lapham not “we were all gentlemen,” but rather “you were among gentlemen,” clearly separating out Lapham from his audience. And finally, the scene invokes and specifies not just some readers but attempts to implicate all readers. And this is because Silas must suddenly become a spectator of himself—he must feel something that relies on both a distance from himself as a social actor as well as feeling horrifyingly individuated. He must see himself as others see him, and feel ashamed of himself and for himself. At the risk of making the rookie mistake of conflating the events of a realist novel with real things that happen to real people, it seems safe to assume that the events of shame return to us with a force whose power is perhaps strengthened by their arrangement as a narrative economy that we can play as a perfect narrative again and again in our minds. Here, we might see the central work of shame in relationship to what Peter Brooks has called the narrative effect of repetition, which occludes but references the real, repressed plot of a text.8 In the small scene in The Rise of Silas Lapham I have just discussed, the way that an event is narrated produces shame by putting into a series of interlocking narratives various people’s relationship to norms and social judgments. The arrangement of the scene of shame as about a narrative economy that reveals the subject’s relationship with norms follows fairly closely the most conventional wisdom about how shame operates. For example, for Silvan Tomkins, shame is about the body and is registered on the body. Shame is produced by the sudden recognition that one has made oneself visible. For him, the physical corollary of shame is near motionlessness—one’s face becomes blank, one hides one’s face, one cannot make eye contact with one’s judge. Shame, if about visibility, is then connected to a certain form of paranoia—a hyperawareness, a hyperrefined strategy of reading, expressed in the belief that one is not just visible but that everyone is staring, or looking, that everyone has seen and now knows something about the shamed.9 It is about the feeling that one is transparent, suddenly available to be read and understood, but in ways not yet even knowable to the self. All of these are clearly seen in narratives of social gaffes. In fact, Lapham says miserably to Tom, “I was the only one that wasn’t a gentleman there!” as if discovering it for the first time (209). If in The Rise of Silas Lapham we can see the realist novel reflecting not merely on the production of narrative in general, but more specifically on what narrative itself produces, we can also see the ways that all of the particular strategies of realism come together in order to harmonize with something

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that we might call feeling. Frances Ferguson has argued that the signal contribution of the realist novel is free indirect discourse. Free indirect discourse is, of course, that formal innovation that produces the effect of seeing the world from the point of view of a single character, and therefore appearing to understand the operations of a consciousness that exceeds even that of the character—free indirect discourse, after all, is not first person narrative in which readers can certainly critique the operations of the narrating character’s consciousness, but not, as with the realist novel, from a point provided for us within the narrative. Free indirect discourse produces the illusion of knowing as and knowing more than a character, and it relies on another narrative strategy that the realist novel did not produce but that it certainly perfected: the omniscient narrator. The omniscient narrator is cosmopolitan and promiscuous, a character in the novel to be sure, but also an access point. As Ferguson argues, realism’s omniscient narrator and free indirect discourse imagine a very specific relationship between individuals and their culture, as well as between readers and texts.10 The narrative strategies that realism refined—free indirect discourse, omniscient narration, thick and detailed description—have become strategies identified with novels themselves in the twentieth and twenty-­first centuries. By saying this, I don’t mean to argue that realist narration and its characteristics are the most “human,” or that they have remained so popular because they are how we “really” see the world—this is the productive mistake that our students tend to make, and it is also, not so coincidentally, the belief that enables them to say that all interpretations offered in the classroom are just their opinions. What I mean to say is that realist narration worked its way into culture as the dominant model for consciousness, indeed, was naturalized as such because it entered from so many different areas. Realist narrative strategies were not merely under the jurisdiction of the realist novel. Parts of those strategies were advanced and refined in other nineteenth-­century fields that organized distinct kinds of knowledge within social and ethical frameworks—anthropology, for example, and psychoanalysis, each of which relied on narrative as such but which also developed self-­reflexive methods for analyzing narrative while producing it. The convergence of all of these disciplinary mechanisms produced a subject, and it produced a subject who naturalized the narrative of his or her own production. But it has also produced a subject who has internalized the fundamental operations of shame as the dominant strategy for coordinating how we simultaneously see and feel ourselves as subjects.



The naturalized realist strategy provides a link between novels and readers. In much the same way that I have analyzed scenes from William Dean Howells, people who have been shamed must understand themselves by analyzing themselves from the perspective of another. The experience of shame entails a compulsive and seemingly endless repetition of its originating event. Over and over, a person who has been shamed can relive the experience, renarrating it to herself, and feeling and seeing it as the character and the narrator all at once. This is, of course, free indirect discourse at its most efficient. The repetition of the narrative can make the shamed one feel that same shame as intensely, if not more intensely, than before. Silvan Tompkins argues that even the same physical symptoms will obtain in the circumstance of repetition: blushing, for example. Why does this happen? Is there an explanation that is not merely speculative psychoanalysis? If we turn to narrative theory again, and imagine that the remembrance of the shaming event is a narrative, we have perhaps a clue. First, that sort of renarration can produce more shame than the initial event because in each internal retelling, the person who has been shamed moves in different ways between the audience of judges and her former self, the character who focalizes her, and who is and is not her. Indeed, the experience of shame can be deeper because of the interpretive latitude that realist narrative enables. The story might be the same, but the position of the narrator is not. In a watered-­down psychoanalytic idiom, being shamed particularizes us—it sets us apart as though we are in a great spotlight of visibility and ­publicity—but it also abstracts us, for it asks us to see ourselves as we believe others must see us, and it asks us to understand the viewpoint of another as momentarily correct. Shame is experienced as personal but it is not. It is social, for it reveals ourselves to us as if we were another—the best and failed version of ourselves, and the worst and now true version of ourselves. Defined by these two elements—first, as a special form of knowledge, or a special form of self-­knowledge, and second, as a form of boundary crossing that is unremarked until the moment of transgression—the economy of shame might be the potential site of the formation of a new group with new norms. All shame, that is to say, is someone else’s. In late capitalism shame is one of the emotions that one feels a near imperative to rid oneself of. It’s bad to be ashamed (even if it probably is still a little bit scandalous to be shameless) and it’s especially bad to be ashamed of who one “truly” is. If, for example, I confront and accidentally transgress codes of conduct that are designed to exclude me because I am unlikely to

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know that they even exist, why don’t I feel a secret pride that I alone have managed to expose a system designed to regulate and control people like myself? Transgression and boundary crossing are now so established in popular culture as to be experienced as necessities. No matter how boring and routinized transgression is, no matter how scripted and banal, transgression still has a certain cachet. Like shame, it is a highly individual and individuating act, aimed at showing one’s relationship to structures of authority and power that one makes visible by making oneself visible before them. But in structural terms, shame and pride are the same things. They both announce a certain externality to social codes, and they both rely on visibility—the knowledge that one is being read, and the belief that in the very transgression and visibility, one can perfectly read oneself according to certain norms that one’s very transgression has helped to produce. This homology is indebted to the Foucauldian imperative to think about the genealogy of one’s relationship to normativity as well as to his cautionary argument that we moderns falsely believe that we have discovered the truth of sex. And yet, I want to close by observing that what the realist novel teaches about shame is that it is above all an ethical relationship: the process of reading about shame is a process of feeling shame on someone’s behalf. If all shame is felt on behalf of another, this means in part that we have a historical way to narrate exclusion and to narrate our obligations to others in the social. But it also means that we have a way to track, from the nineteenth century, which gave us literary and psychoanalytic models of how consciousness responds to its own exclusion, to think about the way that shame can track the weight we give to individual expression, to the fantasy of how we put ourselves into narration—to the dangers and pleasures of narrative itself. If the emotional life of the realist novel is driven by shame, propelled by formal mechanisms that invite us to see ourselves as others might see us, we might also return to the first iteration of the realist novel as the genre of the middle class. Shame marks a historical fault line whereby the compulsion to be seen and known will always confront the fact that one will be misrecognized and misread. In this sense, realist shame is the symptom of the middle class’s fragility rather than a record of its triumph, a barely visible record of a political unconscious that compulsively observes its missteps and errors. At this moment, when the white middle class’s sense of itself has been on the one hand buffeted by a global financial collapse that revealed it to be a more temporary economic formation than it had imagined and on the other threatened by the rise of white working-­class resentment that demands



that the middle class account for its purported abandonment of the ideals of social mobility to which it owes its existence, narratives about class shame have become more important than ever before. The narcissistic quality of a shame that individualizes and yet secretly exalts a subject’s sense of belonging is the mark of a narrative that has historically made the resentful and white working class invisible, and that has paved the way for a narrative in which it can claim the narrative of realness for itself.


Ghosts of Another Time: Spiritualism, Photography, Enchantment Dana Luciano

Many of the best-­known Spiritualist photographers claimed that their work in the field began through an accidental encounter: they were going about their business, taking ordinary photos, when all of a sudden, images of spirits began, unbidden, to appear. Often, at the time of these visitations, they knew little about the Modern Spiritualist movement, which was already well under way by 1861, the year the Bostonian engraver William Mumler became the first photographer to meet the spirits in this way.1 Yet the compelling presences manifesting on their photographic plates would not be banished: they lingered, demanding attention, ultimately opening new avenues of speculation for these photographers and their fellow Spiritualist investigators. I can testify to the impact of such unplanned encounters with the spirits, since something similar happened to me. Some years ago, when my first book, Arranging Grief: Sacred Time and the Body in Nineteenth-­Century America, was in press, my editor sent me a handful of nineteenth-­and early twentieth-­ century spirit photographs, proposing that one of them might make a good cover. Spirit photography was, at the time, experiencing a moment of revival, with a number of museum exhibits and art-­historical studies taking it as their subject, and many of these positioned the spirit photograph, for its original users, as an artifact of mourning, an aid to consolation.2 But I was hesitant about this proposal for a number of reasons: first, because most of the spirit photograph’s history occurs later than the period that my book covered (its archive is drawn from the decades between 1820 and 1870, while spirit photography began in the 1860s and played a significant part in the Spiritualist



Figure 14.1. William H. Mumler (American, 1832–1884). Bronson Murray, 1862–1875, Albumen silver print. 9.5 × 5.6 cm (3 3/4 × 2 3/16 in.), 84.XD.760.1.11. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

movement through the 1920s), and second, because I had said nothing about either Spiritualism or photography in the book itself. But most importantly, the images struck me as missing the mark affectively: my point of inquiry was grief, but the photographs didn’t seem especially mournful or sad. Even after we’d compromised on a rather somber Mumler photograph for the cover— one of a series in which spirits manifest in response to photographs of the living subjects who sought to contact them—I continued to be puzzled by this absence of mournfulness. It wasn’t what I would have expected. Like many other historians of sentiment, I was acquainted with Spiritualism, following Ann Douglass’s influential work on the “domestication of death,” as an offshoot of nineteenth-­century sentimental mourning culture.3 The choice of

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medium only intensified that expectation, since I knew photography, following Roland Barthes, to be a melancholy genre, preoccupied with death.4 Yet these pictures spoke to me otherwise. And so I began seeking the ghosts of another time, a time engaged with death in a manner differently than the archive of my first book would suggest. That book had focused on the mingling of affect and time (what I termed chronobiopolitics, or the arrangement of the time of life as political strategy) in sentimental culture’s extensive attention to grief and mourning. Anxious about the possible sacrifice of that which makes us human to the fast, forward-­ moving time of modernity, sentimentalists, I argued, embraced grief in an effort to preserve what they understood as the foundational human capacity for affection by sacralizing it, locating it anterior to (linear) time, prior to and apart from the world of progress. Photography might appear an ideal medium for this sort of sacralization, insofar as it preserved a trace of its subject on the plate—effectively securing it against the ravages of time, as asserted in a slogan favored by nineteenth-­century photographers’ studios: “Secure the shadow, ere the substance fade.”5 The association of spirit photography with sentimental mourning culture, then, would seem like a logical connection. Yet Spiritualists, the makers and original users of these photographs, tended toward a different (re)cognition of time, as indexed in their favored designation for the movement: “Modern Spiritualism.” Whereas sentimental culture yearned backward, against the rush of modernization, toward the time-­ before-­time it aligned with the affections, Spiritualists embraced progress as capacious and consoling. For them, “eternal Progress” meant that personal, intellectual, and spiritual development did not end with death but continued, on multiple levels, in the afterlife. Modern science and technology (including photography) made it more possible to receive and to verify communications from the evolving beings on the other side, who sought not simply to comfort the bereaved with news of their continued existence but to impart knowledge, from their more advanced worlds, for the benefit of all humanity. In their view, the kind of progress exemplified by photography and other new media could demonstrate the material truth of what sentimental culture had taken on faith: the sustaining power of the interpersonal bond across time and space, a bond that not only anchored the human but opened it to other forms of knowledge and ways of being. Recording the presence and promise of the multiple worlds, mortal and post-­, whose interweaving Spiritualism sought to illuminate, the photograph, as Spiritualists saw it, could accommodate the distinctive movements that attended its transmission of thought and feeling across time: history,



say, as yearning, as frisson, as transtemporal fusion, as radical advancement, as ecstatic displacement. As Molly McGarry observes in her groundbreaking study of the movement, perhaps the queerest thing about Spiritualism was its production of a “unique set of affinities through a radical collapse of temporality” (Ghosts, 159). The queer inclination that McGarry, following Carolyn Dinshaw’s account of queer historiography, identifies as Spiritualism’s eager sensitivity to “touches across time” manifests in the spirit photograph as an intimate engagement with the material dimensions of the medium. As I came to understand the Spiritualist take on time, I first began to frame the project archaeologically, as an effort to locate an occluded set of meanings in the past, buried beneath latter-­day developments. My research, I imagined, would restore to view the utopianism of the nineteenth-­century (spirit) photograph against the twentieth-­century melancholic understanding of the photograph as wound—the latter, I would assert, was an untimely imposition when applied to photographs of the past. Yet while that excavation has remained part of my project, its framing has shifted. I initially envisioned my study as correcting an anachronistic error that some latter-­day critics had made about Spiritualist time, one that prevented some readers from comprehending the utopian (rather than mournful) implications of the spirit photograph. Yet those photographs themselves ended up pointing me toward the limits of this framing. Though Spiritualists themselves took up similar corrective positionings with respect to their own contemporaries’ understanding of history—arguing, for instance, that a failure to understand the reality of eternal progress impoverished most extant Western time frames—the corrective mode itself contradicted the very spirit of the story that, I wanted to argue, the (spirit) photograph sought to tell. The cultural meanings of photography as an invention, a medium, an institution, might well be plotted along a sequential axis; however, the (spirit) photograph itself indexed multiple temporalities and affects, calling the singularity of this sequential narrative into question. The sequential story about photography that my project mapped out needed, then, to be supplemented by something else: a historiography alive to the multiple temporalities that our objects index. As I looked around for other modes of engaging the past, I realized that—like the seemingly isolated sitters in spirit photographs—I was far from alone. Indeed, quite a few C19 scholars seem to have been suffering from what Jennifer Fleissner identifies as “historicism blues.”6 In her introduction to a forum on this question in the inaugural issue of J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-­Century Americanists, Nancy Bentley contends that many C19

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scholars have become disillusioned with the obligation to approach scholarship as a “heroic disenchantment of history.”7 Instead, Bentley argues, we are seeing the emergence of a view of “critique as enchantment”—or what she identifies, citing C. L. R. James, as “a mode of engaging history in . . . ‘the spirit of the thing’” (149). Enchantment, the term Bentley uses for this new (or renewed) approach to critique, signifies on at least three levels: intellectual, affective, and spiritual. Intellectually, enchantment, as the opposite of “aggressive debunking,” signals a willingness not to know everything, to work alongside and with spaces of unknowing. But that unknowing also operates in the light of an attraction to the object; for Bentley, enchanted historiography is “animated by attachments and affinities more than skeptical critique.” What Bentley calls “critique as enchantment” is not a method per se but a mood: the widespread desire for something else that has overtaken discussions of critical method in the past decade or so. Enchantment has found multiple points of contact with this desire. Jane Bennett identifies enchantment as an ethical mode of critique, as well as a way to motivate and sustain a move from theory to praxis; Ann Burlein and Jackie Orr see it as a way to track that which can be hard to see—“an invitation to think hard and differently about the force of all that which escapes our critical apparatus.”8 Finally, enchantment also makes room for the spiritual, religious, or otherwise nonsecular status of objects without needing to dispel or demystify that status. As Bentley observes, enchanted historiographers meet the past on a kind of equal footing—not necessarily a mutuality of belief, but something other than the smug superiority of the resolutely secular. This spoke to my desire to engage with the spirit photograph in a manner other than debunking. I didn’t want to define them in relation to a singular, secular-­ technological truth about what could and could not really be photographed— nor about the proper or improper affective relation to this truth—but simply to follow the stories they told.

* * * The spirit photograph renewed and extended the speculative optimism first generated around the emergence of photography itself. In the decades after its emergence, the medium was celebrated as both an index of progress—an amazing new invention, demonstrating the ever-­advancing technical prowess that characterized the times—and a means to further discovery, as commentators indulged in exuberant speculation about its potential benefits. An



1843 review essay in the Edinburgh Review (published anonymously, possibly authored by Sir David Brewster, inventor of the stereoscope) declared photography to be an example of the “law of progressive development,” one of “those great inventions which add to the happiness of our species.”9 Such developments, the essay predicted, would ultimately lead to the “perfection of [man’s] nature” and consequent commencement of “a new scene of activity and enjoyment” (“Photogenic Drawing,” 310). Oliver Wendell Holmes, writing in 1859, enthusiastically concurred. Photography, he observed, had become so commonplace people almost forgot its “miraculous” status.10 But the medium was a gift from the divine, intended to move humankind into the future: Let our readers fill out a blank check on the future as they like,—we give our indorsement to their imaginations beforehand. . . . [B]efore another generation has passed away, it will be recognized that a new epoch in the history of human progress dates from the time when He who never but in uncreated light Dwelt from eternity— took a pencil of fire from the hand of the “angel standing in the sun,” and placed it in the hands of a mortal. (“Stereoscope,” 351) As it turned out, Holmes was not prepared to endorse the imagined futures envisioned in the spirit photograph, which emerged just a few years after this piece appeared. In a second essay, published four years later, Holmes dismissed spirit photographs as fakes intended to exploit the mournful, the “poor mother, whose eyes are blinded with tears.”11 To Holmes’ own, skeptical, eye, spirit photography embodied a distressing tendency to exploit those who remained fixated on the past. For Spiritualists, though, the spirit photograph revealed what Holmes had described in 1859: a lively and vibrant scene, beckoning toward new prospects, toward futures yet to be envisioned. They viewed the spirit photograph just as Brewster understood the medium itself: as both an effect of modern technological progress and a means of further advancement. Many believers used the photographs as a means of consolation, of course. As Mrs. E. Pickup, the living sitter in a spirit photograph made by the British spirit photographer William Hope, wrote in response to the image of her

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dead husband, hovering behind her shoulder: “I need never suffer the pangs of loneliness again, because I believe that God has taken him to a higher sphere. He will still guide me and watch over me. . . . I don’t know that I could ask for anything more. My cup is full and overflowing.”12 Yet alongside consolation, Mrs. Pickup’s final word—overflowing—signals the surplus value of the spirit “extras” whose manifestation meant so much not only to the individuals who purchased the photographs, but to the movement as a whole. According to Spiritualist writers, the departed returned to beckon the living onward, not only toward posthumous glory but also toward advancement in the mortal sphere. Mumler, for instance, reported that a photograph he made of Vice President Henry Wilson contained a message from Charles Sumner: “HENRY. Defend all rights. Resist all wrongs” (Strange Case, 134). To be sure, the specific social benefits of spirit communication were often rather vague. James Coates, author of Photographing the Invisible (1911), asserted that the very act of tracking down the identity of unknown “extras” who appeared in spirit photographs was a kind of tutelage, proving that the “Unseen Intelligences” behind the production of spirit photography “have some higher aim in all these efforts, than merely to console or gratify those to whom these phenomena come.”13 But if the point of these lessons from beyond remained rather obscure, if the futures toward which they beckoned were but dimly glimpsed, this vagueness, too, echoed nineteenth-­century celebrations of photography’s possibilities: the blank check on the imagination that Holmes promised on behalf of the medium, or Edgar Allan Poe’s 1840 insistence that “the consequences of any new scientific invention will, at the present day exceed, very much, the wildest expectations of the most imaginative.”14 Accompanying the anticipatory temporality associated with the spirit photograph was the deeply embodying function of the photograph itself. The pursuit of “Unseen Intelligences” underscored the photograph’s tactility as well as its visuality. Photography—described by William Henry Fox Talbot, one of its pioneers, as the “pencil of nature”—has always been understood in terms of impressibility, of light touching down on a coated plate.15 In the spirit photograph, this touch of light was doubled by the touch of spirit-­energy, as demonstrated by Mumler’s images of spirits manifesting in response to photographs (see Figure 2). Anticipating the understanding of the photographic index, which would come to dominate twentieth-­century critical writing about the medium, photographs were believed to carry traces of their living subjects, which attracted spirit presence. And this indexical presentation, the



Figure 14.2. William H. Mumler (American, 1832–1884). [Five “spirits” in background with a photograph at center of table with a doily], 1862–1875, Albumen silver print 9.7 × 5.6 cm (3 13/16 × 2 3/16 in.), 84.XD.760.1.13. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

spirit photograph’s doubled “touch across time,” was likewise transmitted to the viewer. As the British medium Georgiana Houghton enthused, even if nonbelievers might disregard the written testimony of Spiritualists, “in [photographic] form the lesson may reach the heart through the eye, and may the impression be permanent!”16 Understood in this light, the spirit photograph served, for believers, not only as a straightforward and undeniable demonstration of the veracity of posthumous communication, but also as a means of embodying and transmitting the polychronic vitality of Spiritualist belief. This only held true up to a point, though—a point that seemed to coincide with whiteness. The futures anticipated in Spiritualist photography seemed, on the whole, to be reserved for the middle-­class Anglo-­Americans

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who dominated the transatlantic Modern Spiritualist movement.17 The movement proclaimed broad cross-­cultural influence, occasionally depicted in spirit photographs where white subjects, usually professional mediums, were accompanied by the manifestation of African, Native American, or Asian “extras,” who served as their spirit guides.18 Yet the rarity of spirit photographs depicting living sitters of color, and the dismissiveness with which these sitters are treated in the literature, suggest both the domination of the movement and its media organs by middle-­class whites and the tendency to see those subjects as the proper recipients of Spiritualist truth.19 In several years of research in U.S. and UK archives, I have located only two images featuring living sitters of color from spirit photography’s heyday: one of a Chinese American man, the other an African American woman, both in Coates’s Photographing the Invisible. It is hard to know what to make of this absence. African Americans were avid and creative users of photography throughout the nineteenth century,20 and people of color, though underrepresented in this predominantly white movement, were not entirely absent from Modern Spiritualist circles.21 Were they deterred from having spirit photographs made for some reason—whether the higher cost of spirit photographs in comparison to ordinary ones, or overt or covert exclusion from the sitting rooms of white spirit photographers? Or does the absence of these images reflect an archival rather than historical bias? Given that the majority of spirit photographs in the archive come from a handful of collections, most of which were gathered by believers or debunkers (or both), does this absence rather reflect the devaluation of images of living sitters of color by those collectors? The treatment of the two photographs in Photographing the Invisible certainly testifies to the latter. Coates’ study, as noted above, positively revels in the pleasures of narration and detection that the spirit photograph provokes; photographs are intriguing not only for what they permit the sitter to learn about the spirit world, but also, it seems, for what they permit the reader to learn about the sitter’s quest. But Coates’ discussion of photographs of the Chinese man and the African American woman differ markedly; the racial condescension in his discussion of the former, and the entire omission of the story of the latter, indicates that these subjects were more invisible to Coates than the spirits to which his title refers—or, at least, that he had little time for them.22 As capaciousness gives way to parsimony, the time captured in spirit photographs, at least in the spaces where we find them today, fails to break with the chronobiopolitical order of nineteenth-­century whiteness , in which the benefits of the future were reserved for whites alone. This



observation leads to two further caveats for those inclined by the kinds of “touches across time” we find in the archive: first, that the archive has always already been touched, shaped by relations of power and complicity, and second, that no matter how enchanted by objects we might be, latter-­day viewers cannot be untouched by those power relations as well.

