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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Imperfectly imperial : northern travel writers in a postbellum American south, 1865-1880 Winders, Jamie Lynn


Between the years 1865 and 1880, more travelers than in any period outside the Civil War streamed to an American South to write of the region. Through these writings, a literate Northern readership learned of a postwar South, a newly re-annexed territory of the United States. In this thesis, I argue that contextualizing these travel accounts and the region of the South itself as complicit with broader discourses of Western imperialism is a productive way to examine both the history and the places of Southern Reconstruction. Additionally, I contend that the tensions written through these travel narratives around the very ways travelers scripted Southern scenes are themselves constitutive elements of a Southern identity and history. Moving through discussions of three particular themes found throughout these postbellum travel accounts - discourses of civilization, descriptions and representations of 'nature' and landscape, and encounters with rural white poverty, this thesis examines the ways Northern travelers grappled with the South's 'double placement' within an imperial framework. Simultaneously an occupied imperial territory of the United States and part of the United States itself, a postbellum South was paradoxically situated in reference to both 'the North' and 'the nation' at large, a tension found throughout these travel writings. Through these discussions, this thesis endeavors to provide a critical engagement with textual representations of a postwar South, representations typically treated in a very superficial and quite straightforward manner. Arguing for a very different treatment of these texts, I attempt to show that situating them within an imperial framing provides a new look at old stories about Southern occupation and Reconstruction in the midnineteenth century.

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