The production of open space: Locating democracy in late-nineteenth-century American literature
Priest, Benjamin Daniel
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This dissertation examines late-nineteenth-century authors who responded to dramatic changes in American society by both interrogating and redefining culturally significant spaces. Complicating the assumption that post-Reconstruction America was an overwhelmingly fearful and conservative place, I call attention to several authors who produced inclusive versions of domestic spaces, local communities, and the United States itself at a time of great uncertainty. Reading work by Pauline Hopkins, Mary Murfree, and Rebecca Harding Davis, among other writers, I show that these figures broke ranks with their more reactionary contemporaries by embracing the social upheavals that were rapidly transforming the United States into a more racially and culturally diverse nation. Encouraging their readers to imagine novel versions of their respective communities, they laid the foundations for a far more democratic society.