* * * The enchanted optimism occasioned by photography’s nineteenth-­century emergence differs markedly from the view that came to prominence in the twentieth century: the belief, rendered canonical by Andre Bazin’s “The Ontology of the Photographic Image,” that in contrast to “art [which] creates Eternity,” photography merely “embalms time.”23 Viewed as an index or trace of its subject, the photograph is said to perpetuate a past moment into the present. This conviction sutures the medium to a pervasive melancholy said to be its own peculiar window on the real.24 In this light, the medium is always a somber one: a “realization of loss,” in Jay Prosser’s terms, or a “mode of bereavement,” in Eduardo Cadava’s.25 Yet even if one accepts the photograph as an index of a past reality, the trace of a moment that has otherwise passed, the affects attached to these descriptions don’t necessarily follow. Framing the photographic index in terms of bereavement and loss requires both a view of time as linear and irreversible and an understanding of the photographic subject’s pastness as an exemplification of death, the natural consequence of which is grief and/or anxiety. These assumptions and connections may seem commonsensical to us—but as Spiritualism serves to demonstrate, they are not inevitable. The view of the photograph as a wound both in and of time that structures Roland Barthes’ enormously influential Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography registers the particularity of this putatively ontological claim even as it established the critical dominance of the melancholy view.26 Barthes describes his perspective as both ontological and phenomenological and “sentimental,” suggesting that there is no claim on reality, or the perception thereof, which is not affectively inflected (Camera Lucida, 21). And indeed, the account he goes on to develop resembles the view that, as I earlier observed, typified nineteenth-­century sentimental culture—except that Barthes has lost faith that the past can truly be retained. The subject of the photograph is a kind of ghost, less spirit that “specter”: its touch is not a caress but a “cling[ing],” the unshakable grip of the past (89).27 For Barthes, as for

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Spiritualists, the time of the photograph is “excessive,” yet for him this excess is primarily monstrous, without future (90, 91). The melancholy view of the photograph as a kind of imprisonment of time, pointing toward a past and a future that alike converge on death, constitutes an inversion of the speculative optimism that the newly invented medium inspired in the nineteenth century. We might explain the divergence in these two views in terms of an inevitable change in meaning over time. It makes sense that the nineteenth century would understand a new invention as exemplary of progress and that many would greet it with optimistic speculation: the photograph spoke amply, as Geoffrey Batchen documents, to the desires of the moment.28 And the shift in attitudes in the twentieth century likewise makes sense in the aftermath of that optimism, as it became clear that that radical promise remained, to some extent, unrealized. Despite the significant changes that photography brought about, the more exorbitant predictions made on its behalf—its participation in the “perfection of [man’s] nature”—fell rather short of the mark. Rendered an everyday object, a common commodity, the photograph instead served to consolidate familiar forms (including, as Pierre Bourdieu maintains, the form of the bourgeois family, Kodaked into smiling permanence).29 It was rapidly taken up as an instrument of social and racial surveillance,30 and any hope that its documentation of the horrors of war and other traumas might help bring these to an end (registered, for instance, in Holmes’s response to Matthew Brady’s Civil War photographs, “Let him who wishes to know what war is look at this series of illustrations” [“Doings,” 11]) lay, by the end of the First World War, in ruins. As the meaning of the photograph changed in response to its uptake in the service of capitalism and of racial and imperial aggression, one might say, its affective/temporal implications effectively inverted, from a forward-­ looking optimism to a backward-­looking melancholy. In this sense, the shift from Spiritualist overflow to Barthesian wounding narrates a tale of disenchantment, a loss of faith in the transformative power of the medium. Yet this linear, sequential story of decline ironically betrays the spirit of both these understandings—the optimistic and the melancholy—of photography. While predicated on linearity, the belief in time’s arrow, both optimism and melancholy associate the photograph’s affective dimension with an excess, overflow, or displacement of that linearity: the creation of a hole in linear-­historical time that permits other temporalities to enter. In the spirit of the spirit photograph, then, we might begin to plot these two accounts of the photograph, and the times they invoke, otherwise. For even if optimism and



melancholy can be said to come to the fore at different historical moments, they have been imminent in the photograph all along: mingling, intertwining, pressing against one another. As Geoffrey Batchen observes, “photography has been associated with death since the beginning.”31 The anxiety and mournfulness resulting from this association was not only an effect of latter-­ day disappointment; rather, what Alan Trachtenberg identifies as “tremors of apprehension, of the ‘uncanny’” existed alongside the fascination and enchantment that marked early responses to the photograph.32 Nor is melancholy the only affect that pervades latter-­day views. The clinging specter of death and the haunting sense of loss are not the only ghosts to move through Camera Lucida, for instance; the text is also intermittently possessed by (queer) pleasure, manifested, for instance, in Barthes’ enchantment with Robert Mapplethorpe’s self-­portrait, where the fixity of death is unsettled by the “kairos of desire,” replacing the wound that the punctum otherwise figures with a generous opening, a photographic giving.33 This account of the photograph’s sensory capaciousness—Barthes associates its effectiveness with the curve of Mapplethorpe’s fingers—recollects the possibilities associated with spirit photography. Barthes may recoil from the specter of photography, but the queer spirit of Spiritualism also pervades his encounters with the medium. This is true in more than one way. As a number of critics have noted, this opening is not extended to the few Black subjects whose photographs appear in Camera Lucida and who are treated with the same mixture of condescension and dismissal found in Coates (Camera Lucida, 43, 53).34 His account of a James Van Der Zee portrait, for instance, misreads both the studium (he views the image as a critique of the “conformism” and “naïveté” of its subjects’ “effort . . . to assume the White Man’s attributes,” a far cry from Van Der Zee’s desire to dignify his subjects) and the punctum, belatedly identified as one of the women’s necklaces, which he recalls as “a slender ribbon of braided gold,” although the woman in the photograph is wearing pearls. Barthes’s errors suggest a relative disinterest in Black subjects beyond a vague commitment to the hip posturing encapsulated in his capitalization of “White Man”; he appears to have given little thought to Van Der Zee’s picture, and to have cribbed his reading of the studium from commentary on the photograph that appeared in the French journal Le nouvel observateur (“Touching,” 78).35 His mistaken take on the image of the punctum, moreover, misses more than the necklace itself. Insofar as this is the point in Camera Lucida where a multisensory take on the photograph begins to

Ghosts of Another Time


emerge, Barthes’s analysis might have aligned itself, implicitly or explicitly, with the ways in which African Americans have engaged photography as a haptic or multisensory medium, against the logic of visual surveillance with which official uses of the medium have been entwined.36 Instead, Barthes’s belief in the naïveté of the Black photographic subjects positions this insight as his alone. The capacious excesses of time to be found, occasionally, in the Barthesian photograph resemble those of Spiritualism in another way, then: this is a capaciousness seemingly associated with and reserved for white subjects. And insofar as these excesses resonate seductively alongside some strains of present-­day queer theory, they might also lead us to think more closely about what kinds of exclusions might haunt contemporary celebrations of queer capaciousness, and about what other kinds of contact these “touches across time” might enable.

* * * Enchantment’s overt avowal of critical desire appears as a refreshing alternative to other postcritical methods that counsel scientific or social scientific detachment. Instead of disavowing or chastising the passions of the critic, enchanted critique acknowledges their source, expressing a deeply felt need for connection and vitalization and pursuing it not through distanced observation but through a porous self-­positioning that seeks not to master the object but to meet it on other terms. This accounts for the quasi-­Spiritualist resonance of the terms in which Bentley and others discuss the antidisenchanted moves of contemporary criticism: affinity, attachment, affiliation, possibility. To these we might also add responsiveness—both in the embodied sense that these terms suggest and as a means of taking responsibility for the complex histories these forms of contact can generate. Like Spiritualist overflow, like Barthesian ecstasy, enchantment appears as an opening that might permit something more, perhaps something better, to emerge. In view of these antecedents, though, we also do well to keep in mind the potential persistence of their historical alignments of openness, of porosity, and a putatively liberal but no less supremacist whiteness.37 Well in advance of the current “turn,” critical race and decolonial critics demonstrated the centrality of modes that might be described as enchanted, of haunting and animacy and sorcery, both to histories of resistance by marginalized communities and by critics seeking to document and sustain that resistance.38 And it is all the more pressing, in light of this turn, to track how whiteness has sustained itself by spiritual



as well as sociopolitical means—to track, in effect, the chronobiopolitics of enchantment in order to prevent their phantomatic reproduction.39 The optimistic assumption that critical enchantment may succeed where “critique” has failed, that enchanted historiographies will open to view new (or previously occluded) modes of connection and ways of being, should be supplemented with an awareness of the kinds of dis/connection, and the limited forms of “possibility,” that have haunted some enchantments of the past.


Not to Mention: (the marmorean unconscious) Christopher Looby

Almost involuntarily, I drew her to me and kissed her. The faintest flush tinged her cheek. I can’t describe how oddly she looked at me, saying, “Then, I don’t chill you, Constance.”

“Not to mention,” said I, laughing. Then I kissed her again. —Octave Thanet, “My Lorelei” (1880)

Octave Thanet’s great and strange short story, “My Lorelei,” is conspicuously absent from any of the collections of stories that Thanet published in her lifetime.1 Not until 1994 was it fortunately retrieved from obscurity and reprinted in Susan Koppelman’s important anthology, Two Friends and Other Nineteenth-­Century Lesbian Stories by American Women Writers, where Koppelman credits Lillian Faderman with first identifying it “as a story about a romantic friendship between two women.”2 One might speculate about the reasons for Thanet’s evident suppression of this story,3 but my central purpose here is rather to try to characterize the erotic experience limned in “My Lorelei” in terms other than either “lesbianism” or “romantic friendship.” In the erotic world we have lost, the world before the durable installation of the homo/hetero dyad, there were many unlabeled varieties of erotic experience, many forgotten ways of experiencing bodies and pleasures.4 Here I attempt to recall one of them. Part of the genius of Thanet’s story is that it frustrates any attempt to assign its depicted passionate encounter between two women to a familiar erotic category or script. It testifies, by dint of this epistemological opacity,



to a broad historical transformation of the conditions of same-­sex erotic attraction in the nineteenth century, a transition from an episteme that did not consider same-­sex erotic attraction to be definitional of a discernible type of person to an episteme that made that distinction between persons deemed homosexual and heterosexual. One might therefore choose to call Thanet’s story “queer,” which would be well enough, but that useful contemporary label for nonidentitarian sexual experiences or feelings seems like a weak description of the fairly specific nineteenth-­century erotic formation to which the fictional encounter in “My Lorelei” belongs. That formation, as I will describe it, might be called neither “lesbianism” nor “romantic friendship” but marmoreanism. Marmoreanism, I will claim, is an erotic disposition in which desires are organized around, mediated through, secretly channeled by, or directly attached to the cold indifference embodied by white marble statuary.5 “My Lorelei” is indirect about this erotic disposition; it alludes to it, however, by virtue of naming its heroine Undine. Undines—soulless water spirits—were among the most popular subjects for American neoclassical sculptors in marble. Thus “My Lorelei” is driven by what I would call a marmorean unconscious. Although Thanet is little known and “My Lorelei” remains relatively obscure, its importance as a document of marmoreanism is in the way its love of marble is subtly distributed throughout the tale, deeply embedded in its narrative unconscious. This becomes clear if we contrast Thanet’s story with another exemplary marmorean tale, Rose Terry Cooke’s “My Visitation” (1858). The besotted female narrator of Cooke’s tale describes “falling passionately in love with Eleanor Wyse,”6 her beautiful and demanding friend and schoolmate. Later this narrator declines an offer of marriage from a man, Herman Van Alstyne, because, she tells him, “I loved a woman too well to love or marry” (235). But Eleanor is alluringly “cold,” and the “stone” she is made of is “intractable” (234), unlike the “clay” (233) of which the narrator says she herself is formed. So cold is Eleanor that her adoring friend lyrically celebrates the “Greek outline” of her face with its “white brow,” “statuesque head,” and “cut” and “carved” features (233). Hers is like “the head of a young Pallas,” and “neither ductile nor docile was Pallas” (233, 234). Writing in retrospect, after learning painfully of Eleanor’s eventual cruelty and treachery, the narrator concedes that when admiring Eleanor earlier “I did not see the label of the sculptor; I did not perceive in that cold, strict chiseling the assertion that its material was marble” (233). In Cooke’s story the marmoreanism is all on the surface, articulated through a variety of adjectives and metaphors; in

Not to Mention


Thanet’s story (which, it is easy to imagine, may owe something to Cooke’s) it is more deeply embedded. At the same time, Thanet’s “My Lorelei” locates its marmoreanism quite lucidly within several chronological and cartographical frames. Its very form (a series of diary entries, first from the summer of 1874 and later, after a visible hiatus in the text, from the diary’s resumption in 1879) registers the passage of time in a crucial period during which modern sexual identity categories were, according to many historians of sexuality, taking form. In 1879 Constance avows that she loves her husband “more . . . than ever” and insists that she has never (and will never?) make another female friend (73); arguably, the disciplinary mechanisms of emergent sexual normalcy have exerted some hold on her in the meanwhile. And the story’s marmoreanism is intrinsically related to the placement of the diegesis in a foreign location—­ Heidelberg, not the narrator’s hometown of Chicago—a place where American erotic mores appear to be somewhat suspended. Many of the exemplary marmorean texts I will briefly discuss below—by Julia Ward Howe, Louisa May Alcott, Constance Fenimore Woolson, and William Dean Howells, among others—situate their plots, as did Thanet, extraterritorially. This is not the place for a thorough account of marmoreanism as such,7 but its contours can be briefly suggested with a set of quick gestures. Consider the aversive reactions to Horatio Greenough’s sculpture of a strapping bare-­chested George Washington (1840), commissioned for the U.S. Capitol rotunda but soon awkwardly exiled to the Capitol lawn and later consigned to the Smithsonian Museum.8 Think of the international sensation famously caused by the complete nudity of Hiram Powers’ marble statue of the Greek Slave (1843).9 Recall how in Julia Ward Howe’s unpublished novel, now known as The Hermaphrodite (likely begun 1846–1847), the central intersex character, an erotically alluring person usually known as Laurence, is likened by some acquaintances to a famous antique marble sculpture, the Borghese Hermaphrodite in the Louvre.10 Remember how the pseudonymous author of The Autobiography of an Androgyne (published in 1918, but recounting events of the late nineteenth century) identified himself with—and posed for a photograph while copying the pose of—a different version of that same celebrated ancient hermaphroditic sculpture (this one belonging to the Uffizi Gallery).11 Above all, perhaps, consider Louisa May Alcott’s sensation story from 1865, “A Marble Woman:—or,—The Mysterious Model,” which dramatized a sculptor’s keen desire to have the young woman he loved become as much like a marble statue—remote, passionless,



immobile—as possible. Once she did so, he warmed (so to speak) to her.12 Many other examples of marmoreanism might be adduced: in, say, Constance Fenimore Woolson’s brilliant short story “A Florentine Experiment” (1880), where the two central characters finally overcome their romantic misgivings when they pass, in Florence’s Duomo, “under Michelangelo’s grand, unfinished statue,” a stunning pietà that has become notorious for what some perceive to be its strange erotic suggestiveness.13 And consider, finally, the way two nineteenth-­century novelists, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry James, made the art of marble sculpture the cynosure of novels (The Marble Faun and Roderick Hudson, respectively) in which errant erotic energies circulate unpredictably, often relayed (so to speak) through the statuary populating the novels.14 Slighter gestures toward marmoreanism are nearly ubiquitous in nineteenth-­century American literature. When Theodore Colville, the protagonist of William Dean Howells' Indian Summer (1885–1886), is led away from and can no longer gaze on the beautiful young woman, Imogene Graham, with whom he will soon become infatuated, “he had a whimsical impression of her being a heroic statue of herself.”15 When Olivia Carteret, to save the threatened life of her infant son Dodie, bangs on the door of Dr. William Miller (in Charles W. Chesnutt’s 1901 The Marrow of Tradition), willing in her desperation to call even on the skills of an African American physician, even the husband of her unacknowledged mixed-­race half sister, the doctor sees her grief as well as her uncanny resemblance to his wife, and to his eyes her “loose wrapper . . . clothed her like the drapery of a statue.”16 The omnipresence of the adjective “statuesque” as a descriptor of an attractive woman is perhaps the merest trace of marmoreanism. An opera such as Louis Joseph Ferdinand Hérold’s Zampa, or the Marble Bride (1831), first performed in the United States on February 16, 1833, at the Théâtre d’Orléans in New Orleans, is perhaps one of the less slight. If you have ever found yourself in an underpopulated museum sculpture gallery, away from the watchful eyes of the guards in the days before video surveillance was everywhere, and have there succumbed to a furtive impulse to violate the rules and stroke the comely surface of a marble statue—say, Benjamin Paul Akers’s perversely sexy The Dead Pearl Diver (1858) in the Portland (Maine) Museum of Art, or Harriet Hosmer’s astounding Zenobia in Chains (1859), one copy of which is in the Huntington Gallery of Art in San Marino, California, both of them mentioned admiringly by Hawthorne in his preface to The Marble Faun—you may have a blushing intimation of what marmoreanism feels like.17

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Figure 15.1. Benjamin Paul Akers, The Dead Pearl Diver (1858), Portland Museum of Art, Portland, Maine.

Figure 15.2. Benjamin Paul Akers, The Dead Pearl Diver (1858), Portland Museum of Art, Portland, Maine.



Figure 15.3. Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, Zenobia in Chains (1859), The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California.

