Eclipse of Empires
World History in Nineteenth-Century U.S. Literature and Culture
Publication Year: 2013
Patricia Jane Roylance’s central claim in Eclipse of Empires is that historical episodes of imperial eclipse, for example Incan Peru yielding to Spain or the Ojibway to the French, heightened the concerns of many American writers about specific intranational social problems plaguing the nation at the time—race, class, gender, religion, economics. Given the eventual dissolution of great civilizations previously plagued by these very same problems, many writers, unlike those who confidently emphasized U.S. exceptionalism, exhibited both an anxiety about the stability of American society and a consistent practice of self-scrutiny in identifying the national defects that they felt could precipitate America’s decline.
Roylance studies, among other texts, James Fenimore Cooper’s The Water-Witch (1830) and The Bravo (1831), which address the eclipse of Venice by New York City as a maritime power in the eighteenth century; William Hickling Prescott’s Conquest of Peru (1847), which responds to widespread anxiety about communist and abolitionist threats to the U.S. system of personal property by depicting Incan culture as a protocommunist society doomed to failure; and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha (1855), which resists the total eclipse of Ojibwa culture by incorporating Ojibway terms and stories into his poem and by depicting the land as permanently marked by their occupation.
Published by: The University of Alabama Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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A version of the fourth chapter of this book has previously been published as “North-men and Native Ameri cans: The Politics of Landscape in the Age of Longfellow,” New England Quarterly 80.3 (2007): 435–58. i thank the New England Quarterly financial support for this project has been provided by the Stanford Humani-ties Center Theodore H. and frances K. Geballe Dissertation fellowship; the Stan-...
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People in the United States must understand world history. So argues Emma Wil-lard, nineteenth- century U.S. writer and educator, in her 1857 world history text-book, Universal History in Perspective: “Universal history, as a science, is . . . at this moment, particularly important to the citizens of our republic.” According to Willard, the urgent importance of world his tori cal knowledge for U.S. Ameri-...
Chapter 1 - American Principles and Italian Things: Cooper’s Political Gleanings in Italy
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James fenimore Cooper provides a useful place to begin, because in his represen-tations of early modern italian history, he explicitly discusses where the United States fits into the his tori cal model that seemed to govern the imperial trajectory of the great italian city- states. in the other narratives of imperial eclipse examined in this book, authors merely hint at the position of the United States within the ...
Chapter 2 - Calculating the Consequences: Property Fears in Prescott’s Conquest of Peru
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Cooper described nineteenth- century venice in The Bravo as “the ruins of what, during the middle Ages, was the mart of the mediterranean” (24). venice’s me-dieval heyday came to an end when new geographies reconfig ured the patterns of global commerce in the early modern period. The Americas as a source of Euro-pean wealth after 1492 diminished venice’s centrality to a now- transatlantic world ...
Chapter 3 - Inquisition: Religious Tolerance and Motley’s Rise of the Dutch Republic
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Spain’s Ameri can conquests in the early sixteenth century catapulted it into a stratospheric rise, transforming it into the most powerful and extensive empire in the world. However, it did not long retain this unqualified position of global eminence. Domestic economic troubles and European wars in the late sixteenth century undermined Spain and precipitated the beginning of its decline. Prescott ...
Chapter 4 - The Vanishing Dutchman: Ethnicity in Irving’s A History of New York
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Given the fact that John Lothrop motley required three large volumes to describe only the first thirty years of the Dutch Republic, one of his reviewers wondered “how many more will be required to recount the definite establishment of the Republic, its foreign and domestic wars, its internal discords, its revolutions, its conquests, its colonies, . . . its ascendancy, its wane, and its decay?”1 motley died ...
Chapter 5 - Northmen and Native Americans: Longfellow’s Resistance to Eclipse
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The arrival of European colonizers supposedly put an end to the era of the indian. U.S. Ameri cans imagined that the eclipse of the North Ameri can indian world by European and Euro- Ameri can empire had already been thoroughly accomplished by the nineteenth century. Although Native Ameri cans—like the ethnic Dutch community—stubbornly persisted in existing, necessitating continuing removals ...
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The french would not retain possession of the land of the ojibway for very long; New france stayed true to the domino pattern that had structured the course of so many early modern empires. for a century following Père marquette’s advent into ojibwan territory, the french struggled with the british in a contest for imperial control over North America. They lost that contest in 1763, with their defeat in the ...
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Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 1 illustration
Publication Year: 2013
Series Editor Byline: John Smith, Will Wordsworth