Nation Conceived
Learning, Education, and Nationhood in
American Historical Novels of the 1820s

By Johanna McElwee
December 2005
Studia Anglistica Upsaliensia, No 128
Uppsala University Press
ISBN: 9155463819
184 pages, Illustrated, 6 ½” x 9 ½”
$49.50 Paper Original

This is a Ph.D. dissertation. Education and learning have been central issues for debate in the United States since the early days of the republic and the question whether or not intellectualism has a place in the nation continues to be a relevant topic even today. This study explores this discussion as it was expressed in historical fiction of the 1820s.

In these texts, written in an era of political upheaval as the intellectual Founding Fathers were dethroned by practical Jacksonians, different types of education are discussed. As this dissertation shows, in historical narratives of the 1820s, written when the young nation was trying to find its bearings, the issues of learning and education are discussed in the context of national identity.

As a result, the choice of the right education becomes a central theme in these texts as this affects not only the sense of loyalty and national belonging of the individual, but has also repercussions on the character of the nation as a whole. In historical fiction at this time the learned person is an exemplary figure who highlights the contemporary ambivalent opinions and fears surrounding the issue of learning.


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