Let me return, for a moment, to the incident I mentioned in Woolson’s “A Florentine Experiment,” which is at once a very ordinary example of the literary depiction of marmoreanism—one of countless examples of particular marble artworks being deployed as scenery in nineteenth-­century tales of Americans abroad—and yet, on examination, yields a densely encrypted moment that rewards patient explication. From the earliest pages of the story, when we meet Margaret Stowe and her friend Beatrice Lovell “talking together on the heights of Fiesole overlooking Florence” (502), it’s hinted that the marmorean may play a powerful role in what follows: “Margaret turned

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Figure 15.4. Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, Zenobia in Chains (1859), The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California.

her head, and looked toward the waving line of the Carrara mountains” (503). This casual glance toward the famous source of the most prized statuary marble, a glance that coincides with “the reflection of a sudden inward pain” (503) in Margaret’s eyes, a pain that is invisible to Beatrice and that Margaret trusts the obdurate “mountains would not betray” (503), hints at the connection between cold marble and emotional arrest that the story will explore. Woolson’s two central characters, the 36-­year-­old American bachelor Trafford Morgan and the 25-­year-­old American orphan Margaret Stowe, will conduct a desultory erotic experiment, off and on, trying deliberately to



fall in love with each other in Florence after each has seemingly had a separate traumatic romantic disappointment. They conduct this experiment here and there, often in the presence of art—in Margaret’s invalid Aunt Ruth’s parlor (she recommends the underappreciated Masaccio frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel of the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine [527]), in the Boboli Gardens (the “great statue of Abbondanza” is summoned [511]), in the Pitti Palace (Trafford and Margaret have a disagreement about Titian’s “Young Man in Black” [516–517]), in the Michelangelo Chapel of the Basilica of San Lorenzo (where the sculptures of Dawn, Day, Evening, and Night preside over their bated intimacies [520]), and again in the amphitheater of the Boboli where they sit “on one of the upper stone seats, under a statue of Diana” [523]). After several seasons of this experimentation, when Trafford is finally about to leave Florence and abandon his efforts to woo Margaret, they meet accidentally in the Duomo and, because it is raining outside, are detained in each other’s company somewhat uncomfortably. Under the mistaken impression that Margaret is now engaged to marry someone else, and may be marrying without love, Trafford impulsively confesses: “I was in love with you, more or less, from the beginning” (528). “More or less” is awful: even his erotic confession is less than full-­throated. But this is the very moment when they pass “under Michelangelo’s grand, unfinished statue” (528). Knowing readers would recognize that the “grand, unfinished statue” is The Deposition (1547–1555), also called the Florence Pietà or the Pietà Bandini, a work undertaken by Michelangelo at an advanced age (around 72), and originally meant to decorate his own tomb. After years of work he violently attacked and seriously damaged it in supposed anger and frustration; the mysterious sources of his destructive fury have preoccupied art historians ever since. In particular, the destroyed left leg of the Christ, which was evidently slung over the lap of the Virgin, was ruined and is now missing from the composition. Leo Steinberg has explicated in detail what he calls the “slung leg motif,” claiming that in Michelangelo’s time it carried an unmistakable erotic charge; in the very years of the sculptor’s work on this monument, Steinberg says, the slung leg motif was in the process of coarsening, shifting from an artistic conceit that sought to imbue spiritual devotion with the erotic charge of carnal ecstasy to a cheap device that merely represented vulgar sexual sport and was thus in danger of being “pruriently misunderstood” (346). Several scholars, including Steinberg, have thus speculatively attributed Michelangelo’s frustration with (and consequent attack on) the composition to the sexual ambiguities that emerged in the process of

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Figure 15.5. Michelangelo, Pietà (c. 1547–1555), Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Florence, Italy.

sculpting the suggestive figure of the recumbent Christ with his (now missing) leg resting on the lap of the virgin.18 Steinberg’s argument is relevant here because it establishes the rich possibility of fraught erotic associations attaching themselves to this piece of sculpture. I see no reason to doubt that Woolson had a rich sense of the resonances produced in “A Florentine Experiment” by her concatenation, in this scene of nineteenth-­century romantic overcoming, of two emotionally



Figure 15.6. Michelangelo, Pietà (c. 1547–1555), Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Florence, Italy.

broken lovers with this damaged statue, itself exhibiting a potentially unsettling eroticism. Nor do I see any reason to doubt that Woolson was speculatively attributing to the sculpture’s auratic power the qualified resolution of her protagonists’ emotional impasse. The vibrant resonances are many. The protagonists’ romantic “experiment” has been a sequence of ambivalent advances and retreats, the formation of desire followed by its violent retraction; Michelangelo’s mysteriously changing attitude toward his work is on the record. Trafford’s and Margaret’s effortful affair of the heart had ever been shadowed by his prior abject attachment to her beloved school friend, the enchanting and gorgeous (but coldly indifferent) Beatrice Lovell; in Michelangelo’s statue, the figure of Christ is suspended between and supported by two women, the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene. When two adults make a concerted attempt to fall in love, what is it they are trying to conjure: friendship and mutual respect or carnal desire? Michelangelo’s statue (whether we accept Steinberg’s argument fully or not) clearly embodies several paradoxes of the carnal/spiritual. The statue captures the moving moment when the dead Christ is deposed from the cross; Trafford and Margaret have been

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suspending each other in painful erotic tension and now, with Michelangelo’s statue’s prompting, have released one another from that suffering. Woolson knew that many nineteenth-­century Americans had a powerfully charged relationship to marble images. Here she dramatizes such a phenomenon. Octave Thanet (1850–1934), whose real name was Alice French, enjoyed great popular and financial success in her lifetime as a short story writer, novelist, and social commentator of a distinctly conservative bent. She grew up in Davenport, Iowa, and in her adulthood divided her time between her home there and another one she shared with her widowed friend (and thereafter lifelong partner) Jane Allen Crawford near Clover Bend, Arkansas. As I mentioned above, Thanet never included “My Lorelei” in any of her short story collections; we are left to speculate about her reasons for this omission. One inference might be ventured here: this story was published when she was on the verge of turning thirty years old and facing the unlikelihood of marriage after that age—and it was published a few years before she entered her lifelong domestic companionship with Crawford. It may therefore have seemed in retrospect (when Thanet put her first story collection together in 1887) a little too venturesome. In other words, this story of a fleeting but intense female same-­sex passion may have seemed relatively uncontroversial (if a little racy) in 1880, but by 1887, after she had set up housekeeping with Crawford in Davenport as well as in Clover Bend (their winter home), the story might have been construed, had it then reappeared in print, as reflecting on their personal lives—and therefore may have been, in Thanet’s view, in need of suppression. Had Thanet revisited and reconsidered “My Lorelei” in 1887 she would have been doing something very much like what her narrator did in her diary in 1879, returning to and reevaluating a female same-­sex relationship from a few years before. When in “My Lorelei” (published the same year as Woolson’s “A Florentine Experiment”) Thanet had her narrator, a woman from Chicago named Constance Lynde, feel spontaneous (but hindered, cautious, unknowing) love for the reputedly heartless and icily beautiful Undine Tresham, the fact that undines were among the most popular subjects of nineteenth-­century American neoclassical marble sculpture went unmentioned but was, so to speak, proximally present. Constance makes an explicit intradiegetic association with the Baron de la Motte Fouqué’s well-­known and widely popular tale Undine (1811), to be sure, but I believe that Thanet was counting on her readers to make an additional association with the many sculpted marble undines that proliferated in nineteenth-­century America.



“My Lorelei” is related in the first person by Constance in the form of a series of diary entries recording her temporary residence in Heidelberg in the summer of 1874; toward the end of the tale there is a five-­year hiatus in the diary entries, until Constance returns to Heidelberg in September 1879, rereads what she had written earlier, and resumes writing in the diary, recollecting and reflecting on the tragic event that ended her earlier sojourn—the violent death of her “darling” (71), the wealthy orphan named Undine.19 The central event of Constance’s earlier sojourn was her unbidden formation of a passionate attachment to this younger woman; after an initial wariness in the face of Undine’s reputed heartlessness and visible emotional reserve, Constance spontaneously kissed her—twice, as she avers: [P]assing Undine’s door, it opened and she came out; by the lamplight her face looked pale. For the first time, she seemed to me not the beautiful, cold lorelei about whom I was weaving a fanciful romance, but a girl who had no mother, and who was too rich to have many friends. Almost involuntarily, I drew her to me and kissed her. The faintest flush tinged her cheek. I can’t describe how oddly she looked at me, saying, “Then, I don’t chill you, Constance.” “Not to mention,” said I, laughing. Then I kissed her again. It is possible she was pleased at something; it is possible she was hurt at something. I half believe she is as puzzled over the pleasure or the pain, as I am puzzled over the curious look in her eyes. (62) What is striking and unmistakable here is how carefully Thanet has rendered this equivocal encounter epistemologically opaque and affectively liminal. Constance mashes on Undine “almost involuntarily”—that is, a little bit on purpose. She “can’t describe” Undine’s odd look in response to the first kiss. Neither can she tell if Undine is pleased or hurt (either or both are “possible”). Nor can she say for sure (but she can “half believe”) that Undine’s puzzlement matches her own. This unprescribed erotic encounter doesn’t answer readily to any of the descriptions that either of them might have had available for it; that obscurity evidently doesn’t seem to them, however, in fictional 1874, to be troubling in any serious way. But actually we have already caught a glimpse of how Constance frames Undine to herself: she had already been “weaving a fanciful romance” about a “cold lorelei,” a romance derived from German legends suggested by Undine’s peculiar name (62). Soon after the two kisses, Constance begins within the

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diegesis to read de la Motte Fouqué’s Undine to her husband Louis and Louis’s dear young Prussian friend, Count Von Reibnitz (62–63). Undine Tresham herself enters the inn parlor during this scene of reading and insists that it continue; apparently Constance then reads aloud till the end of the story, because another listener, an aged and comical countess, derides the denouement of Undine, which has the title figure (a water nymph) remaining devoted to her unfaithful human husband rather than requiting his betrayal by finding another human lover for herself. The real Undine’s cousin Ted, her fiancé, has been false to her as well: thus real life is framed with reference to the literary. Constance has in fact consistently framed her experiences in Heidelberg with reference to many various kinds of artworks, literary and other. There are references to paintings by Fra Angelico (56) and Titian (58), for example; see also the references to “weak water-­color” (58) and “crimson streaks, like the careless strokes of an emptied brush” (61). The narrative adduces “novels” in general (58), in addition to Undine; a specific poem by Heine (61–62, 71–72); and music, including a band playing at night (56), the sound of Ted’s humming the tuneful refrain of a musical setting of Heine’s verse (62), and “an old German, with a villainous voice” (68) monotonously repeating the first two lines of the same song. Constance refers to the “Greek chorus” of a drama (63), to the town’s pervasive medieval architecture, and so forth. This is certainly all meant to dramatize the way nineteenth-­century American tourists in Europe habitually mediated their experiences through artistic associations typically provided by the famed Baedeker guides that also feature explicitly in this tale (60), as well as by Tauchnitz editions of novels like The Marble Faun, with their interleaved prints of sculptures, architectural settings, and so forth. Painting, poetry, novels, music, drama, architecture—these all are adduced in “My Lorelei.” But suspiciously absent from this near complete list of the traditional fine arts is sculpture, an art that would have been prominently featured in any Baedeker guide. While Thanet ensures that her readers would have linked the character of Undine Tresham with de la Motte Fouqué’s familiar tale, those readers would also very likely have associated her with the many and multiplied versions of marble statues of undines created in the nineteenth century by such American sculptors as Benjamin Paul Akers, Thomas Ridgeway Gould, Chauncey B. Ives, Louisa Lander, and Joseph Mozier. Among the many water themes common in neoclassical sculpture as catalogued by William H. Gerdts, “The most popular water figure of all was Undine.”20 For my purposes here I will concentrate on two renditions of Undine by Ives; in the years since scholars such as Gerdts and Joy S. Kasson wrote about Ives’



Figure 15.7. Chauncey Bradley Ives, Undine (1859), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts.

best-­known version (first modeled in 1880), it has come to light that Ives in fact sculpted two Undines, one earlier in his career, modeled in 1859, and the other, quite different and better known version, modeled later—in 1880, coincidentally the year of publication of Thanet’s “My Lorelei.” There are ongoing ambiguities in the scholarly literature on Ives’ Undines, and uncertainty as well in the description and titling of both versions when they appear occasionally at auction, even in recent years. Museums that hold copies also describe them and label them differently, although there is at least a partial consensus that the 1859 version represents Undine Receiving Her Soul and the 1880 version represents Undine Rising from the Fountain (this is

Not to Mention


Figure 15.8. Chauncey Bradley Ives, Undine (1880), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.

how the Chrysler Museum of Art, for instance, identifies its version, which it dates to 1880–8221). The Smithsonian American Art Museum cautiously labels its copy of the 1880 version merely as Undine. I don’t propose to eliminate this confusion here—it has its own serious interest, since it registers the essential theoretical impasse of assigning a temporal dimension to an inert statue—but merely wish to point out what is at stake in the ambiguity. In the traditional legend the mythical Undine, a soulless water spirit, is able to acquire a soul by marrying a flesh and blood human (and does so in de la Motte Fouqué’s tale, which, as we have seen, Thanet cites in her diegesis). But the art of marble sculpture cannot in any case certainly tell a viewer whether



the undine in its rendition has already or not yet acquired the psychic interiority that the tale bestows on her, or whether she is depicted exactly in the evanescent moment of this soul infusion. Any of the sculpted undines would necessarily have had to defer this question (and the three known surviving versions demonstrably do), because of the very nature of marble sculpture: its permanent immobility and resolute narrative opacity. Only an appended title or affixed label can supplement the statue’s unchanging aspect by telling viewers whether this undine has her soul yet or is just then receiving it. In truth, part of what makes an undine such a popular subject for marble sculpture is the challenge it presents to the sculptor and the incentive it offers to her or his skill: how to represent the spiritual in the hard substance of white marble, how to capture the liquid nature of a water nymph in the solid material of stone, how to render a fundamentally liminal figure in the durable and unchanging form of cold, obdurate marble.22 While “My Lorelei” does not explicitly adduce the fashion for marble sculptures of undines, then, and while I have no direct evidence that Thanet was aware of any of the different versions, I think it highly likely that as a well-­ traveled and broadly conscious artist and cultural commentator she knew of them. My inference is partly based on negative evidence: the telltale singular absence of sculpture from “My Lorelei” suggests its tacit presence (“not to mention”). And the alluringly sensuous qualities of the hard pure substance of marble seem obliquely registered in many places in the tale, for instance, in the “abominably paved” streets (56), the noises of whose stones under horses’ hooves and carriage wheels are later kindly muffled by Von Reibnitz, when he has straw spread over them so as not to disturb Undine on her deathbed (71). Hard stony substances are conjured in the “cream-­colored brick” (56) facing the buildings on the Anlage, as well as in Undine’s “white teeth,” which make her smile “dazzling” (57); also in the “red walls” of the ruins of the sandstone castle impending over the town (56), and in the “stone” of the castle gateway into which a “wishing ring” is firmly set (60); in the “rocks” over which the river Neckar noiselessly flows (61), and in the “diamanten und perlen” of Heine’s repeated song (62, 72); also in Undine’s arms, which “clung like steel” to the “cretin” who stabs her mortally before Louis shoots him dead and he collapses “on the stones” (70); in the monuments presumably occupying the cemetery where Ted Tresham unfaithfully takes another young woman for “a romantic stroll” (66) and where Undine is finally herself buried (72). But the most unmistakable marmoreanism in the tale is implied in every description of Undine Tresham herself. There is “an intangible mist of

Not to Mention


coldness about her, a curious remoteness,” “a sheer incapacity to feel” (57). A former suitor gave her up as “too jolly heartless” (57). She “is not likely to break her heart for anyone” (58). Her eyes are “lovely” but “unfathomable” (64). When she discovers her fiancé in a compromising tête-­à-­tête with another woman, she returns her engagement ring to him with “not a quiver in her voice” (67). Constance observes that Undine is “so composed, so free from any show of anger or grief ” after returning the ring that it seems she must not really have cared for Ted at all (67–68). Occasionally there is “a little vibration in her slow, sweet voice” (60), and of course there is that “faintest flush [that] tinged her cheek” when kissed by Constance (62).23 But the third and last kiss Constance bestows on Undine occurs on the latter’s deathbed and causes Undine’s lips to “stir with a smile” just before that very smile is “forever fixed on her beautiful mouth” (72). This pale Undine has, so to speak, now forever become the cold inanimate figure she only approximated before. Scholars of sexuality sometimes used to try to say exactly when the homosexual was “invented,” sometimes offering 1869 (when Karl-­Maria Kertbeny used the word in his pamphlet advocating the repeal of Prussia’s sodomy laws) or 1892 (the word’s first appearance in English, in a translation of Krafft-­ Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis) or 1895 (the Wilde trials). Nowadays it is widely recognized that such an event cannot have taken place instantaneously but had to have been a complex process of emergence over time, uneven but discernible in retrospect once the concept of an internalized sexual subjectivity was fully formed. But the general idea of an internalized sexual identity as an ineluctably historical phenomenon, classically described by Foucault as having emerged discursively in the later nineteenth century, remains persuasive to many scholars: at one time, no one had heard of or had experienced such a thing, but later on they had. At one time, no one felt conscripted into any category of “sexual identity,” but later such categories seemed inescapable, and even oppressive. My argument is that Thanet allegorized this historical emergence in “My Lorelei,” even as her story, in the years following its publication, might have risked redescription in the terms provided by that emergence—a redescription, as I suggested above, that Thanet would not have welcomed (see also note 3). A lorelei or an undine lacks a soul, is a being without interiority; a marble statue of an undine redoubles the lack of anything like psychological interiority. And yet the legend of the undine involves the infusion of a soul or interiority into a vacuous water nymph—the deposit of an interior identity into a being that formerly was without it. Mrs. Louis Danton Lynde loves Undine Tresham not despite her coldness but at least in part because of



it: their mutual attraction doesn’t involve their souls and doesn’t entail their being or sharing any sort of interiorized type. They are not properly “lesbians,” and they are also not accurately described as sharing a “romantic friendship” in the sense that Faderman and others have richly articulated that form of experience, which involves warmth and intimacy and ongoing care. The fleeting appearance of a “faintest flush” on Undine’s cheek is like the temporary infusion of a soul into the water spirit after which she is named. It is like a fantasy of the animation of a marble statue. Constance—her very name may now seem ironic—returns quite contentedly to her marriage: “I am more in love with my husband than ever. . . . On the whole, I am a very happy woman,— but I have never made another friend” (73). Hers was a brief passion, in a gelid register: a marmorean love affair.24


Introduction 1.  Over the last four decades, both historians and literary critics have contextualized these turns, the former with greater sustained attention. See Beyond the Cultural Turn: New Directions in the Study of Society and Culture, ed. Victoria E. Bonnell and Lynn Hunt (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999); The Cultural Turn in U.S. History: Past, Present, and Future, ed. James W. Cook, Lawrence B. Glickman, and Michael O’Malley (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008); AHR Forum: “Historiographical ‘Turns’ in Critical Perspective,” American Historical Review 117 (2012): 698–813, especially James W. Cook, “The Kids Are All Right: On the ‘Turning’ of Cultural History,” 746–771; Doris Bachmann-­Medick, Cultural Turns: New Orientations in the Study of Culture, trans. Adam Blauhut (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2016); as well as Hester Blum, ed., Turns of Event: Nineteenth-­Century American Literary Studies in Motion (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016). 2.  Steven Hahn, A Nation Without Borders: The United States and Its World in an Age of Civil Wars, 1830-­1910 (New York: Viking, 2015). 3. See Brian Connolly, “Intimate Atlantics: Toward a Critical History of Transnational Early America,” Common-­place 11.2 (January 2011). 4.  Doreen Massey, “Space-­Time, ‘Science’ and the Relationship between Physical Geography and Human Geography,” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 24.3 (1999): 261–276. Subsequent references cited parenthetically in the text. 5.  Jonathan Raper and David Livingstone, “Let’s Get Real: Spatio-­Temporal Identity and Geographic Entities,” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 26.2 (2001): 237–242. Raper and Livingstone echo Massey’s dry wit with their qualified acknowledgment in the ­double negative that “GIS protagonists may appear to be unrepentant” about the current limits of digital representation, but “our ‘weak’ or ‘moderate realism’ appears to be not dissimilar to the ‘qualified naturalism’ of which Massey speaks” (241). See also Robert Dodgshon, “Geography’s Place in Time,” Geografiska Annaler, Series B, Human Geography 90.1 (March 2008): 1–15; rpt. Rhuthmos (April 13, 2015); John A. Jakle, “Time, Space, and the Geographic Past: A Prospectus for Historical Geography,” American Historical Review 76.4 (October 1971): 1084–1103; Alan Latham, “Topologies and the Multiplicities of Space-­Time;” Dialogues in Human Geography, first published online November 11, 2011, https://​doi​.org​/10​.1177​/2043820611421550; David Harvey, “Between Space and Time: Reflections on the Geographical Imagination,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 80.3 (September 1990): 418–434. 6.  René Wellek and Austin Warren, Theory of Literature (New York: Harvest Books, 1984).


