Transatlantic technologies of nationalism in the nineteenth century
Bracewell, Joy Claire
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In the nineteenth-century, world’s fairs offered scenes of mass spectacle in which the utopian possibilities of technological advances and empire seemed to promise limitless national progress; the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London marked the beginning of this trend and the Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago was another important instance. At the same time that Great Britain and the United States hosted their respective displays of cultural and technical power, the issue of abolition largely became a way to celebrate the moral capital of each nation. This dissertation examines how representations of slavery intersected discourses of national progress in key artistic and literary texts that were produced in conjunction with these exhibitions. I argue that, while these exhibitions formed narrow definitions of who and what might be deemed “British” or “American,” the media encircling them provide significant sites from which to understand how visual technologies played a mediatory role between the formation of mass culture and the display of enslaved persons. The circulation of Hiram Powers’s _Greek Slave_ and illustrated editions of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s _Uncle Tom’s Cabin_ at mid-century emphasized the contradictions and convergences among the currents of reformism, elitism, and middle-class formation in relation to abolitionism in the print culture of Great Britain and the United States. Two months after the Columbian Exposition, the publication of Mark Twain’s _Pudd’nhead Wilson_ in the _Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine_ offered a surprisingly nuanced treatment of racial relations in the post-Reconstruction transatlantic publishing market. In 1895, the appearance of E. J. Glave’s diary entries in the _Century_ accentuated how narratives of technological and post-abolition progress provided a background from which to elide the significance of the atrocities in the Congo, a trend that Mark Twain “exploded” by indulging in extreme spectacle and sensation for his 1905 exposé, _King Leopold’s Soliloquy_. In charting the display of enslaved persons in crucial media and print productions in the latter half of the nineteenth century, this dissertation considers how these texts interacted with the world’s fairs with which they had close connections, and how they resisted, integrated, and sometimes generated new "technologies of nationalism."