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Violent Inscriptions: Border Crossings in Early Nineteenth-Century American Literary History



Violent Inscriptions:

Border Crossings in Early Nineteenth-Century American Literary History

Lisa Schilz

My dissertation, Violent Inscriptions: Trauma, Translation, and Trans-nation in the Borderlands, stages convergences among a multilingual, multicultural web of texts and textual traces—Comanche, Ojibwe, Mexican, U.S., German—that thematize and register violence in the early national period. While 1848 has rightly been proclaimed as a (or even the) significant periodizing marker for American Studies, I return to the seminal complicated prior history of relations in the borderland spaces, a time when U.S. and Anglophone hegemony was not yet assured. The multimodal texts and cultural productions I recover (poetry, written and oral stories, government records) remain underexamined in U.S. literary studies and historiography, as they do not lend themselves easily to dominant grids of intelligibility, such as the nation-state, traditional periodizations, or monocultural and monolingual traditions. My comparative work retains field-specific research methods (such as from Indigenous and Latin American Studies) and brings them together in order to question the dominant lingering grids that do not capture the potential of these texts to envision alternative possibilities. The convergence of these materials troubles dominant Anglo-American definitions of land and property, temporality, and belonging as well as reframes the spatial and temporal markers of the borderlands.

I extend the reach of the Latino-American borderlands model to feature Native American intellectual traditions more prominently. My project calls attention to the long-standing and diverse tribal sovereignties, pre-existing and surpassing what are now the boundaries of the U.S. nation state. It also unearths an unexpected connection to German immigrants, who abounded in and wrote prolifically about borderland spaces. Considering German immigrants allows for negotiations of racial boundaries within whiteness itself. In its four chapters, my dissertation focuses on archival and oral sources regarding both the southern and northern borderlands as well as texts written by Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, Charles Sealsfield, and Lorenzo de Zavala.

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