Notes to Pages 5–11

7.  Gregory Jay, “American Literature and the New Historicism: The Example of Frederick Douglass,” boundary 2 17.1 (Spring 1990): 211–242, 213, 212. 8.  Johannes Fabian, Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983); Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-­ Blackwell, 1991); Reinhart Koselleck, Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time, trans. Keith Tribe (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985); Harry Harootunian, “Some Thoughts on Comparability and the Space-­Time Problem,” in “Problems of Comparability/Possibilities for Comparative Studies,” ed. Harry Harootunian and Hyun Ok Park, special issue, boundary 2 32.2 (Summer 2005): 23–52. See also Reinhart Kosselleck, The Practice of Conceptual History: Timing History, Spacing Concepts (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2002); Peter Osborne, The Politics of Time: Modernity and Avant-­Garde (New York: Verso, 1995); Homi K. Bhabha, “DissemiNation: Time, Narrative, and the Margins of the Modern Nation,” in Homi Bhabha, Homi K. Bhabha, ed., Nation and Narration (London and New York: Routledge, 1990); Marshall Brown, ed., Periodization: Cutting Up the Past, special issue, Modern Language Quarterly 62.4 (2001). 9.  On a three-­dimensional model for transnational American literary studies, see Susan Gillman and Kirsten Silva Gruesz, “Worlding America: The Hemispheric Text-­Network,” in A Companion to American Literary Studies, ed. Caroline F. Levander and Robert S. Levine (London: Blackwell, 2011). 10.  Elizabeth Freeman, ed., “Queer Temporalities,” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 13.2–3 (2007): 159–176, 159–160. Subsequent references cited parenthetically in the text. 11.  Heather Love, Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009). 12.  Jack Halberstam, In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives (New York: NYU Press, 2005). 13.  James’s Melville is familiar to nineteenth-­century Americanists, thanks in large part to the 2001 republication of Mariners, where the introduction by Donald Pease celebrates the spatial and temporal transference of Moby-­Dick, unmoored from the nation into an indeterminate extraterritoriality that was always present, latent in the floating culture of the Pequod. See C. L. R. James, Mariners, Renegades and Castaways: The Story of Herman Melville and the World We Live In (Hanover: University Press of New England, 2001), 3, xxx. 14.  The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution, 2nd ed., rev. (New York: Vintage, 1963; 1989), vii. Subsequent references cited parenthetically in the text. 15. James invokes the Hegelian term “speculative thought” and the phrase “what was bound to happen” in “Lectures on The Black Jacobins,” Small Axe 8 (September 2000): 72–73. 16. See, for example, Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-­ Network-­Theory (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007); Graham Harman, Immaterialism: Objects and Social Theory (Malden, MA: Polity, 2016); Jane Bennett, The Enchantment of Everyday Life (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016); Steven Shaviro, The Universe of Things: On Speculative Realism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014); Diana Coole and Samantha Frost, eds., New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010); Robert S. Emmett and David E. Nye, The Environmental Humanities: A Critical Introduction (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2017). 17.  On debates over aesthetics and American literature, see Christopher Looby and Cindy Weinstein, American Literature’s Aesthetic Dimensions (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012).

Notes to Pages 11–26


18.  On these debates, see Elizabeth Anker and Rita Felski, eds., Critique and Post-­Critique (Durham: Duke University Press, 2017). 19.  Harry Harootunian, “Comparability and the Place-­Time Problem,” boundary 2, 32.2 (2005): 23–52, 24. 20. Jeffrey Insko, “Prospects for the Present,” American Literary History 26.4 (2014): 836–848. 21.  Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture (New York: Routledge, 1994). 22.  Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (New York: Verso, 1983). 23.  Lloyd Pratt, Archives of American Time (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011). 24.  Dana Luciano, Arranging Grief: Sacred Time and the Body in Nineteenth-­Century America (New York: NYU Press, 2007). 25.  Wai Chee Dimock, Through Other Continents: American Literature Across Deep Time (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008). 26.  Dana Nelson, “Democracy in Theory,” American Literary History 19.1 (Spring 2007): 86–107, 88, 104. Subsequent references cited parenthetically in the text. 27.  Dana Nelson, “Cooper and the Tragedy of the Commons,” in What Democracy Looks Like: A New Critical Realism for a Post-­Seattle World, ed. Cecilia Tichi and Amy Schrager Lang (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2006), 169. 28.  William Forster Lloyd, Two Lectures on the Checks to Population (Oxford: J.H. Parker, 1833); Garrett Hardin, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” Science 162.3859 (December 13, 1968): 1243–1248. 29.  Niles Dolsak and Elinor Ostrom, eds., The Commons in the New Millennium, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003). 30.  George Perkins Marsh, Man and Nature: or, Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action (New York: Charles Scribner, 1864). 31.  Charles Darwin, On the Origins of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life (New York: D. Appleton, 1860). 32.  Paul J. Crutzen and Eugene F. Stoemer, “The Anthropocene,” Global Change Newsletter 41 (May 2000): 17–18. 33.  Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (New York: Henry Holt, 2014). Subsequent references cited parenthetically in the text. 34.  R. Murray Schafer, The Tuning of the World (New York: Knopf, 1977), 4. 35.  Wai Chee Dimock, “Genre as World System: Epic and Novel on Four Continents,” Narrative, 14.1 (January 2006): 85–101, 90. 36.  Dimock, 90. 37.  See Eric J. Sundquist, To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993): 135–221. 38.  Valerie Rohy, “Ahistorical,” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 12.1 (2006): 61–83, 67. 39.  Heather Love, Feeling Backward, 4, 7. 40. Carolyn Dinshaw in “Theorizing Queer Temporalities: A Roundtable Discussion,” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 13.2 (2007): 177–195, 178. 41.  Peter Coviello, Tomorrow’s Parties: Sex and the Untimely in Nineteenth-­Century America (New York: NYU Press, 2013), 7.


Notes to Pages 31–33

Chapter 1 1.  Michel Serres and Bruno Latour, Conversations on Science, Culture, and Time, trans. Roxanne Lapidus (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995), 61. 2.  Douglass kept a diary of his travels, and though he does not mention the Arch of Titus by name in his entry on January 21, he does record visiting the Forum for the first time, an experience that became the basis for his longer discussion of Roman ruins in the second version of Life and Times. http://​frederickdouglassdiary​.wikispaces​.com​/page21. 3. Frederick Douglass, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass in The Frederick Douglass Papers. Series Two: Autobiographical Writings; Volume 3: Life and Times of Frederick Douglass; Book 1: The Text and Editorial Apparatus, ed. John R. McKivigan (1892; New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2012), 422. Subsequent references cited in text as Life. 4.  A state captured nowhere better than in Canaletto’s painting of the arch from 1744. See https://​www​.royalcollection​.org​.uk​/collection​/401002​/rome​-­­the​-­­arch​-­­of​-­­titus. 5.  Walt Whitman, “‘The Gladiator’—Mr. Forrest—Acting,” in The Gathering of the Forces: Vol. II, ed. Cleveland Rogers and John Black (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1920), 331. Subsequent references cited in text as “Gladiator.” 6.  Mark Evans Bryan, “‘Slideing into Monarchical Extravagance’: Cato at Valley Forge and the Testimony of William Bradford Jr.,” William and Mary Quarterly 67.1 (January 2010): 124. Subsequent references cited in text as “Slideing.” 7.  The Roman-­American comparison has a venerable critical history of its own, of course. A strong Roman presence runs through Bernard Bailyn’s The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967) and J. G. A. Pocock’s The Machiavellian Moment (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975), while reception histories such as Meyer Reinhold’s Classica Americana (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1984) and Carl Richards’ two volumes, The Founders and the Classics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994) and The Golden Age of the Classics in America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009), offer detailed accounts of how the Graeco-­Roman world played a part in pre-­twentieth-­century American political and social life. Most comprehensive of all is William Vance’s two-­volume work America’s Rome (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989). Caroline Winterer—in The Culture of Classicism (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002) and The Mirror of Antiquity (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2007)—has offered important feminist additions to these overviews, while Maria Wyke’s Caesar in the USA (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012) and Margaret Malamud’s Ancient Rome and Modern America (London: Wiley Blackwell, 2009) show Roman allusions operating among all kinds of sites and texts. Meanwhile, a different kind of engagement with the Roman-­American comparison is a favorite game among political commentators, allowing both Niall Ferguson, in Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire (New York: Penguin, 2004), and Chalmers Johnson, in Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006), to call on the Roman analogy to explain arguments about the United States’ imperial character—although from rather different political standpoints. A common strain of this genre has been a desire to test the analogy in point-­for-­point terms, leading former Atlantic editor Cullen Murphy to ask Are We Rome? The Fall of an Empire and the Fall of America (Boston: Mariner Books, 2007) and Joseph Nye to dedicate a chapter of Is the American Century Over? (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2015) to the question “is American like Rome?”—a question that dominates many other discussions of the subject, even (and especially) when it finds itself answered in such defensively direct

Notes to Pages 33–42


terms as Vaclav Smil’s Why America Is Not a New Rome (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010). I could go on; an internet search for similar combinations brings up a galaxy of op-­ed pieces in media outlets across the political spectrum. 8.  Randall Fuller, “Theaters of the American Revolution: The Valley Forge ‘Cato’ and the Meschianza in Their Transcultural Contexts,” Early American Literature 34.2 (1999): 128. 9.  Todd Carmody, “Rehabilitating Analogy,” J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-­Century Americanists 1.2 (Fall 2013): 433. 10.  Johannes Fabian, Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object (1983; New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), 144. 11.  Reinhart Koselleck, Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time, trans. Keith Tribe (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1985), 275. Subsequent references cited in text as Futures. 12.  Walter Benjamin, “On the Concept of History,” in Selected Writings, Volume 4: 1938-­1940, trans. Edmund Jephcott et al., ed. Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003), 261. Subsequent references cited in text as “On the Concept.” 13.  Michael Löwy, Fire Alarm: Reading Walter Benjamin’s ‘On the Concept of History,’ trans. Chris Turner (London: Verso, 2005), 88. 14.  Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1999), 463. 15.  Rita Felski, The Limits of Critique (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015), 154. Subsequent references cited in text as Limits. 16.  Jennifer Fleissner, “Historicism Blues,” American Literary History 25.4 (2013): 700. Subsequent references cited in text as “Historicism Blues.” 17. Wai Chee Dimock, Through Other Continents: American Literature Across Deep Time (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006), 4. Subsequent references cited in text as Continents. 18.  Warwick Research Collective (WReC), Combined and Uneven Development: Towards a New Theory of World-­Literature (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2015), 42. Subsequent references cited in text as Uneven Development. 19.  Mark McGurl, “The Posthuman Comedy,” Critical Inquiry 38 (Spring 2012): 533. 20.  Thomas Allen, A Republic in Time: Temporality and Social Imagination in Nineteenth-­ Century America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008). 21.  Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 1994), 2. 22.  Keya Ganguly, “Temporality and Postcolonial Critique,” in The Cambridge Companion to Postcolonial Literary Studies, ed. Neil Lazarus (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 176. 23.  John Levi Barnard, Empire of Ruin: Black Classicism and American Imperial Culture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 7. Subsequent references cited in text as Empire. 24.  Caroline Winterer, The Culture of Classicism: Ancient Greece and Rome in American Intellectual Life, 1780-­1910 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), 19–20. 25.  Maria Wyke, Caesar in the USA (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012), 74–75. 26.  Amy Kaplan, “Imperial Melancholy in America,” Raritan 28.3 (Winter 2009): 14. 27.  Jeffrey H. Richards, “The Gladiator (1831): Robert Montgomery Bird,” in Early American Drama, ed. Jeffrey H. Richards (London: Penguin, 1997), 168. 28.  See especially Martin Klammer, Whitman, Slavery, and the Emergence of Leaves of Grass (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995), and Ivy Wilson, ed., Whitman Noir: Black America and the Good Grey Poet (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2014).


Notes to Pages 42–46

29.  Ann Laura Stoler, Duress: Imperial Durabilities in Our Times (Durham: Duke University Press, 2016), 339–340. Subsequent references cited in text as Duress. Chapter 2 1.  Patrice C. Brown, “The Panama Canal: The African American Experience,” Federal Records and African-­American History 29.2 (1997), www​.archives​.gov​/publications​/prologue​/1997​/summer​ /panama​-­­canal​.html. Special thanks to the archivists at NARA for their help and encouragement. 2.  Also studied in the process of preparing this essay were literary and historical texts produced by white Americans and Europeans at and about the isthmus, which, in the interest of space, are not included here: Evelyn Saxton, Droll Stories of Isthmian Life (New Orleans: L. Graham, 1914); Harry Franck, Zone Policeman 88: A Close Range Study of the Panama Canal and Its Workers (New York: The Century Company, 1913); John Berry Biesanz, The People of Panama (New York: Columbia University Press, 1955). 3.  The important work of preservers like Dorothy Sterling lights the path. See, for example, Dorothy Sterling, The Trouble They’ve Seen: Black People Tell the Story of Reconstruction (New York: Doubleday, 1976). 4.  The facts and implications of U.S. imperial operations in the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Cuba have received extensive scholarly attention, while Panama has received significantly less. On the former, see the following: Andy Doolen, Territories of Empire: U.S. Writing from the Louisiana Purchase to Mexican Independence (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014); Amy Kaplan and Donald E. Pease, eds., Cultures of United States Imperialism (Durham: Duke University Press, 1994); Paul A. Kramer, The Blood of Government: Race, Empire, the United States, and the Philippines (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006); Michael L. Krenn, The Color of Empire: Race and American Foreign Relations (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2006); Eric Tyrone Lowery Love, Race over Empire: Racism and U.S. Imperialism, 1865–1900 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004); Alfred W. McCoy and Francisco Scarano, eds., Colonial Crucible: Empire in the Making of the Modern American State (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2009); Gretchen Murphy, Shadowing the White Man’s Burden: U.S. Imperialism and the Problem of the Color Line (New York: NYU Press, 2010); Frank A. Ninkovich, Global Dawn: The Cultural Foundation of American Internationalism, 1865–1890 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009); and Serge Ricard, An American Empire: Expansionist Cultures and Policies, 1881–1917 (Aix-­en-­Provence: Université de Provence Press, 1990). For information on U.S. imperial operations in Panama, see Julie Greene, The Canal Builders: Making America’s Empire at the Panama Canal (New York: Penguin, 2010). 5.  See Aims McGuinness, Path of Empire: Panama and the California Gold Rush (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2009). See also John H. Kemble, “The Gold Rush by Panama, 1848– 1851,” Pacific Historical Review 18.1 (1949): 45–56, www​.jstor​.org​/stable​/3634427. 6.  “Roosevelt Demands Results in Panama,” New York Times, March 23, 1904, 2. 7.  “Root on Our Place in this Hemisphere,” New York Times, February 23, 1904, 1. 8.  W. E. B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction: An Essay Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860–1880, ed. Henry Louis Gates (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014). 9.  “At the Editor’s Desk,” The Freeman, February 23, 1907, 6; Readex: African American Newspapers. 10.  The Colored American, December 12, 1903, 8; Readex: African American Newspapers.

Notes to Pages 47–70


11.  “At the Editor’s Desk,” The Freeman, February 2, 1907, 3; Readex: African American Newspapers. 12.  “President is Criticized for Yielding to Opposition and Rejecting Oliver Canal Bid,” Savannah Tribune, March 2, 1907, 1; Readex: African American Newspapers. 13.  “President Gives Big Job to Southern Democrat,” The Broad Axe, March 16, 1907, 2; Readex: African American Newspapers. 14.  Anna Julia Cooper, A Voice from the South (1892; Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), 173–174, www​.docsouth​.unc​.edu​/church​/cooper​/cooper​.html. 15.  “A Meeting Held in the Office of the Secretary of War, June 11, 1904,” Investigation of Panama Canal Matters. Exhibit 7. 16.  Velma Newton notes, “after observing race relations on the Panama Canal Zone in 1919, the American journalist Harry Franck concluded, ‘Panama is below the Mason-­Dixon line.’ ” Velma Newton, The Silver Men: West Indian Labour Migration to Panama, 1850–1914 (Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle, 2004), 122. 17.  George Goethals to John Price, March 19, 1910. Letter. From National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the Panama Canal, 1848–1984. 18.  John Hicks et al. to George Goethals, January 13, 1909. 19.  David DuBose Gaillard to Jackson Smith, February 11, 1908. 20.  Harry Hodges to E. J. Williams, February 8, 1909. 21.  Sandy Odom et al. to George Goethals, n.d. Chapter 3 1.  Lora Romero, Home Fronts: Domesticity and Its Critics in the Antebellum United States (Durham: Duke University Press, 1997), 4. 2.  Maurice S. Lee, “Introduction: A Survey of Survey Courses” in “The End of the End of the Canon” forum, ed. Maurice Lee, J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-­Century Americanists 4.1 (Spring 2016): 125–130. 3.  Elizabeth Anker, Orgies of Feeling: Melodrama and the Politics of Freedom (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014), 204. 4.  Robert S. Levine, Introduction to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp, ed. R. Levine (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000). 5.  Jeannine DeLombard, “Representing the Slave: White Advocacy and Black Testimony in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Dred,” New England Quarterly 75.1 (March 2002): 106. 6.  Susan Ryan, “Charity Begins at Home: Stowe’s Antislavery Novels and the Forms of Benevolent Citizenship,” American Literature 72.4 (December 2000): 751. 7.  Levine, “Introduction,” xxvii. 8.  J. K. Gibson-­Graham, The End of Capitalism (as We Knew It): A Feminist Critique of Political Economy (Malden: Wiley-­Blackwell, 1996). 9.  Gerald Robert Vizenor, Manifest Manners: Postindian Warriors of Survivance (Hanover: Wesleyan University Press, 1994). 10.  James Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), 72. 11.  Allison Hurst, “Beyond the Pale: Poor Whites as Uncontrolled Contagion in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Dred,” Mississippi Quarterly 63.4 (Fall 2010): 650. 12.  Abdul JanMohamed, “Negating the Negation as a Form of Affirmation in Minority Discourse: The Construction of Richard Wright as Subject,” Cultural Critique 7 (Fall 1988): 245–266.


Notes to Pages 72–83

13.  Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities (New York: Nation Books, 2004), 3. Chapter 4 1.  Report of the Board of Swamp Land Commissioners, and State Engineer, Under Joint Resolution No. 105, Approved March 16th, 1858 (Baton Rouge: J. M. Taylor State Printer, 1859), 3–4. 2.  The Swamp Land Act, on condition of reclamation by private parties, transferred title of federally owned swampland to states (though its provisions were reversed in part by the Wetland Protection Act of 1972). In the following years, a number of states followed suit, but Louisiana was the first to receive federal grants of public swampland, and a state board of commissioners was formed to oversee and administer these transactions. As defined by the 1859 report, “The Swamp Land Board has for its duties, the reclamation and drainage of lands, and carries on its works by using the funds arising from the sales of lands donated to the State by the United States, under Acts of Congress of 1849 and 1850. These laws make it imperative on the State to use the moneys accruing from these lands for the special purpose for which they were denoted, and the present State Constitution has solemnly recognized this condition” (5). 3.  Here, I take a cue from Timothy Sweet, whose American Georgics: Economy and Environment in Early American Literature (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002) lucidly considers improvement and its contradictions in respect to the contested development of the agricultural ideal in the North American English colonies and the Early Republic. While focusing on a local and very specific iteration of improvement, I also keep an eye on its relation to nation formation in the Atlantic world, its place in the global process of settler colonialism, and its status as one of the seemingly unassailable logics of modern liberalism. Like Lisa Lowe in The Intimacies of Four Continents (Durham: Duke University Press, 2015), I’m interested in how the logics of liberalism, including improvement, operate unevenly in their production of property and personhood. As Lowe states, “liberalism comprises a multi-­faceted, flexible, and contradictory set of provisions that at once rationalizes settler appropriation and removal differently than it justifies either the subjection of human beings as enslaved property, or the extraction of labor from indentured emigrants, however much these processes share a colonial past and an ongoing colonial present” (10–11). 4.  Harriet Beecher Stowe, Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp, 2 vols. (Boston: Phillips, Sampson, 1856). 5.  See William Tynes Cowan, The Slave in the Swamp: Disrupting the Plantation Narrative (New York: Routledge, 2005), and Anthony Wilson, Shadow and Shelter: The Swamp in Southern Culture (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2006). For another foundational study of the topic, see Louis D. Rubin, The Edge of the Swamp: A Study in the Literature and Society of the Old South (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989). 6.  Buell is quoted in Mark B. Feldman and Hsuan L. Hsu, “Introduction: Race, Environment, and Representation,” Discourse 29.2/3 (April 1, 2007): 199. 7.  As Feldman and Hsu also observe, “Du Bois’s later works also push toward an ‘anti-­ pastoral’ conception of the environment: ‘Have you ever seen a cotton-­field white with the harvest—its golden fleece hovering above the black earth like a silvery cloud edged with dark green, its bold white signals waving like the foam of billows from Carolina to Texas across that Black and human Sea?’ [His] description of a ‘dark green’ landscape shaped by Black labor and the political economy of cotton illustrates why terms like environment and nature cannot be fully understood without accounting for the histories of social and racial stratification” (200).

