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"When all the World is but a Martial Stage": Representations of Warriors in Early American Literature, 1624-1827

By Tasos Lazarides

Abstract

This dissertation examines the literary history of the soldier in early American literature by bringing texts such as travel accounts, sermons, expedition accounts, and novels in conversation with military treatises and military manuals. I argue that colonial soldier-writers employed rhetorical models developed in European and American technical military literature in order to challenge the authority of non-military colonial writers. In particular, I show that soldier-writers and writers of texts about warfare represented warriors in colonial and U.S. American literature by emulating the emphasis on practical knowledge and on the body developed in European military texts. The rhetorical models found in technical military literature allowed these writers to privilege the authority of the figure of the soldier. My introduction describes the historical moment that produced the military literature examined in this dissertation and the influence of the figure of the warrior on early seventeenth-century literary forms. Chapter 1 examines how John Smith in The Generall Historie of Virginia (1624) emulates the rhetorical model of the &ldquoperfect soldier,&rdquo the soldier who possesses both empirical and theoretical knowledge. Smith emphasizes his physical presence in Virginia and links that presence with the value of the information he includes in his account. Chapter 2 considers how Samuel Nowell in his sermon Abraham in Arms (1678) privileges the figure of the temporal soldier over the spiritual soldier in order to challenge strictly typological explanations of King Philip's War. Chapter 3 examines representations of soldiers in John Gabriel Stedman's Narrative of a Five Years Expedition in Surinam (1796) and argues that Stedman privileges the authority of the colonial soldier-writer by emphasizing that the immediacy of soldiers' observations produces more accurate and truthful information about Surinam's nature than the accounts by enlightened travelers. Chapter 4 considers how James Fenimore Cooper in The Last of the Mohicans (1826) and The Prairie (1827) fashions the figures of the militia and the professional soldier in response to political debates regarding what kind of military the U.S. should have. The conclusion examines the continuing influence in contemporary culture of the figures of the militia warrior and the professional soldier

Topics: American literature, British and Irish literature, early american literature, military, military literature, soldier, trans-Atlantic, warrior
Year: 2013
OAI identifier: oai:drum.lib.umd.edu:1903/14914
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