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Title: The Self Unenclosed: A New Literary History of Pragmatism, 1890-1940
Authors: Reuland, John Thomas
Advisors: Fuss, Diana J
Gleason, William A
Contributors: English Department
Keywords: Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Claude McKay
George Herbert Mead
Henry James
John Dewey
pragmatism and literature
Subjects: American literature
American studies
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: In <italic>The Self Unenclosed</italic>, I argue that pragmatist ideas of selfhood, action, and futurity guided Progressive Era writers as they pursed an ambitious goal: to expand readers' ability act with a sense of the common, yet to be realized, good in mind. By reimagining the self as an effect of interdependent action, the writers I treat aimed to augment democratic, rational control over institutions and social practices that would otherwise, feared many observes, be left to drift. In particular, I examine how literature reconstructed practices of commemoration, mourning, starting a business, and arranging raced space. Whereas most scholars who write about pragmatism and literature treat pragmatism chiefly as a linguistic and aesthetic strategy or as an antidote to essentialisms, I emphasize pragmatism's history as an aid to social reform. By recovering acts of pragmatist reform, I challenge critical stances that overlook possibilities for creativity that lie within constrained circumstances. After an introduction that lays out how a sense of futurity both structures the actions of the pragmatist social self and makes available a method to write pragmatism's literary history, I show in four chapters how writers changed customarily retrospective acts into opportunities for future-facing action. For Henry James in <italic>The American Scene</italic>, commemoration at Civil War monuments is marked by an expectancy that James converts into imaginative identification with memorialized Union soldiers as he waits for their ghosts, while William James, in his speech at Augustus Saint-Gaudens' Shaw Memorial, turns his audience's eyes away from the past toward a better civic future. In the second chapter, where I account for the strange epistolary friendship of John Dewey and Claude McKay, I claim that McKay's <italic>Banjo</italic> retropes resilience as a resource to work through loss. Historicizing ways in which pragmatism mutated to suit specific reform projects in my third and fourth chapters, I read Charlotte Perkins Gilman's <italic>Forerunner</italic> fiction as a form of what I call literary social work. In the final chapter I demonstrate how in Charles S. Johnson's <italic>The Negro in Chicago</italic>, the Deweyan idea of "adjustment" abetted Chicago's segregated post-riot racial order, and thus I complicate customary associations between pragmatism and anti-racism.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:English

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