Notes to Pages 84–87


8.  Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin or, Life Among the Lowly with an Introduction Setting Forth the History of the Novel and A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, vol. 1, in Riverside Edition of the Writings of Harriet Beecher Stowe (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1896), 306–307; subsequently cited parenthetically as Uncle Tom’s Cabin. 9.  From a southern, proslavery perspective, Samuel A. Cartwright outlined and pathologized a very similar set of perceived behaviors in “Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race,” De Bow’s Review XI (July and September 1851): 64–69, 331–336. The essay, with context, is reprinted in The Cause of the South: Selections from De Bow’s Review, 1846-­1867, ed. Paul F. Paskoff and Daniel J. Wilson (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1982), 26–43. 10.  Bras Coupé appears in George Washington Cable, The Grandissimes: A Story of Creole Life (New York: Scribner’s, 1880). 11.  In fact, if there is a single passage in which Stowe appears to reveal her full hand regarding race, slavery, and improvement, it is delivered within this familial setting: “If ever Africa shall show an elevated and cultivated race,—and come it must, some time, her turn to figure in the great drama of human improvement,—life will awake there with a gorgeousness and splendor of which our cold western tribes faintly have conceived. In that far-­off mystic land of gold, and gems, and spices, and waving palms, and wondrous flowers, and miraculous fertility, will awake new forms of art, new styles of splendor; and the negro race, no longer despised and trodden down, will, perhaps, show forth some of the latest and most magnificent revelations of human life. Certainly they will in their gentleness, their lowly docility of heart, their aptitude to repose on a superior mind and rest on a higher power, their childlike simplicity of affection, and facility of forgiveness. In all these they will exhibit the highest form of the peculiarly Christian life, and, perhaps, as God chasteneth whom he loveth, he hath chosen poor Africa in the furnace of affliction, to make her the highest and noblest in that kingdom which he will set up, when every other kingdom has been tried, and failed; for the first shall be last, and the last first” (Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 236). She backs away from the statement, however, by framing it as the potential thought of Marie St. Clare, one of the novel’s most unsympathetic characters. Putting aside its uncertain attribution, the significance of the statement comes across clearly, and it hangs over the rest of the narrative. Figured as “the great drama of human improvement,” Stowe—obliquely or not—subscribes to a theory of human civilization and progress that places Africa and “the negro race” at an earlier stage of development. For Stowe, this paternalistic view of land and people ultimately offers a way out of slavery but it does not resolve the dilemma raised by the notion of African American underdevelopment. For a discussion of this topic, see Carla L. Peterson, “Capitalism, Black (Under)Development, and the Production of the African-­ American Novel in the 1850s,” American Literary History 4.4 (Winter, 1992): 559–583. 12.  Raymond Williams, The Country and the City (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974), 60–61; subsequently cited parenthetically as Country. Also essential here is the thought of John Locke in The Second Treatise on Civil Government (1689). 13.  Raymond Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, rev. ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 160–161; subsequently cited parenthetically as Keywords. 14.  To the contrary, if the “working improvement” is a function of slavery, Frederick Douglass insists in the Narrative of the Life of . . . an American Slave (Boston: Anti-­Slavery Office, 1845) that the institution is unimproving for its masters; that is, it leads to social and moral degeneration (32–33). Likewise, says Ralph Waldo Emerson in “An Address . . . On the Anniversary of the Emancipation of the Negroes in the British West Indies” (Boston: James Munroe, 1844), “Slavery is no scholar, no improver; it does not love the whistle of the railroad; it does not


Notes to Pages 87–94

love the newspaper, the mail-­bag, a college, a book or a preacher who has the absurd whim of saying what he thinks; it does not increase the white population; it does not improve the soil; everything goes to decay” (20). 15.  I speak in broad terms here, but a suite of books helps me situate this process in the U.S. context: in addition to Sweet’s American Georgics, see Thomas Hallock, From the Fallen Tree: Frontier Narratives, Environmental Politics, and the Roots of A National Pastoral, 1749-­1826 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003), and Ian Frederick Finseth, Shades of Green: Visions of Nature in the Literature of American Slavery, 1770-­1860 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2009). 16.  “Schemes in Regard to Fugitives—Various Views Presented,” The National Era, November 21, 1850, 187. 17.  Ann Vileisis, Discovering the Unknown Landscape: A History of America’s Wetlands. (Washington, DC: Island Press, 1997), 66; subsequently cited parenthetically as Discovering. 18.  Both found direct expression and wide circulation in a vibrant agricultural press that included De Bow’s Review and underscored much of the literature of the day. See Paskoff and Wilson. 19.  Henry David Thoreau, “Walking,” The Atlantic Monthly 9.56 (June 1862), 666. 20.  David C. Miller, Dark Eden: The Swamp in Nineteenth-­Century American Culture (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 17; subsequently cited parenthetically as Dark Eden. 21.  Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, rev. ed. (Boston: James R. Osgood, 1873), 317. 22.  Solomon Northup, Twelve Years a Slave: Narrative of Solomon Northup, a Citizen of New-­York, Kidnapped in Washington City in 1841, and Rescued in 1853, from a Cotton Plantation Near the Red River, in Louisiana (New York: Miller, Orton & Mulligan, 1855); subsequently cited parenthetically as Twelve Years. As Northup details, “A heavy judgement was rendered against him in consequence of his having become security for his brother, Franklin Ford, residing on Red River, above Alexandria, and who had failed to meet his liabilities. He was also indebted to John M. Tibeats to a considerable amount in consideration of his services in building the mills on Indian Creek, and also a weaving-­house corn-­mill and other erections on the plantation at Bayou Boeuf, not yet completed. It was therefore necessary, in order to meet these demands, to dispose of eighteen slaves, myself among the number” (105). 23.  As the work of Sue Eakin has exhaustively documented, Northup’s description of the region provides a rich and accurate record of the Red River region around Alexandria, Louisiana. Her map of the Bayou Boeuf region is indispensable for understanding this geography. See Sue Eakin and Joseph Logsdon, eds., The Bayou Boeuf Country: Prepared in Connection with Ezra Bennett and the World He Lived In, 1830-­1875, and Twelve Years a Slave (1970), Rufus M. Smith, cart. 24.  These sentiments include the following: “Nowadays almost all man’s improvements, so called, as the building of houses and the cutting down of the forest and of all large trees, simply deform the landscape, and make it more and more tame and cheap. A people who would begin by burning the fences and let the forest stand!” (660). And, “In society, in the best institutions of men, it is easy to detect a certain precocity. When we should still be growing children, we are already little men. Give me a culture which imports much muck from the meadows, and deepens the soil—not that which trusts to heating manures, and improved implements and modes of culture only!” (670).

Notes to Pages 94–100


25.  Paul Gilroy, Postcolonial Melancholia (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), 39. By establishing a countertradition of “anti-­racist humanism” (37) populated by thinkers whose diasporic cosmopolitanism was rooted in (and routed by) this long raciological process, Gilroy participates in an ongoing intellectual project that refuses to react to “race” as ontology but, rather, engages with the systems of thought (bound up with nation, colony, and empire) that produced the discourse of race and continue to reproduce our understanding of it. 26.  Rod Giblett, Postmodern Wetlands: Culture, History, Ecology (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1996), 44. Chapter 5 1.  Bernie Krause, The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World’s Wild Places (Boston: Little Brown, 2012). All page references to this work are given in parentheses in the text. 2.  http://​www​.wildsanctuary​.com. 3.  Henry D. Thoreau, Walden, ed. Lyndon Shanley (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971), 126. Subsequent references cited in text as Walden. 4.  Anthony Hallam and P. B. Wignall, Mass Extinctions and Their Aftermaths (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 1. 5.  Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin, The Sixth Extinction: Patterns of Life and the Future of Humankind (New York: Anchor Books, 1996); Terry Glavin, The Sixth Extinction: Journeys Among the Lost and Left Behind (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2007); Elizabeth Kolbert, “The Sixth Extinction? There Have Been Five Great Die-­Offs in History. This Time, the Cataclysm Is Us,” New Yorker, May 25, 2009; Bill Marsh, “Are We in the Middle of a Sixth Mass Extinction?” New York Times, June 6, 2012. 6.  S. L. Pimm, G. J. Russell, J. L. Gittleman, and T. M. Brooks, “The Future of Biodiversity,” Science 269 (1995): 347–350. Edmund O. Wilson, The Future of Life (New York: Knopf, 2002). 7.  Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (New York: Henry Holt, 2014), 17–18. 8.  “UN Report Highlights Links Between Unprecedented Loss of Biodiversity and Spread of Disease,” UN News, September 15, 2020, https://​news​.un​.org​/en​/story​/2020​/09​/1072292. 9.  D. B. Wake and V. T. Vredenburg, “Colloquium Paper: Are We in the Midst of the Sixth Mass Extinction? A View from the World of Amphibians,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105 (2008): 11466–11473. 10.  PBS, “Frogs: A Thin Green Line,” April 5, 2009, http://​ www​ .pbs​ .org​ /wnet​ /nature​ /episodes​/frogs​-­­the​-­­thin​-­­green​-­­line​/introduction​/4763/. 11.  John Upton, “Despite Deadly Fungus, Frog Imports Continue,” New York Times, April 7, 2012, http://​www​.nytimes​.com​/2012​/04​/08​/us​/chytrid​-­­fungus​-­­in​-­­frogs​-­­threatens​-­­amphibian​ -­­extinction​.html. 12.  Laura Gibbs, Introduction to Aesop’s Fables: A New Translation by Laura Gibbs (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), xix. 13.  These commonplace book entries from 1837 to 1847 are in the first volume of Henry D. Thoreau, Journals, ed. Torry and Allen, 1:470. Subsequent references cited in text as Journals. 14.  For recent research on animal intelligence, see Frans De Waal, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? (New York: Norton, 2017), and Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel (New York: Henry Holt, 2015). For an unforgettable account


Notes to Pages 101–109

of the intelligence of parrots, see Allora and Calzadilla and Ted Chiang, “The Great Silence,” Planetary Computing, May 8, 2015, http://​supercommunity​.e​-­­flux​.com​/texts​/the​-­­great​-­­silence/. My thanks to Kyle Hutzler for calling my attention to this piece. 15.  Christopher Benfey, “The Lost Wolves of New England,” New York Review of Books, January 22, 2013, http://​www​.nybooks​.com​/blogs​/nyrblog​/2013​/jan​/22​/lost​-­­wolves​-­­new​-­­england/. 16. “State Mammal List,” Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, http://​www​.mass​.gov​/eea​/agencies​/dfg​/dfw​/fish​-­­wildlife​-­­plants​/state​-­­mammal​-­­list​.html. 17.  “Loons, Lead Sinkers and Jigs,” Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, http://​www​.mass​.gov​/eea​/agencies​/dfg​/dfw​/hunting​-­­fishing​-­­wildlife​-­­watching​/fishing​ /loons​-­­lead​-­­sinkers​-­­and​-­­jigs​.html. 18. Cavell, The Senses of Walden: An Expanded Edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 19–20. 19.  Jeremiah 9:10. 20. Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species (New York: New American Library, 1958), 108–109. 21.  Charles G. Willis, Brad Ruhfel, Richard B. Primack, Abraham J. Miller-­Rushing, and Charles C. Davis, “Phylogenetic Patterns of Species Loss in Thoreau’s Woods Are Driven by Climate Change,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105.44 (2008): 17029–17033, doi:10.1073/pnas.0806446105. Available online at http://​www​.pnas​.org​/content​/105​/44​/17029​ .full​.pdf​+html. 22.  Diane Toomey, “Maya Lin: A Memorial to a Vanishing Natural World,” June 25, 2012, http://​e360​.yale​.edu​/feature​/maya​_lin​_a​_memorial​_to​_a​_vanishing​_natural​_world​/2545/. Chapter 6 This chapter emerged from the panel “Unmapping Transnationalism” at the Modern Language Association conference held in Vancouver during January 2015. I’m grateful to my fellow participants that day, Tim Marr and Dominic Mastroianni, for their thoughts; to Cody Marrs with whom I conceived the session; and Christopher Castiglia and Nan Z. Da for conversations that happened afterward. 1. Martin Brückner, The Geographic Revolution in Early America: Maps, Literacy, and National Identity (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), 12. 2.  Alexander Dallas Bache, Report of the Superintendent of the Coast Survey, Showing the Progress of the Survey During the Year 1854 (Washington, DC: A.O.P. Nicholson, 1855); Hugh Richard Slotten, Patronage, Practice, and the Culture of American Science: Alexander Dallas Bache and the U.S. Coastal Survey (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994). 3.  Nathaniel Philbrick, Sea of Glory: The Epic South Seas Expedition 1838-­42 (London: Harper Perennial, 2005). 4.  Stephen J. Dick, Sky and Ocean Joined: The U.S. Naval Observatory 1830-­2000 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003). 5.  M. F. Maury, The Physical Geography of the Sea (London: Sampson & Co., 1855). 6. Anne Baker, Heartless Immensity: Literature, Culture and Geography in Antebellum America (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006); Eric Bulson, Novels, Maps, Modernity: The Spatial Imagination, 1850-­2000 (London: Routledge, 2007); Brückner, Geographic Revolution; Hsuan Hsu, Geography and the Production of Space in Nineteenth-­Century American

Notes to Pages 110–113


Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010); Paul Giles, The Global Remapping of American Literature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011). Subsequent references cited parenthetically in the text as Global Remapping. 7.  Indeed, Philip Fisher took this process of mapping and remapping as the basis of the rhythms of creation and destruction that have characterized U.S. capitalism from the mid-­ nineteenth century onward. Thinking about the newness of the American continent and the import of its blank spaces, Fisher argues that these blank spaces are endlessly rediscoverable for U.S. writers through the restless energies of technological capitalism: “a merely temporarily unfinished newness made it possible to sketch the philosophy for a new, permanently unsettled rhythm of creation and destruction . . . the possibility opened up that in American culture the initial unfinished newness would define the terms of a more permanent newness guaranteed by the one genuine permanent revolution, that of competitive technological capitalism.” Philip Fisher, Still the New World: American Literature in a Culture of Creative Destruction (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), 3. 8. Giles, Global Remapping. 9.  Wai Chee Dimock, Through Other Continents: American Literature Across Deep Time (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006), 29. 10.  Anna Brickhouse, Transamerican Literary Relations and the Nineteenth-­Century Public Sphere (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 8. 11. Kirsten Silva Gruesz, Ambassadors of Culture: The Transamerican Origins of Latino Writing (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002), 13. 12.  Adam Seaborn, Symzonia: A Voyage of Discovery (Gainesville, FL: Scholars’ Facsimiles & Reprints, 1965). Subsequent references cited parenthetically in the text as Symzonia. 13.  Gretchen Murphy, “Symzonia, Typee, and the Dream of U.S. Global Isolation,” ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance 49.4 (2003): 249–283. 14.  I’m influenced here by theories of “surface reading”: to simplify, this is the critical notion that it is better to analyze the visible rather than to interrogate the hidden in texts. See Stephen Best and Sharon Marcus, “Surface Reading: An Introduction,” Representations 108.1 (Fall 2009): 1–21. 15.  Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), 131, 132. 16.  Herman Melville, Moby-­Dick or the Whale, ed. Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2001). 17.  Benjamin Morrell, A Narrative of Four Voyages (New York: J. & J. Harper, 1832), 29. Subsequent references cited parenthetically in the text as Four Voyages. 18.  This is one of the precepts of “enchanted critique”: building on Jacques Rancière’s notion that the critic ought to assume an equivalence of intelligence with the past, the thinkers of this school put forward a critical model of historicism that refuses to grant the present an epistemological privilege over the past. When confronted with ideas like the hollow earth, which appear callow or quite simply absurd, the task of the critic is less to dismiss than to understand, not least because writing in the present will undoubtedly come with its share of blind spots. See Nancy Bentley, “Introduction” to “In the Spirit of the Thing: Critique as Enchantment,” J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-­Century Americanists 1.1 (Spring 2013): 147–153. 19. This is a precept of much of queer theory’s rethinking of historicism. Rather than exploring those pasts which produced a future, in a reproductive mode, many queer theorists


Notes to Pages 113–120

have instead aimed to recover those silenced, suddenly curtailed, recalcitrant counterfactual pasts which lay dormant, unactivated, and invisible in the past. See, for instance, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003), 123–152, or Heather Love, Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009). 20.  Dana Luciano and Ivy G. Wilson eds., Unsettled States: Nineteenth-­Century American Literary Studies (New York: NYU Press, 2014), 10. 21.  Peter Coviello, Tomorrow’s Parties: Sex and the Untimely in Nineteenth-­Century America (New York: NYU Press, 2013), 15. 22.  Raul Coronado makes precisely this point: that if we analyze the history of Latin American independence movements without using the distorting lens of liberalism, forms of collectivity and political subjectivity extracted from a national and/or individualist logic emerge. See Raúl Coronado, A World Not To Come: A History of Latino Writing and Print Culture (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016). 23.  See, for instance, Johannes Fabian, Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014). Subsequent references cited parenthetically in the text as Time. 24.  I am influenced here by Hester Blum’s characterization of the polar regions as a “verge.” See Hester Blum, “John Cleves Symmes and the Planetary Reach of Polar Exploration,” American Literature 84.2 (June 2012): 243–271. 25.  Richard Henry Dana Jr., Two Years Before the Mast & Other Voyages (New York: Library of America, 2005), 302–303. 26.  Edgar Allan Poe, Poetry and Tales (New York: Library of America, 1984), 1116. Subsequent references cited parenthetically in the text as Pym. 27.  Blum, “John Cleves Symmes and the Planetary Reach of Polar Exploration,” 261. 28.  Hester Blum, “The News at the End of the Earth: Polar Periodicals,” in Unsettled States, ed. Luciano and Wilson, 158–188. 29.  I am using the word “dislocated” with Robert S. Levine’s usage of it in mind, drawing on the way in which critics can put dominant categories of political personhood into motion through acts of geographical and chronological recontextualization. See Robert S. Levine, Dislocating Race and Nation: Episodes in Nineteenth-­Century Literary Nationalism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008). 30.  Race, indeed, has functioned as a particular locus for outlining alternative, speculative social futures, particularly in relation to science and science fiction. See, for instance, Britt Rusert, Fugitive Science: Empiricism and Freedom in Early African American Culture (New York: NYU Press, 2017). For an account of the utopian potential of Caribbean political theory, see Gary Wilder, Freedom Time: Negritude, Decolonization and the Future of the World (Durham: Duke University Press, 2015). 31.  Christopher Castiglia, “Aesthetics Beyond the Actual: The Marble Faun and Romantic Sociality,” in American Literature’s Aesthetic Dimensions, ed. Christopher Looby and Cindy Weinstein (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), 117–136. 32. Jared Hickman, “On the Redundancy of Transnational American Studies,” in The Oxford Handbook of Nineteenth-­Century American Literature, ed. Russ Castronovo (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 269–290; Robyn Wiegman, “The Ends of New Americanism,” New Literary History 42.3 (Summer 2011): 385–407.

Notes to Pages 121–127


Chapter 7 1.  Washington Irving, A History of New York (1809; New York: Penguin, 2008), 48–52. 2.  David Bowie, “Space Oddity,” on David Bowie, Philips, 1969; Elton John, “Rocket Man,” on Honky Château, Uni Records, 1972. 3.  Edmundo O’Gorman, The Invention of America (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1958), 131. 4.  Paul Giles, The Global Remapping of American Literature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011). 5. Henry David Thoreau, “Night and Moonlight,” Atlantic Monthly 12.73 (November 1863): 580. 6.  Jefferson to Tucker, March 9, 1825, in The Life of George Tucker, ed. James Fieser (Bristol: Thoemmes Continuum, 2004), vii; Tucker (Joseph Atterley), Voyage to the Moon (New York: Elam Bliss, 1827). Subsequent references cited in text as Voyage. 7. Herman Melville, Moby-­Dick, or The Whale (Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern University Press and Newberry Library, 1988), 483. Subsequent references cited in text as Moby-­Dick. 8.  John McPhee, “Travels of the Rock,” in Irons in the Fire (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1997), 204–205. 9.  Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Vol. 1 (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1955), 185. 10.  M. M. Bakhtin, Speech Genres and Other Late Essays, trans. Vern W. McGee (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986), 7. 11.  Boaventura de Sousa Santos, “Beyond Abyssal Thinking: From Global Lines to Ecologies of Knowledges,” Revista Crítica de Ciências Socias 30.1 (2007): 45–89. 12.  Nigel Clark, “Ex-­orbitant Globality,” Theory, Culture & Society 22.5 (2005): 166. 13.  William Rasch, “Immanent Systems, Transcendental Temptations, and the Limits of Ethics,” Cultural Critique 30 (1995): 201, quoted in Clark, “Ex-­orbitant,” 171. 14.  Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Philosophy of History,” The Early Lectures of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Vol. 2, ed. Robert Spiller et al. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1964), 184. 15.  John Briggs, Turbulent Mirror (New York: Harper and Row, 1989), 148, quoted in Clark, “Ex-­orbitant,” 165. 16.  Nigel Clark, Inhuman Nature: Social Life on a Dynamic Planet (London: SAGE, 2011), xx. See his most recent exploration in Clark and Bronislaw Szerszynski, Planetary Social Thought: The Anthropocene Challenge to the Social Sciences (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2021). 17.  Gayatri Spivak, Imperatives to Re-­Imagine the Planet (Vienna: Passagem, 1999), 43. 18. Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (New York: Library of America, 1985), 313. Subsequent references cited in text as Week. 19.  Henry David Thoreau, Walden (New York: Library of America, 1985), 577, 578. Subsequent references cited in text as Walden. 20.  Henry David Thoreau, “Walking,” Collected Essays and Poems (New York: Library of America, 2001), 225. Subsequent references cited in text as “Walking.” 21.  Henry David Thoreau, February 27, 1851, Journal, Vol. 3: 1848-­1851, ed. Robert Sattelmeyer et al. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), 198.


