Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

1-1-2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D. in English

First Advisor

Leigh Anne Duck

Second Advisor

Adam Gussow

School

University of Mississippi

Relational Format

dissertation/thesis

Abstract

Popular narratives of Alaska have long relied on the region’s mythical status as the “last frontier” a perception which enfolds Alaska into a continental narrative of U.S. expansion. This frontier image has foreclosed our ability to appreciate the profound instability which the 1867 Alaska Purchase brought into U.S. national discourse at a time when Americans were eager to adopt a fixed national identity. In the three decades following the purchase Alaska would resist incorporation into the national imaginary challenging the coherence of U.S. national identity and calling into question foundational myths of the United States as a continental and agrarian nation. Rather than bolstering a vision of Manifest Destiny nineteenth-century Alaska required Americans to contemplate national futures which stood in stark contrast to that which was seemingly unfolding in the West. While these Arctic visions were often troubling they also offered Americans an opportunity to rethink their assumptions about the nation. By unmooring the United States from the continent and unsettling the seemingly fixed trajectory of U.S. expansion the Alaska Purchase enabled Americans to imagine alternative national configurations and social structures. To recover a sense of both the uncertainties and the possibilities which the Far North came to represent this dissertation analyzes the narrative strategies which Americans used to rationalize the U.S. possession of noncontiguous Arctic territory in the postbellum era. This study explores an array of media—including fiction newspaper editorials political cartoons travel narratives souvenir postcards and more—to theorize the impact of the Alaska Purchase on U.S. discourses of nation region gender and race.

Available for download on Wednesday, February 16, 2022

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