Notes to Pages 127–138

22.  Herman Melville, Redburn (Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern University Press and Newberry Library, 1969), 133. 23.  Herman Melville, White-­Jacket (Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern University Press and Newberry Library, 1970), 7. Subsequent references cited in text. 24.  Herman Melville, Mardi (Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern University Press and Newberry Library, 1970), 460, 459. See Timothy Marr, “Melville’s Planetary Compass,” New Cambridge Companion to Herman Melville, ed. Robert S. Levine (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 187–201. 25.  Robert Hunter, Box of Rain (New York: Penguin, 1990), 208. Chapter 8 1.  On the Lost Cause, see Gaines Foster, Ghosts of the Confederacy: Defeat, the Lost Cause, and the Emergence of the New South, 1865-­1913 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987). More broadly, on the racial politics of Confederate nostalgia, see Micki McElya, Clinging to Mammy: The Faithful Slave in Twentieth-­Century America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007); Tara McPherson, Reconstructing Dixie: Race, Gender, and Nostalgia in the Imagined South (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003). 2.  On the hemispheric South, see Walter Johnson, River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013); Caroline Levander and Robert Levine, eds., Hemispheric American Studies (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2007); Matthew Pratt Guterl, American Mediterranean: Southern Slaveholders in the Age of Emancipation (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008); Jon Smith and Deborah Cohn, eds., Look Away! The U.S. South in New World Studies (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004); Maria Windell, Transamerican Sentimentalism and Nineteenth-­Century U.S. Literary History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020). 3.  Timothy Noah, “Blurted out Conviction of the Week,” Slate, December 6, 2002, http://​ www​.slate​.com​/articles​/news​_and​_politics​/chatterbox​/2002​/12​/blurted​_out​_conviction​_of​_the​ _week​_trent​_lott​.html. 4.  Matt Gertz, “NRA’s Nugent: ‘I’m Beginning to Wonder if it Would Have Been Best Had the South Won the Civil War,” Media Matters, July 6, 2012, http://​mediamatters​.org​/blog​/2012​ /07​/06​/nras​-­­nugent​-­­im​-­­beginning​-­­to​-­­wonder​-­­if​-­­it​-­­would​/186972; For the song by Williams Jr., see https://​www​.youtube​.com​/watch​?v​=​fDkyL9c0QdY 5.  Niall Ferguson, Virtual Histories: Alternatives and Counterfactuals (New York: Basic, 2000), 5. 6.  Richard Evans, “‘What If ’ Is A Waste of Time,” Guardian, March 13, 2014, http://​www​ .theguardian​.com​/books​/2014​/mar​/13​/counterfactual​-­­history​-­­what​-­­if​-­­waste​-­­of​-­­time. Evans expanded on this critique in Altered Pasts: Counterfactuals in History (Boston: Little, Brown, 2014). 7.  Catherine Gallagher, “When Did the Confederate States of America Free the Slaves?,” Representations 98 (Spring 2007): 53–61. 8.  Tony Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War (New York: Random House, 1999). 9.  Herbert Klein, Slavery in the Americas: A Comparative Study of Virginia and Cuba (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967); Peter Kolchin, Unfree Labor: American Slavery and Russian Serfdom (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1990). 10.  Howard Means, C.S.A. (New York: William Morrow, 1998), 11.

Notes to Pages 139–149


11.  MacKinlay Kantor, If the South Had Won the Civil War (New York: Macmillan, 1960), 97–101. 12.  Roger Ransom, The Confederate States of America: What Might Have Been (New York: Norton, 2006); also, Ransom, “Imagination Meetings Reality: Writing a Counterfactual History of the American Civil War,” n.d., n.p., manuscript in author’s possession. 13.  Harry Turtledove, How Few Remain (New York: Del Rey, 2008). 14.  MacKinlay Kantor, “If the South Had Won the Civil War,” Look (November 22, 1960). 15.  For the Slate review of the book, complete with an email from Winters, linking it to Butler, see http://​www​.slate​.com​/blogs​/browbeat​/2016​/07​/06​/the​_new​_york​_times​_piece​_on​ _ben​_h​_winters​_new​_book​_totally​_ignores​_sci​_fi​.html (accessed October 20, 2016). 16.  https://​www​.kirkusreviews​.com​/features​/ben​-­­h​-­­winters/ (accessed October 20, 2016). 17.  Butler, in Randall Kenan, “An Interview with Octavia Butler,” Callaloo 14.2 (Spring 1991): 498. On the posthuman and Black women’s speculative fiction, see Kristen Lillvis, Posthuman Blackness and the Black Female Imagination (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2017), and Rebecca Wanzo, “The Unspeakable Speculative, Spoken,” American Literary History 31.3 (Fall 2019): 564–574. 18.  Turtledove, “Introduction” to Kantor, If the South Had Won the Civil War, 7. 19.  Brooks, “The Robert E. Lee Problem,” New York Times, June 26, 2015. Chapter 9 I am grateful to audiences at Mercer University and meetings of the Society of Nineteenth-­ Century Americanists, the Society for the Study of Southern Literature, and the Civil War Caucus for their incisive questions about this topic. 1.  I develop this critique in Apples and Ashes: Literature, Nationalism, and the Confederate States of America (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012), especially 1–16, subsequently cited parenthetically, and in “The Brand New Southern Studies Waltz,” Journal of American Studies 48.3 (August 2014): 694–697. 2.  J. V. Ridgely, Nineteenth-­Century Southern Literature (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1980). 3.  Jay B. Hubbell, The South in American Literature, 1607-­1900 (Durham: Duke University Press, 1954). Subsequently cited parenthetically. 4.  Michael O’Brien’s two-­volume, nearly 1,400-­page Conjectures of Order: Intellectual Life and the American South, 1810-­1860 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004) deserves mention here. Although a work of intellectual rather than literary history, O’Brien’s magnum opus talks at length about antebellum southern literature, including the authors discussed herein. 5.  See especially Barbara Ladd, “Literary Studies: The Southern United States, 2005,” PMLA 120.5 (2005): 1628–1629. For a particularly withering account of “professional southernists” like Louis D. Rubin and Lewis P. Simpson, see Paul A. Bové, Mastering Discourse: The Politics of Intellectual Culture (Durham: Duke University Press, 1992), especially 116. 6.  See especially Drew Gilpin Faust, Sacred Circle: The Dilemma of the Intellectual in the Old South, 1840-­1860 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977), passim. 7.  Tucker and Ruffin were hardly alone in imagining the future during this period. In his superb study Looming Civil War: How Nineteenth-­Century Americans Imagined the Future (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018), historian Jason Phillips suggests that the Civil War “may have been the most anticipated event of America’s nineteenth century”: “Before the Civil War was


Notes to Pages 149–154

fought or remembered, it was imagined by thousands of Americans who peered at the horizon through an apocalyptic atmosphere” (4). Studying an impressive array of materials, Phillips argues that the conflict “changed more than America’s future; it changed how Americans imagined the future, changes that resound through American temporalities today” (6). Not surprisingly, Phillips includes Tucker and Ruffin among the “anxious visionaries” (4) and “rich diversity of American forecasts” (8) of looming Civil War, treating the two figures as representative southern writers who “epitomize the region’s prospective focus on time” (127). See especially 121–135. 8.  Margaret Atwood, In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination (New York: Nan A. Talese, 2011), 6. 9.  Quoted in Atwood, In Other Words, 5. 10.  I am grateful to Christopher Castiglia for reminding me of Richard Poirier’s iconic phrase in this context. See A World Elsewhere: The Place of Style in American Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 1966), which proclaims, “The great works of American literature are alive with the effort to stabilize certain feelings and attitudes that have, as it were, no place at all except where a writer’s style can give them one” (ix). 11.  Southern Literary Messenger 2.1 (1837): 58. For a fuller discussion and contextualization of Poe’s review, see Hutchison, Apples and Ashes, especially 40–41 and 58–62. 12.  For a full textual history of the novel, see Coleman Hutchison, “Book History” in Keywords for Southern Studies, ed. Jennifer Greeson and Scott Romine (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2016), 239–249. 13.  [Nathaniel Beverly Tucker], The Partisan Leader; A Tale of the Future (Washington: Duff Green, 1836): Vol. I, 111–112. Subsequently cited parenthetically by volume and page number. 14. William R. Taylor’s foundational intellectual history Cavalier and Yankee: The Old South and American National Character (New York: Braziller, 1961) has antebellum literature’s regional animosities at its heart; indeed, he even treats both Tucker and Ruffin. 15.  Christopher Looby’s sinewy essay on Tucker is a notable and important exception: “The Sense of Impending: Nathaniel Beverley Tucker’s The Partisan Leader: A Tale of the Future” in  A Question of Time: American Literature from Colonial Encounter to Contemporary Fiction, ed. Cindy Weinstein (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 17–31. 16.  The preceding discussion revisits and expands my treatment of The Partisan Leader in Apples and Ashes. See 40–41 and 58–62. See also Carl Bridenbaugh, introduction to Nathaniel Beverley Tucker, The Partisan Leader (New York: A.A. Knopf, 1933): xxv–xxvii. Justine Murison has recently read Tucker’s novel in the context of the emergence of a recognizably modern American party politics in the 1830s and 1840s. “The Age of Van Buren” in Timelines of American Literature, ed. Cody Marrs and Christopher Hager (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019): 170–188. 17. I take the evocative phrase “imaginative abundance” from Michael A. Elliott. See “Strangely Interested: The Work of Historical Fantasy,” American Literature 87.1 (2015): 139. Subsequently cited parenthetically. 18.  Edmund Ruffin, The Diary of Edmund Ruffin (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1972, 1989): Vol. III, 592. Subsequently cited parenthetically by volume and page number. 19.  Jones’s novel could certainly be read alongside Tucker’s and Ruffin’s, although its conclusion might complicate a strict comparative reading. Spoiler alert: Wild Southern Scenes ends with the narrator in bed, being scolded by his wife to get up and face the day. The preceding prospective narrative of “Disunion!” and “Border War!” had been but a “singular dream” (501). This tongue-­ in-­cheek conclusion is in keeping with Jones’ literary proclivities, which tended toward humor

Notes to Pages 155–158


and the picaresque. In his lifetime, Jones was best known for his 1841 novel Wild Western Scenes: A Narrative of Adventures in the Western Wilderness, Forty Years Ago (1841), a story of Daniel Boone and frontier life in Kentucky. Wild Southern Scenes was also published as Border War: A Tale of Disunion (New York: Rudd & Carleton, 1859) and then republished during the Civil War as Secession, Coercion, and Civil War: The Story of 1861 (Philadelphia: Peterson, 1861). 20. Betty L. Mitchell, Edmund Ruffin: A Biography (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980): 153. 21. Fred Hobson, “‘Anticipations of the Future’; Or the Wish-­Fulfillment of  Edmund Ruffin,” Southern Literary Journal 10.1 (Fall 1977): 85. Hobson’s essay remains the best single treatment of the novel, although Jason Phillips’s recent essay, “The Prophecy of Edmund Ruffin: Anticipating the Future of Civil War History,” in Apocalypse and the Millennium: Providential Religion and the Era of the American Civil War, ed. Zachary Dresser and Benjamin Wright (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2013), 13–30, is also immensely helpful. 22.  Avery O. Craven called the novel Ruffin’s “most pretentious contribution to the cause of secession” and “over four hundred pages of clever propaganda.” See Edmund Ruffin, Southerner (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1932): 188. 23.  Recent critics of the novel have emphasized its seeming lack of literary qualities. Glenn Hendler describes Anticipations as “journalistic,” noting that Ruffin largely eschews “a recognizably novelistic framework” (196). See “Feeling Like a State: Writing the 1863 New York City Draft Riots” in Unsettled States: Nineteenth-­Century American Literary Studies, ed. Dana Luciano and Ivy G. Wilson (New York: NYU Press, 2014): 189–231. Jason Phillips concurs with Hendler’s assessment of the novel, suggesting that Anticipations of the Future “reads more like an edited collection of primary documents than a novel” (Looming Civil War, 127). But, as Hendler takes pains to point out, the abjuring of “any tendency toward the individuated, interior psychology” is also sympathetic to Ruffin’s broader social and historical theory (197). 24.  [Edmund Ruffin], Anticipations of the Future, to Serve as Lessons for the Present Time (Richmond: J.W. Randolph, 1860): vi. Subsequently cited parenthetically. 25. Passages like this complicate Hendler’s otherwise compelling reading of Anticipations’ prophetic representation of New York City draft riots. (See Hendler, especially 194–200.) Hendler describes Ruffin’s novel as “resolutely unsentimental” (194), noting that Ruffin instead “aspires to verisimilitude in social analysis” (195). 26.  Hobson emphasizes the novel’s “sense of [the] grotesque,” concluding that “Ruffin’s one venture into fiction may have been early Southern Gothic” (90–91). 27.  See Harry T. Shanks, The Secession Movement in Virginia, 1847–1861 (New York: AMS Press, 1934): 74; see also Hobson, 87. 28.  By early 1862 Anticipations of the Future had sold only four hundred copies, including gifts (Ruffin, Diary, II: 232). This led Ruffin to “cease all further literary efforts to engage the attention or to serve the interests of my countrymen” (Ruffin, Diary, III: 36). See also Ruffin, Diary, I: 554 and Ruffin, Diary, II: 557. 29.  Madhu Dubey’s very fine essay “Speculative Fictions of Slavery” (American Literature 82.4 [2010]: 779–805) treats a number of contemporary African American writers whose “speculative fictions overtly situate themselves against history, suggesting that we can best comprehend the truth of slavery by abandoning historical modes of knowing” (784). We might usefully think about Tucker’s and Ruffin’s proslavery novels in Dubey’s terms. 30.  The inclusion of an 1836 and 1860 novel in the canon of Civil War literature is in keeping with recent arguments to reconsider the literary-­historical function of the conflict. See especially


Notes to Pages 158–165

Christopher Hager and Cody Marrs, “Against 1865: Reperiodizing the Nineteenth Century,” J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-­Century Americanists 1.2 (2013): 259–284. In fact, Tucker’s novel was reprinted twice during the Civil War: in the North as A Key to the Disunion Conspiracy: The Partisan Leader (New York: Rudd & Carleton, 1861) and in the South as The Partisan Leader: A Novel, and an Apocalypse of the Origin and Struggles of the Southern Confederacy (Richmond: West & Johnston, 1862). See Hutchison, “Book History,” for a full treatment of these editions. 31. Ramón Saldívar, “Historical Fantasy, Speculative Realism, and Postrace Aesthetics in Contemporary American Fiction.”  American Literary History  23.3 (2011): 574–599. Subsequently cited parenthetically. 32.  Saldívar never arrives at a satisfactory definition of “speculative realism.” Instead, he evokes but does not engage with recent work in Continental philosophy focused on the relations between thought and being, realisms and materialisms. For a provocative introduction to this emergent field, see Peter Gratton, Speculative Realism: Problems and Prospects (London: Bloomsbury, 2014). 33.  See also LaRose Davis, “Future Souths, Speculative Souths, and Southern Potentialities,” PMLA 131.1 (January 2016): 191–192. Chapter 10 1.  Herman Melville, Pierre; or, the Ambiguities, ed. Henry A. Murray (New York: Hendricks House, 1949). 2.  See “Note on the Text,” Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life, ed. Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern University Press and The Newberry Library, 1968), 303. See also W. W. Greg, “The Rationale of Copy-­Text,” Studies in Bibliography 3 (1950–51), 19–36, a paper that had initially been presented to the English Institute on September 8, 1949. 3.  See, for example, John Bryant, The Fluid Text: A Theory of Revision and Editing for Book and Screen (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002). 4. The Northwestern-­Newberry editors include nearly two hundred pages explaining their decisions to restore words, cut words, and create new words for their edition (based on the assumption that Melville did not intend the exact phrasings of hundreds of sentences that appeared in the 1851 Harper and Brothers edition); see Herman Melville, Moby-­Dick, or The Whale, ed. Harrison Hayford et al. (Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern University Press and The Newberry Library, 1988), 763–953. For a withering critique, which has not stopped the Northwestern-­Newberry Moby-­Dick from becoming the privileged version in the field, see Julian Markels, “The Moby-­Dick White Elephant,” American Literature 66.1 (1994): 105–129. 5.  Herman Melville, “Hawthorne and His Mosses,” in The Piazza Tales and Other Prose Pieces, 1839-­1860, ed. Harrison Hayford et al. (Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern University Press and The Newberry Library, 1987), 246; “Hawthorne and His Mosses,” The Literary World (August 24, 1850): 145. On the superiority of the Literary World text, see Robert S. Levine, “Why We Should Be Teaching and Writing about The Literary World’s 1850 ‘Hawthorne and His Mosses,’ ” J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-­Century Americanists 5.1 (2017): 179–189. 6.  See the textual discussion in Herman Melville, Pierre, or The Ambiguities, ed. Harrison Hayford et al. (Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern University Press and The Newberry Library, 1971), 411–435. 7.  Hershel Parker, “Contract: Pierre, by Herman Melville,” in Proof: The Yearbook of American Bibliographical and Textual Studies 5 (1977): 36; “Introduction,” Melville, Pierre, or The

Notes to Pages 166–171


Ambiguities: The Kraken Edition, ed. Hershel Parker, pictures by Maurice Sendak (New York: HarperCollins, 1995), xii; Parker, “Contract,” 32; Parker, “Introduction,” xxxiv. See also Brian Higgins and Hershel Parker, Reading Melville’s Pierre; or, The Ambiguities (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2006), which mainly offers a reading of the novel that Parker created. 8.  On Melville’s ingenious use of clichés and stereotypes in Pierre, see Michael D. Snediker, “Melville and Queerness without Character,” in The New Cambridge Companion to Herman Melville, ed. Robert S. Levine (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 155–168. 9.  Herman Melville, Pierre; or, The Ambiguities, ed. Robert S. Levine and Cindy Weinstein (New York: W. W. Norton, 2017), 28–29, 145, 145–146, 188. Subsequent page references to Pierre are to this edition and are cited parenthetically in the text. 10.  Henry James, “Preface to ‘The Tragic Muse’” (1908), in The Art of the Novel, ed. Richard P. Blackmur (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1934), 84. In a letter to Hawthorne of November [17?] 1851, Melville remarked, “Leviathan is not the biggest fish; — I have heard of Krakens” (Herman Melville, Correspondence, ed. Harrison Hayford et al. [Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern University Press and The Newberry Library, 1993], 213). 11.  Dominic Mastroianni, “Revolutionary Time and the Future of Democracy in Melville’s Pierre,” ESQ 56.4 (2011): 405; Dennis Berthold, American Risorgimento: Herman Melville and the Cultural Politics of Italy (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2009), 132. See also Larry J. Reynolds, European Revolutions and the American Literary Renaissance (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988), Chapter 6. 12.  Melville to Sophia Hawthorne, letter of January 8, 1852, Correspondence, 219. 13. Although regularly invoked by Americanists interested in time, Plotinus Plinlimmon’s “Chronometricals and Horologicals,” which surely is not meant to be read uncritically or unironically, is as much about ethics as time. For a challenging recent reading of the pamphlet in a secularist context, see Susanna Compton Underland, “Sentimentalism and Secularism in Pierre,” Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies 19.3 (2017): 59–78. 14.  Wai Chee Dimock, Through Other Continents: American Literature Across Deep Time (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006), 2, 9. 15.  Books that have influenced my thinking along these lines are Lloyd Pratt’s Archives of American Time: Literature and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010); Dana Luciano, Sacred Time and the Body in Nineteenth-­Century America (New York: NYU Press, 2007); and Cindy Weinstein, Time, Tense, and American Literature: When Is Now? (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015). See also Weinstein’s recent edited collection, A Question of Time: American Literature from Colonial Encounter to Contemporary Fiction (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2019). On what could be termed the spatiotemporal turn in nineteenth-­century American literary studies, inspired in part by oceanic studies, see Turns of Event: Nineteenth-­Century American Literary Studies in Motion, ed. Hester Blum (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016), and Edward Sugden, Emergent Worlds: Alternative States in Nineteenth-­Century American Culture (New York: New York University Press, 2018). 16.  Joshua Steven Matthews, “The American Alighieri: Receptions of Dante in the United States, 1818-­1867” (PhD diss., University of Iowa, 2012), 25. See also Theodore W. Koch, “Dante in America: A Historical and Bibliographical Study,” Dante Studies 118 (2000): 7–56. On Melville’s editions of Dante, see Merton M. Sealts Jr., Melville’s Reading: Revised and Enlarged Edition (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1988), 171. 17. Berthold, American Risorgimento, 68–70, 135–142, 145–148.


Notes to Pages 172–188

18.  Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Nature (1836) and “Experience” (1844) probably inform Melville’s presentation of mood in the novel. 19.  For a reading that Pierre is less an American Hamlet than an American who emancipates himself from the figure of Hamlet, see Branka Arsić, “Melville’s Celibatory Machines— Bartleby, Pierre, and ‘The Paradise of Bachelors,’ ” diacritics 35.4 (2005): 81–100, esp. 83–85. 20.  Rita Felski, The Limits of Critique (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015), 154, 151; Jeffrey Insko, History, Abolition, and the Ever-­Present Now in Antebellum American Writing (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018), iii, 5, 7. For a lively collection on current debate about critique, see Critique and Postcritique, ed. Elizabeth S. Anker and Rita Felski (Durham: Duke University Press, 2017). 21.  See Stephen Best and Sharon Marcus, “Surface Reading: An Introduction,” Representations 108.1 (2009): 1–21, and Heather Love, “Close Reading and Thin Description,” Public Culture 25.3 (2013): 401–434. 22.  On Melville and other nineteenth-­century American writers as critical theorists, see Joel Pfister, Surveyors of Custom: American Literature as Cultural Analysis (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016). Chapter 11 1.  Andrew McAfee and Eric Brynolfson, The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies (New York: W.W. Norton, 2014). 2.  Matthias Oppermann, “Protocols from the Playing Field: (Digital) Stories of Commitment and Intervention,” in Reframing the Transnational Turn, ed. Winfred Fluck, Donald Pease, and John Carlos Rowe (Hanover: Dartmouth College Press, 2011), 295–319, 305. Subsequent references cited in text. 3.  Susan Gillman and Kirsten Silva Gruesz, “Worlding America: The Hemispheric Text-­ Network,” in A Companion to American Literary Studies, ed. Caroline F. Levander and Robert S. Levine (London: Blackwell, 2011): 228–247. Subsequent references cited in text. 4.  Brett Williams, “Cyberspace: What Is It, Where Is It, and Who Cares?,” Armed Forces Journal, March 13, 2014: http://​www​.armedforcesjournal​.com​/cyberspace​-­­what​-­­is​-­­it​-­­where​-­­is​-­­it​ -­­and​-­­who​-­­cares. 5.  Thomas Friedman, Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Acceleration (New York: Picador, 2016). Subsequent references cited in text. 6.  Jay Bushman, The Good Captain, based on “Benito Cereno” by Herman Melville (Loose Fish 1, 2008, np). 7. Walt Whitman, “Passage to India,” The Complete Poems (London: Penguin Books, 1996), 428. 8.  Matt Cohen, The Networked Wilderness: Communicating in Early New England (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009). 9.  William Friedman, “Edgar Allan Poe, Cryptographer,” Bulletin of the Signal Intelligence Service 97 (July–September 1937): 266. Chapter 12 1.  Claudia Milian, LatinX (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2019), 84. Subsequent references cited in text as LatinX. 2.  The field has mirrored social usage in passing through various iterations of naming a community, from Hispanic/Latino to Latino/a Studies to the more recent use of the x as a way

Notes to Pages 189–195


to challenge the gender binary of the Spanish language. I prefer to capitalize the X in LatinX to emphasize the indeterminacy of the term, whereas others prefer to use Latinx. These are ongoing debates. For an excellent article that considers the relationship of LatinX studies to questions of sexuality and gender from which the use of the X emerged, see Richard T. Rodriguez, “X Marks the Spot,” Cultural Dynamics 29.3 (2017): 202–213. 3.  Robert T. Chase, introduction to Caging Borders and Carceral States: Incarcerations, Immigration Detentions, and Resistance (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2019), 9. 4.  C. L. R. James, Mariners, Renegades, and Castaways: The Story of Herman Melville and the World We Live In (Hanover: University Press of New England, 2001), 3. 5.  Rodrigo Lazo, “Israel Potter Deported,” Leviathan 22.1 (2020): 146–165. 6.  Eli Rosenberg, “A Latino Marine Veteran Was Detained for Deportation. Then ICE Realized He was a Citizen,” Washington Post, January 16, 2019, https://​www​.washingtonpost​ .com​/national​-­­security​/2019​/01​/17​/latino​-­­marine​-­­veteran​-­­was​-­­detained​-­­deportation​-­­then​-­­ice​ -­­realized​-­­he​-­­was​-­­citizen. 7.  Herman Melville, Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile, ed. Robert S. Levine (New York: Penguin, 2008), 192. Subsequently cited parenthetically as Israel Potter. 8.  Hester Blum, “Atlantic Trade,” in A Companion to Herman Melville, ed. Wyn Kelley (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006), 117. 9.  It’s likely that Potter’s blond hair would protect him from the treatment given to Ramos. 10. Alicia Schmidt Camacho, Migrant Imaginaries: Latino Cultural Politics in the U.S.-­ Mexico Borderlands (New York: NYU Press, 2008), 5. 11.  Kirsten Silva Gruez, “The Errant Latino: Irisarri, Central Americanness, and Migration’s Intention,” in The Latino Nineteenth Century, ed. Rodrigo Lazo and Jesse Alemán (New York: NYU Press, 2016), 20–48. 12.  Originally serialized in Putnam’s in 1854–1855, Israel Potter was also published as a book in 1855. 13.  Peter J. Bellis, “Israel Potter: Autobiography as History as Fiction,” American Literary History 2.4 (Winter 1990): 607–626. 14.  Melville challenges generic conventions by playing the nonfiction elements of biography against the impressionistic quality of travel writing. As Hennig Cohen has written, “The array of literary forms comprising Israel Potter, some of them well developed and others inchoate, suggests Melville’s impatience with the limitations of literary form.” Hennig Cohen, “Israel Potter: Common Man as Hero,” in A Companion to Melville Studies, ed. John Bryant (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1986), 299. 15.  Laurent Pernot, Rhetoric in Antiquity, trans. W. E. Higgins (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2005), 81. Subsequently cited parenthetically as Rhetoric. 16.  Bill Christophersen, “Israel Potter: Melville’s ‘Citizen of the Universe,’ ” Studies in American Fiction 21 (Spring 1993): 27. 17.  Mihir Zaveri and Annie Correal, “Trump National Golf Club in N.Y. Fires Undocumented Workers, Lawyer Says,” New York Times, January 26, 2019, https://​www​.nytimes​.com​ /2019​/01​/26​/us​/trump​-­­golf​-­­club​-­­fires​-­­workers​.html. 18.  The literature on transnationalism and labor is considerable. For a pioneering study, see Linda Basch, Nina Glick Schiller, and Cristina Szanton Blanc, Nations Unbound: Transnational Projects, Postcolonial Predicaments, and Deterritorialized Nation-­States (Langhorne: Gordon and Breach, 1994). For a more recent consideration of transnational labor from Mexico, see


Notes to Pages 196–206

Deborah Cohen, Braceros: Migrant Citizens and Transnational Subjects in the Postwar United States and Mexico (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011). 19.  Andrew Taylor, “‘How Did You Get Here? and Where Are You Going?’: Transatlantic Literary History, Exile, and Textual Traces in Herman Melville’s Israel Potter,” in Teaching Transatlanticism: Resources for Teaching Nineteenth-­Century Anglo-­American Print Culture, ed. Linda K. Hughes and Sara R. Robbins (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015), 125. 20.  Paul Giles, “‘Bewildering Intertanglement’: Melville’s Engagement with British Culture,” in The Cambridge Companion to Herman Melville, ed. Robert S. Levine (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 241. 21.  John Hay, “Broken Hearths: Melville’s Israel Potter and the Bunker Hill Monument,” New England Quarterly 89.2 (2016): 197. 22.  Russ Castronovo, Fathering the Nation: American Genealogies of Slavery and Freedom (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), 143. 23.  Robert S. Levine, introduction to Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile, by Herman Melville (New York: Penguin, 2008), viii. 24.  For a brief discussion of this pirated edition, see my article “Israel Potter Deported,” 157–158. 25.  For an account of Melville’s response to the pirating of his book, see Zachary Turpin, “Melville’s Letter to the World,” Leviathan 19.1 (March 2017): 8–11. 26.  Edward Said, Reflections on Exile, and Other Essays (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), 173. 27.  Emilio Irigoyen, “Form and Exile in Israel Potter: Reading (and Writing on) the Maps in Franklin’s Room,” Leviathan 20.3 (2018): 15. 28.  Jonathan D. S. Schroeder, “What Was Black Nostalgia?” American Literary History 30.4 (2018): 655. Chapter 13 1.  For more on the constitutive relationship between the novel form and the historical world in which it emerged, see, for example, Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967); Michael McKeon, The Origins of the English Novel, 1600-­1740 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987); Georg Luckács, The Historical Novel (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983). These classic versions of the work of the novel have been used and revised in numerous studies of the novel form, but for this essay’s examination of how the novel brokers a version of middle-­classness that uneasily accommodates particularized subjects, see Nancy Armstrong, Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987) and Deidre Lynch, The Economy of Character: Novels, Market Culture and the Business of Inner Meaning (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998). 2.  Nancy Armstrong, How Novels Think: The Limits of Individualism from 1719-­1900 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005). Subsequent references cited in text. 3.  As with studies of the rise of the novel, which have now assessed that form’s emergence in various places and tested the form’s emergence against the rise of other disciplines, professions, subject positions, and key words, studies of the novel and affect now comprehend a large and lively set of critiques. This essay’s examination of what it means to have a feeling about literature is particularly indebted to Deidre Lynch, Loving Literature: A Cultural History of the Novel (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015).

Notes to Pages 208–217


4.  See, for example, Nina Baym, Woman’s Fiction: A Guide To Novels by and about Women in America, 1820-­1870 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1978), and Jane Tompkins, Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction, 1790-­1860 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985). For current work on the novel form, especially sentimentality and its relationship to affect studies, see Lauren Berlant, The Female Complaint: The Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture (Durham: Duke University Press, 1998). 5.  See Amy Kaplan, The Social Construction of American Realism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), and Nancy Bentley, The Ethnography of Manners: Hawthorne, James and Wharton (New York and London: Cambridge University Press, 2007). 6.  For more on parvenus, see my Signs Taken for Blunders (Hanover: University of New England Press, 2014). 7.  William Dean Howells, The Rise of Silas Lapham (New York, Penguin Classics, 1983), 209. Subsequent references cited in text. 8.  Peter Brooks, Reading for the Plot: Design and Intention in Narrative (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985). 9.  Silvan Tomkins, “Shame—Humiliation and Contempt—Disgust,” in Shame and Its Sisters: A Silvan Tomkins Reader, ed. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Adam Frank (Durham: Duke University Press, 1995), 133–178. 10.  Frances Ferguson, “Jane Austen, Emma, and the Impact of Form,” MLQ 61.1 (2000): 157–180. Chapter 14 1.  See Louis Kaplan, ed., The Strange Case of William Mumler, Spirit Photographer (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008). Subsequently cited parenthetically as Strange Case. 2.  The best known of these was The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult, which debuted at le Maison Européene de la Photographie in Paris in 2004 and moved to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art the following year. This was preceded by The Disembodied Spirit, which traveled between museums in Maine, Missouri, and Texas in 2003 and 2004, and by “Concerning the Spiritual in Photography,” shown at Boston University’s Photographic Resource Center galley in early 2003. Brought to Light: Photography and the Invisible, 1840-­1900, exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2008 and the Albertina Museum in Vienna in 2009, also featured an album of spirit photographs. Catalogues for these exhibitions have been published as Clement Cheroux et al., eds., The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004); Alison Ferris, ed., The Disembodied Spirit (Brunswick, ME: Bowdoin College Museum of Art, 2003); Leslie K. Brown et al., “Concerning the Spiritual in Photography,” http://​www​.bu​.edu​/prc​/spirit​.htm (accessed May 22, 2013); and Corey Keller, ed., Brought to Light: Photography and the Invisible, 1840-­1900 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008). These exhibitions impelled popular and critical interest on the subject, leading to a flurry of books and articles, including Martyn Jolly, Faces of the Living Dead: The Belief in Spirit Photography (West New York, NJ: Mark Batty, 2006); John Harvey, Photography and Spirit (New York: Reaktion Books, 2007); Louis Kaplan, ed., The Strange Case of William Mumler, Spirit Photographer (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008). Subsequently cited parenthetically as Strange Case. Recent histories of Spiritualism that give attention to spirit photography include Robert S. Cox, Body and Soul: A Sympathetic History of American Spiritualism (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2003); Cathy Gutierrez, Plato’s Ghost: Spiritualism in the American Renaissance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009);


Notes to Pages 218–223

and Molly McGarry, Ghosts of Futures Past: Spiritualism and the Cultural Politics of Nineteenth-­ Century America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008). Subsequently cited parenthetically as Ghosts. Jennifer Tucker’s Nature Exposed: Photography as Eyewitness in Victorian Science (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005) considers the spirit photograph in light of the scientific claims it made. Also see Marina Warner, Phantasmagoria: Spirit Visions, Metaphors and Media into the Twenty-­first Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006); Jen Cadwallader, “Spirit Photography and the Victorian Culture of Mourning,” Modern Language Studies 37.2 (2008): 8–31; Paola Cortes-­Rocca, “Ghost in the Machine: Photographs of Specters in the Nineteenth Century,” Mosaic 38.1 (2005): 151–169; “Close Encounters: Photography and the Paranormal,” Art Journal 62.3 (Fall 2003). 3.  See Ann Douglas, “The Domestication of Death: The Posthumous Congregation,” in The Feminization of American Culture (New York: Anchor, 1988), 200–226. Douglas frames the Spiritualist movement as essentially synonymous with Elizabeth Stuart Phelps’ Gates Ajar ­novels, overlooking its raucous public practices, its syncretic theology, the markedly undomestic affections that helped shape the wide-­ranging movement, and the radically unfamiliar worlds toward which many of its adherents yearned. For accounts of Spiritualism which stress the feminist and queer aspects of its beliefs, see Ann Braude, Radical Spirits: Spiritualism and Women’s Rights in Nineteenth-­Century America (Boston: Beacon Press, 1989), and Molly McGarry, Ghosts of Futures Past: Spiritualism and the Cultural Politics of Nineteenth-­Century America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008). 4.  Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Hill and Wang, 1980). Subsequently cited parenthetically as Camera Lucida. 5.  Jay Ruby, Secure the Shadow: Death and Photography in America (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999). 6.  Jennifer Fleissner, “Historicism Blues,” American Literary History 25.4 (Winter 2013): 699–717. 7.  Nancy Bentley, “Introduction” to J19 Forum: “In the Spirit of the Thing: Critique as Enchantment,” J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-­Century Americanists 1.1 (Spring 2013): 147–153, 149, 150. Quoted phrase from C. L. R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Overture and the San Domingo Revolution (New York: Vintage Books, 1963), 391. 8.  Jane Bennett, The Enchantment of Modern Life: Attachments, Crossings, and Ethics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001); Ann Burlein and Jackie Orr, “Introduction: The Practice of Enchantment: Strange Allures,” WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly 40.3 (2013): 13–23, 22.  9.  Anonymous, “History and Practice of Photogenic Drawing, or the True Principles of the Daguerreotype,” Edinburgh Review 76.154 (1843): 309. Subsequently cited parenthetically as “Photogenic Drawing.” 10.  Oliver Wendell Holmes, “The Stereoscope and the Stereograph,” The Atlantic Monthly 3.20 (June 1859): 310–351, 313. Subsequently cited parenthetically as “Stereoscope.” 11.  Oliver Wendell Holmes, “Doings of the Sunbeam,” The Atlantic Monthly 12.69 (July 1863): 14. Subsequently cited parenthetically as “Doings.” 12.  E. Pickup to Wm. Hope; reproduced in Arthur Conan Doyle, The Case for Spirit Photography (London, 1922), 106. 13.  James Coates, Photographing the Invisible: Practical Studies in Spirit Photography, Spirit Portraiture, and Other Rare but Allied Phenomena (London, 1911), 233. 14.  Edgar Allan Poe, “The Daguerreotype,” Alexander’s Weekly Magazine 4.3 (1840): 2.

Notes to Pages 223–226


15.  William Henry Fox Talbot, The Pencil of Nature (London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1844). 16.  Georgiana Houghton, Chronicles of the Photographs of Spiritual Beings and Phenomena Invisible to the Material Eye; Interblended with Personal Narrative (London: E. W. Allen, 1882), 31. 17.  John Kucich has argued that since there is no coherent, bounded entity that constitutes “Spiritualism” per se, in some ways it makes little sense to assume that various African or Native American traditions, for instance, do not also constitute Spiritualism. That said, as McGarry and others point out, the self-­nominated Modern Spiritualists I am considering here—and especially those who controlled the movement’s media organs, which dominated the publication of work about spirit photography and other practices—were less demographically diverse. See John J. Kucich, Ghostly Communion: Cross-­Cultural Spiritualism in Nineteenth-­Century American Literature (Hanover: Dartmouth College Press, 2004). On the racial-­eugenic inclinations of the Spiritualist movement, see Christine Ferguson, Determined Spirits: Eugenics, Heredity, and Racial Regeneration in Anglo-­American Spiritualist Writing, 1848-­1939 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012). 18.  Daphne Brooks observes that white Spiritualists were “haunted” by their absorption/ appropriation of earlier African, as well as Native American, spiritualities; such photographs literalize this observation. See Daphne Brooks, Bodies in Dissent: Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850-­1910 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006), 16. 19.  Christine Ferguson, Determined Spirits: Eugenics, Heredity and Racial Regeneration in Anglo-­American Spiritualist Writing, 1848-­1939 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012). 20.  See Maurice O. Wallace and Shawn Michelle Smith, eds., Pictures and Progress: Early Photography and the Making of African American Identity (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012). 21.  Robert Cox observes that “only a handful of African Americans [sat] at the tilting tables of the northern states” despite the movement’s professed racial liberalism (Cox, Body and Soul, 166). On African American involvement in Modern Spiritualism, see Kucich, Ghostly Communion; Erin E. Forbes, “Do Black Ghosts Matter? Harriet Jacobs’ Spiritualism,” ESQ: A Journal of Nineteenth-­Century American Arts and Culture 62.3 (2016): 443–479; Gabrielle Foreman and Reginald Pitts, introduction to Our Nig, or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black; John Patrick Deveney, Paschal Beverly Randolph: A Nineteenth-­Century Black American Spiritualist, Rosicrucian, and Sex Magician (Albany: SUNY Press, 1996). 22.  James Coates, Photographing the Invisible: Practical Studies in Spirit Photography, Spirit Portraiture, and Other Rare but Allied Phenomena (London: Advanced Thought Publishing, 1911). 23.  André Bazin and Hugh Gray, trans., “The Ontology of the Photographic Image,” Film Quarterly 13.4 (1960): 8. 24.  Cf. John Tagg, “Melancholy Realism: Walker Evans’ Resistance to Meaning,” Narrative 11.1 (January 2003): 3–77. 25.  Jay Prosser, Light in the Dark Room: Photography and Loss (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004), 1; Eduardo Cadava, Words of Light: Theses on the Photography of History (New York: Princeton University Press, 1998), 11. 26.  Geoffrey Batchen observes that Camera Lucida has been the most frequently cited twentieth-­century text on photography, although those citations are usually limited to an explication of the punctum/studium distinction and/or the association of the photograph with


Notes to Pages 226–230

death. See Batchen, “Palinode: An Introduction to Photography Degree Zero,” in Batchen, ed., Photography Degree Zero: Reflections on Roland Barthes’ “Camera Lucida” (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009), 3–30. 27.  Written in the wake of Barthes’ mother’s death, Camera Lucida might be conceived as a work of mourning, though one that remains unresolved. For a reading of Camera Lucida as displacing the opposition between mourning and melancholia for a model of “sustaining grief,” see Kathleen Woodward, “Freud and Barthes: Theorizing Mourning, Sustaining Grief,” Discourse 13.1 (Fall-­Winter 1990/91): 93–110. 28.  Geoffrey Batchen, Burning with Desire: The Conception of Photography (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997). 29. Pierre Bourdieu, Photography: A Middle-­Brow Art, trans. Shaun Whiteside (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1990). 30.  See John Tagg, The Disciplinary Frame: Photographic Truths and the Capture of Meaning (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008); Shawn Michelle Smith, American Archives: Gender, Race, and Class in Visual Culture (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999). 31.  Geoffrey Batchen, “Ectoplasm,” in Each Wild Idea: Writing, Photography, History (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000), 129. 32.  Alan Trachtenberg, “Mirror in the Marketplace: American Responses to the Daguerreotype, 1839-­51,” in Lincoln’s Smile and Other Enigmas (New York: Hill and Wang, 2007), 17. 33. See also Eduardo Cadava and Paola Cortés-­Rocca, “Notes on Love and Photography,” in Photography Degree Zero: Reflections on Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida, ed. Geoffrey Batchen (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009), 105–139. 34.  On Barthes’s dismissals of Black subjects in Camera Lucida, see Fred Moten, “Black Mo’nin’ in the Sound of the Photograph,” in In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), 192-­210; also Carol Mavor, “Touching Photographs: Roland Barthes’s ‘Mistaken’ Identification,” Representations 80 (Autumn, 2002): 99–118, and Mavor, “Black and Blue: The Shadows of Camera Lucida,” in Photography Degree Zero, 211–241; Margaret Olin, “Touching Photographs: Roland Barthes’s ‘Mistaken’ Identification,” in Photography Degree Zero, 75–89, subsequently cited parenthetically as “Touching,” and Shawn Michelle Smith, “Race and Reproduction in Camera Lucida,” in Photography Degree Zero, 243–258. 35.  As Olin notes, the journal was the source of many of Barthes’s images for his book, a fact reflected only in the French edition. As Olin points out, the journal itself “tries to do justice to the family’s identity,” but Barthes omits much of the commentary. 36.  See Moten, “Black Mo’nin’”; also Tina M. Campt, Listening to Images (Durham: Duke University Press, 2017). 37.  On porosity as eugenic technology, see especially Kyla Schuller, The Biopolitics of Feeling: Race, Sex and Impressibility in the Nineteenth-­Century United States (Durham: Duke University Press, 2017). 38. See Daphne Brooks, Bodies in Dissent; Jenny Sharpe, Ghosts of Slavery: A Literary Archaeology of Black Women’s Lives (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002); Avery Gordon, Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008); Elizabeth Maddock Dillon, “Obi, Assemblage, Enchantment,” J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-­Century Americanists 1.1 (Spring 2013): 172–178. 39.  Along these lines, Emily Ogden’s recent scholarship on mesmerism recasts modern enchantment as a temporal strategy of secularism. “Modern enchantment,” she asserts, “is the

Notes to Page 231


negotiation between those who are aiming at modernity and those whom they see as nonmodern.” Emily Ogden, Credulity: A Cultural History of U.S. Mesmerism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018), 18. Chapter 15 Epigraph: Octave Thanet, “My Lorelei: A Heidelberg Romance. From the Diary of Mrs. Louis Danton Lynde,” in “The Man Who Thought Himself a Woman” and Other Queer Nineteenth-­ Century Short Stories, ed. Christopher Looby (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016), 62. Subsequent references cited parenthetically in the text. The story was originally published in a Saint Louis magazine, The Western, New Series 6, 1 (January 1880), 1–22. 1.  Although she collected many of her early stories in her first book, Knitters in the Sun (1887), Thanet did not include this one. It may be that she preferred to include other stories that had appeared in more high-­profile and more prestigious national magazines like The Atlantic, The Century Magazine, and Harper’s Weekly (the sources of most of the stories in her first collection), once she had established herself in these more prominent journals. (The Western, by contrast, was a relatively obscure and short-­lived Saint Louis periodical, where she never published anything else.) On the other hand, she did include in Knitters in the Sun two stories that had appeared in another quite obscure magazine, Good Company. She couldn’t have excluded “My Lorelei” merely because it was early work, and because she preferred what she may have thought was later, more mature work—because she did include “A Communist’s Wife,” which had appeared even earlier, in 1878. 2.  Susan Koppelman, ed., Two Friends and Other Nineteenth-­Century Lesbian Stories by American Women Writers (New York: Meridian, 1994), 79. See also Lillian Faderman, Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love between Women from the Renaissance to the Present (New York: William Morrow, 1981), 215–216, 449 n. 33. 3.  If Thanet wanted to suppress or forget “My Lorelei,” as suggested above (n. 1), she may not have welcomed the inquiry she received in 1931 from Frank Luther Mott, asking her for information for his work on the history of magazines, and naming this story—insinuatingly?— as among the “very interesting things” that his research occasionally brought out of obscurity. Here is the letter (Newberry Library, Chicago, Midwest MS Thanet, Box 1, Folder 15, Frank Luther Mott to Alice French, May 16, 1932): My dear Miss French: In my work on magazines I have come upon your story ‘My Lorelei’ in the Western of St. Louis for January, 1880. I am wondering if this was your first published story. My investigations in connection with my History of American Magazines sometimes turn up very interesting things. Cordially yours, [signed] F. L. Mott Mott’s description of “My Lorelei” as one of the “very interesting things” his research sometimes turned up sounds, to my ears, more than a bit suggestive. This may be why Thanet does not appear to have written back with correct information: in his history Mott reported inaccurately that “Octave Thanet’s first story appeared here in 1880.” Frank L. Mott, A History of American Magazines, 1865-­1885 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1938), 51, n. 101. 4.  See Benjamin Kahan, The Book of Minor Perverts: Sexology, Etiology, and the Emergences of Sexuality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019).


Notes to Pages 232–234

5.  There is a minor thread in the history of sexology, perhaps beginning with Heinrich Kaan, who, in his 1844 Psychopathia Sexualis, mentioned “the satisfaction of lust with statues” as one of the “most common” (!) forms of sexual aberration. See Heinrich Kaan, Psychopathia Sexualis, Benjamin Kahan ed., trans. Melissa Haynes (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2016), 78. As Kahan mentions in his introduction to this edition (23), later sexologists took up this diagnosis: Havelock Ellis coined the term “Pygmalionism” for “falling in love with statues,” Krafft-­Ebing included the “violation of statues” in his anatomy of sexual deviance, and Iwan Bloch averred that “the peculiar relation which persons can form with statues is well known.” See Havelock Ellis, Studies in the Psychology of Sex (New York: Random House, 1936), 2:188; Richard von Krafft-­Ebing, Psychopathia Sexualis, trans. Franklin S. Klaf (New York: Stein and Day, 1978), 351; Iwan Bloch, Anthropological Studies in the Strange Sexual Practises of All Races and All Ages, trans. Keene Wallis (New York: Anthropological Press, 1933), 207. Although it was published too late for me to make concerted use of it, see also Sculpture, Sexuality and History: Encounters in Literature, Culture and the Arts from the Eighteenth Century to the Present, ed. Jana Funke and Jen Grove (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019). 6.  Rose Terry Cooke, “My Visitation,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine 17 (June 1, 1858): 233. Subsequent references cited parenthetically in the text. 7.  I use “marmorean” rather than the more common term “marmoreal” as a gesture toward a famous phrase of Henry James’s, who in William Wetmore Story and His Friends coined the term “white marmorean flock” (1:257) to describe the group of women sculptors active in Rome in the nineteenth century, including one, Louisa Lander, who is recorded to have sculpted a now, alas, lost Undine. Henry James, William Wetmore Story and His Friends: From Letters, Diaries, and Recollections, 2 vols. (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1903). 8.  Nathaniel Hawthorne’s offended reaction to Hiram Powers’s expression of regret that he was obliged to sculpt a clothed rather than nude figure of Washington is telling: “Did anybody ever see Washington naked! It is inconceivable. He had no nakedness, but, I imagine, was born with his clothes on and his hair powdered.” Nathaniel Hawthorne, The French and Italian Notebooks, ed. Thomas Woodson, Centenary Edition of the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Vol. 14 (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1980), 281. 9.  Joy S. Kasson, “Narratives of the Female Body: The Greek Slave,” in Marble Queens and Captives: Women in Nineteenth-­Century American Sculpture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), 46–72. 10.  See Renée Bergland, “Cold Stone: Sex and Sculpture in The Hermaphrodite,” in Philosophies of Sex: Critical Essays on The Hermaphrodite, ed. Renée Bergland and Gary Williams (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2012), 157–185, for a richly suggestive and wonderfully detailed discussion of marble sculpture in relation to Howe’s novel. 11. Christopher Looby, “Sexuality’s Aesthetic Dimension: Kant and The Autobiography of an Androgyne,” in American Literature’s Aesthetic Dimensions, ed. Cindy Weinstein and Christopher Looby (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), 156–177; see also Whitney Davis, Queer Beauty: Sexuality and Aesthetics from Winckelmann to Freud and Beyond (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), for an extended discussion of the interwoven history of sexuality and aesthetic theory, in which idealized figures of male beauty executed in marble play an important role. 12.  Nancy F. Cott, “Passionlessness: An Interpretation of Victorian Sexual Ideology, 1790-­ 1850,” Signs 4.2 (Winter, 1978): 219–236.

Notes to Pages 234–243


13. Constance Fenimore Woolson, “A Florentine Experiment,” Atlantic Monthly 46.276 (October 1880): 528. Subsequent references cited parenthetically in the text. For a strong interpretation of this statue’s erotic aura see Leo Steinberg, “Michelangelo’s Florence Pietà: The Missing Leg,” Art Bulletin 50.4 (1968): 343–353. Subsequent references cited parenthetically in the text. The statue was once in the Duomo itself (where Woolson’s story locates it) but is now exhibited in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. 14. On The Marble Faun’s modeling of queer sociability see Christopher Castiglia, “Aesthetics Beyond the Actual: The Marble Faun and Romantic Sociality,” in American Literature’s Aesthetic Dimensions, ed. Cindy Weinstein and Christopher Looby (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), 117–136; for a perceptive account of Hawthorne, James, sculpture, and sex see Leland S. Person, “Falling into Heterosexuality: Sculpting Male Bodies in The Marble Faun and Roderick Hudson,” in Roman Holidays: American Writers and Artists in Nineteenth-­Century Italy, ed. Robert K. Martin and Leland S. Person (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2002), 107–139. 15. William Dean Howells, Indian Summer, intro. John Updike (New York: Library of America, 2012), 25. 16.  Charles W. Chesnutt, The Marrow of Tradition, Eric J. Sundquist, ed. (New York: Penguin, 1993), 323. 17.  http://​collections​.portlandmuseum​.org​/Obj12055​?sid​=​78​&​x​=​261. Accessed February 9, 2020. http://​emuseum​.huntington​.org​/objects​/48658​/zenobia​-­­in​-­­chains​?ctx​=​b9996fb7​-­­da0c​ -­­4b44​-­­9aa1​-­­132f97f89291​&​idx​=​0. Accessed February 9, 2020. Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Preface,” The Marble Faun, ed. Susan Manning (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 3–5. 18.  Although it is unnecessary to go into detail here, Steinberg’s argument has been controversial. See his later discussion of the scandalized resistance his original 1968 argument aroused: Leo Steinberg, “Michelangelo’s Florentine Pietà: The Missing Leg Twenty Years After,” Art Bulletin 71.3 (September 1989): 480–505. See also Jack Wasserman, Michelangelo’s Florence Pietà, with contributions by Franca Trinchieri Camiz et al. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003). Wasserman himself rejects Steinberg’s “audacious theory” (63), while another contributor, Timothy Verdon, while not “fully accepting Steinberg’s view” nevertheless is open to the idea of a “work of art expressive of this pluri-­dimensionality of relationships, including the sexual” (144). 19.  There is an analogy to be drawn between this gap in time (1875–1879) represented by a hiatus in the diary, during which Constance retrospectively reconsidered her attraction to the young and coldly beautiful Undine Tresham, and Thanet’s own possible retrospective reconsideration of her 1880 story from the vantage point of 1887, when she chose not to collect it in Knitters in the Sun (see n. 1 above). The 1870s and 1880s were, of course, famously the pathologizing years of emerging homosexual identity descriptions in the various professional discourses. Constance was not evidently a “lesbian” in 1874 or 1880, but she might have been suspected as one by 1887. Among other literary productions during that stretch of years, Henry James’s The Bostonians (1885–1886) may serve as an example of literature’s emerging typification of morbid lesbianish personalities. 20.  William H. Gerdts, American Neo-­Classic Sculpture: The Marble Resurrection (New York: Viking Press, 1973), 88. See also Joy S. Kasson, Marble Queens and Captives: Women in Nineteenth-­Century American Sculpture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), which reiterates Gerdts’s observation (Gerdts, 89) that only two of these sculptors’ versions (those by Ives and Mozier) are known today (Kasson, 169). Since Gerdts and Kasson published their authoritative works it has emerged that there is a very different, earlier Undine by Ives, in at least one


Notes to Pages 245–248

and probably several private collections. See Thayer Tolles, Lauretta Dimmick, and Donna J. Hasler, American Sculpture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Volume I. A Catalogue of Works by Artists Born before 1865 (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999), which references the earlier version, “Undine Receiving Her Soul” (private collection), first modeled in 1859 and completely reworked in 1880” (26) (the closing quotation mark does not appear to have a corresponding opening quotation mark). Several copies executed in marble have been sold at auction in recent years, reportedly inscribed with the dates 1861 and 1864, one of them from the Leone collection. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts now has a copy, 2016.1868, inscribed “C. B. IVES FECIT. ROMÆ. 1864,” not on exhibition. I wish to express my gratitude to Dennis Carr, former Carolyn and Peter Lynch Curator of Decorative Arts and Sculpture, for kindly allowing me to see this work in storage. This is not the place to compare Ives’ earlier and later versions in full detail, but there are some interesting similarities and differences. They both evidently try to capture the moment of Undine’s emergence from the water and her accession to a soul, and they both attempt to signify this transition through translucently carved draperies and other devices. One signal difference is that the earlier version has uncarved eyes (recall the “unfathomable” eyes of Undine Tresham [64]), while the later has carved pupils, suggesting an inner life. The earlier version is on a smaller scale and has Undine standing on shore with water flowing from the hem of her draperies; the later version is larger and more dynamic, with Undine emerging from the roiling waters depicted on the base. 21.  The Chrysler’s website description, however, asserts that it captures the moment when Undine “reaches up toward heaven out of the waters to receive her immortal soul.” Yale now labels its version Undine Rising from the Waters, although both Gerdts and Kasson include photographs of the Yale sculpture and label it Undine Receiving her Soul (Gerdts, 88–89; Kasson, 171). The High Museum also calls its version Undine Rising from the Waters. Christie’s auctioned a copy in 2009 and identified it as Undine Rising from the Water, and Sotheby’s sold one in 2015 under the same title. Of the earlier version, Christie’s auctioned a copy on May 21, 1998 (Sale 8886), calling it Undine Receiving Her Soul (dating it 1864, describing it as 40 inches high), and sold it again on November 29, 2007 (Sale 1911), again calling it Undine Receiving Her Soul (now 41 inches high); Bonhams auctioned one on December 4, 2013 (Lot 59), labeling it Undine Receiving Her Soul (dating it 1861, describing it as 66½ inches high). 22.  I adduce here the very suggestive structure of what Lynne D. Ambrosini calls “the ideology of marble.” See Ambrosini, “‘Pure, White Radiance’: The Ideology of Marble in the Nineteenth Century,” in Hiram Powers: Genius in Marble, ed. Lynne D. Ambrosini and Rebecca A. G. Reynolds (Cincinnati: Taft Museum of Art, 2007), 9–27. The “ideology of marble” comprises various elements: its “Grecian prestige” (9–12); its rarity as a material, especially in the United States (12–13); its long historical association with death and immortality (13–16); its paradoxical evocation of ideality and its connotation of purity (16–18); and its use in lending propriety to nude sculpture while also licensing prurience (18–23). 23.  Plainly adducing the Pygmalion myth, involving the fantasy of a miraculously animated statue. See Kenneth Gross, The Dream of the Moving Statue (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006). 24.  I wish to express my gratitude to the Newberry Library for a Short-­Term Fellowship for Individual Research in 2014 which enabled me to explore the Alice French Papers.


Christopher Castiglia is Distinguished Professor of English at Penn State University. He is cofounder of C19: The Society of Nineteenth-­Century Americanists and founding coeditor of its journal, J19. He is the author of Bound and Determined: Captivity, Culture-­Crossing, and White Womanhood from Mary Rowlandson to Patty Hearst; Interior States: Institutional Consciousness and the Inner Life of Democracy; and, most recently, The Practices of Hope: Literary Criticism in Disenchanted Times. Wai Chee Dimock is William Lampson Professor of English and American Studies at Yale University and is editor of PMLA. Her books include Through Other Continents: American Literature Across Deep Time and a team-­edited anthology, American Literature in the World. Other writings have appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. Her new book, Weak Planet: Literature and Assisted Survival, was just published by the University of Chicago Press. Stephanie Foote is Jackson and Nichols Professor of English at West Virginia University. She is the author of The Parvenu’s Plot: Gender, Class, and Culture in the Age of Realism and Regional Fictions: Culture and Identity in Nineteenth-­ Century American Literature. She has published more than twenty articles and book chapters in journals including PMLA, Signs, American Literature, and American Literary History. She is the cofounder and coeditor of Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities and is currently at work on a book about the garbage and waste trade in American culture. Susan Gillman is Distinguished Professor of Literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her current book,  American Mediterraneans  (University of Chicago Press, forthcoming) traces the strange career of the “American Mediterranean,” a  scholarly metaphor and folk geographical concept



used from 1799 to the present in multiple disciplines, genres, and languages as  a point of departure for a transnational and translational study of the Americas.     Matthew Pratt Guterl is a professor of Africana studies and American studies at Brown University. Guterl is the author of American Mediterranean: Southern Slaveholders in the Age of Emancipation and Josephine Baker and the Rainbow Tribe, among other titles. He is at work on a biography of the queer cosmopolitan human rights activist Roger Casement and a book on the afterlife of racial passing. Coleman Hutchison is an associate professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin, where he teaches courses in nineteenth-­century U.S. literature and culture, bibliography and textual studies, and poetry and poetics. He is the author of Apples and Ashes: Literature, Nationalism, and the Confederate States of America (Georgia, 2012), the coauthor of Writing About American Literature: A Guide for Students (Norton, 2014), and the editor of A History of American Civil War Literature (Cambridge, 2015). A past president of the Society for the Study of Southern Literature, Hutchison is at work on several projects, including the Cambridge Introduction to the Literature of the American Civil War, a collection of essays on race and place in American poetry, and a cultural biography of “Dixie.” Rodrigo Lazo is a professor of English at the University of California, Irvine. His latest book is Letters from Filadelfia: Early Latino Literature and the Trans-­ American Elite (U of Virginia, 2020). He has published more than twenty-­five articles on trans-­American culture, LatinX studies, and the nineteenth-­century United States. He recently coedited a special issue of the journal Early American Literature on Spanish Americas, and he edited a special section of the journal Leviathan on Melville’s The Confidence-­Man. Caroline Levander is Carlson Professor of the Humanities and a professor of English at Rice University. She is the author of numerous books including Where is American Literature? (2013) and Hotel Life: The Story of a Place Where Anything Can Happen (2015). Levander is currently at work on two books: Undisciplined: Science and the Power of the Humanities in the 21st Century and Fool-­Proof: A Short Guide to Higher Education in America, with John Mitchell, Mary and Gordon Crary Professor of Computer Science, Stanford



University. Levander serves on the board of directors of the Fulbright Association and oversees global and digital strategy at Rice University. Robert S. Levine is Distinguished University Professor of English at the University of Maryland, College Park. His most recent books are Race, Transnationalism, and Nineteenth-­Century American Literary Studies (2018) and Norton Critical Editions of Melville’s Pierre (2017, coedited with Cindy Weinstein) and Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables (second edition, 2020). His new book, Frederick Douglass, Andrew Johnson, and the Failed Promise of Reconstruction, is forthcoming in 2021. He is the general editor of The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Christopher Looby teaches in the Department of English at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of Voicing America: Language, Literary Form, and the Origins of the United States (University of Chicago Press, 1996), the editor of The Complete Civil War Journals and Selected Letters of Thomas Wentworth Higginson (University of Chicago Press, 2000), and the editor of the series Q19: The Queer American Nineteenth Century (University of Pennsylvania Press). The most recent volume in this series, which he edited and introduced, is Ethel’s Love-­Life and Other Writings by Margaret J. M. Sweat (2020). Dana Luciano is an associate professor of English and of women’s and gender studies at Rutgers University, where she teaches courses in queer studies, environmental humanities, and nineteenth-­century American literature. Recent publications include Unsettled States: Nineteenth-­Century American Literary Studies (NYU Press, 2014), coedited with Ivy G. Wilson; “Queer Inhumanisms,” a special issue of GLQ: A Journal of Gay and Lesbian Studies, coedited with Mel Y. Chen (Spring/Summer 2015); and essays in American Literature, J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-­Century Americanists, and Reading the Anthropocene: Literary History in Geologic Times (Penn State University Press, 2017). She is currently at work on two monographs: How the Earth Feels: Geological Fantasy in the Nineteenth Century U.S. and Time and Again: The Affective Circuits of Spirit Photography. Timothy Marr is an associate professor of American studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. American engagements with Islam and the life and writings of Herman Melville have remained his central fascinations. His



book The Cultural Roots of American Islamicism (Cambridge, 2006) explores how Islamic orientalism became an important transnational resource for early American global imaginings. He is presently writing an intercultural history of the relations between U.S. Americans and the Muslim Moros of the southern Philippines. Marr has written widely on Melville’s art and serves as an executive member of the Melville Society Cultural Project. Dana D. Nelson is the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of English and American Studies and chair of the Department of English at Vanderbilt University. Along with dozens of articles and reviews, and numerous collections and editions, she is author of four books, The Word in Black and White: Reading ‘Race’ in American Literature, 1638-­1867 (Oxford University Press, 1993), National Manhood:  Capitalist Citizenship and the Imagined Fraternity of White Men (Duke University Press, 1998), Bad for Democracy: How the Presidency Undermines the Power of the People (University of Minnesota Press, 2008), and Commons Democracy: Reading the Politics of Participation in the Early United States (Fordham University Press, 2016). Ifeoma C. Kiddoe Nwankwo is an associate professor of English and American studies at Vanderbilt University. Her work centers on the impact of the peoples of the United States, Central America, and the Caribbean on each other’s identities and ideologies, particularly as they surface in autobiographies, poems, popular culture, and music. Her publications include Black Cosmopolitanism, Rhythms of the Afro-­Atlantic (coedited with Mamadou Diouf), and “African Routes, Caribbean Roots, Latino Lives” (special issue of the journal Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies). Her innovative community-­ engaged scholarship includes “The Wisdom of the Elders,” an award-­winning program focused on revealing and recognizing older adults’ life-­and soul-­ sustaining wisdoms and productively incorporating them into K-­12, undergraduate, and health professions education. Mark Storey is an associate professor of English at the University of Warwick. He is the author of Time and Antiquity in American Empire: Roma Redux (Oxford University Press, 2021) and of Rural Fictions, Urban Realities: A Geography of Gilded Age American Literature (Oxford University Press, 2013). He has published essays on nineteenth-­century American literature in Modernism/modernity, Nineteenth-­Century Literature, and  The Oxford Handbook of



American Literary Realism, among others, and is the coeditor of the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to American Horror.  Matthew E. Suazo is an assistant professor of English at Kenyon College, where he teaches U.S. and hemispheric American literature. His publications include a chapter in the edited collection Swamp Souths: Literary and Cultural Ecologies (Louisiana State University Press, 2020), as well as an essay in boundary 2. In 2018, he was awarded an American Antiquarian Society–NEH long-­term fellowship for work on his book manuscript, Wetland Americas: Literature, Race, and the Mississippi River Valley in Translation, 1542-­1884. While completing a PhD in literature and American studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, his dissertation work was supported by the Humanities Institute, as well as by research fellowships at The Newberry and the John Carter Brown Library. Edward Sugden is a Senior Lecturer in American Literature at King’s College London. His first book Emergent Worlds: Alternative States in Nineteenth-Century American Culture was published by NYU Press in 2018. He is currently writing a biography of Moby-Dick.


We want to thank Jerry Singerman for his patience and skill in guiding this volume through its many stages. We also thank Andrew Erlandson for his invaluable help preparing the manuscript. As the editors of this collection, we celebrate Amy Kaplan’s person, practice, and vision, honoring not simply her memory but also her continuous presence—the way we write and teach our students—in the present tense. Amy’s nineteenth century is our touchstone, where we find all the things for which she’s known, her generosity and modesty, personal and political. We continuously hear her voice and feel her presence, teaching us that “nineteenth-century America” comprises the fixity of neither time nor space but is the unbounded entity the essays in this collection illuminate.