Re-reading the American renaissance in New England and in Mexico City



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Re-Reading the American Renaissance in New England and in Mexico City is a bi-national literary history of the confluence of concerns unevenly shared by new world liberal intellectuals in New England and in Mexico City. This dissertation seeks to fill a gap in our understanding of the complex history that informs the multi-faceted public and private spheres of the United States and Mexico in the twenty-first century. I introduce translations of nineteenth-century liberal intellectuals from the interior of Mexico who were preoccupied with many of the same ideas and problems characteristic of US American literary nationalism: the nation in moral crisis, the post-/neo-colonial onus of originality in the new world, the hypocrisies of race-based romantic nationalism, and the inherent contradictions of economic and political liberalisms. These inter-textual juxtapositions shift the analysis of US American liberal nationalism from a nation-based narrative of success or failure to the study of the complex, unequally distributed failures of liberalism across the region.

Each chapter offers a new contextualization of the US American renaissance that demonstrates the period to be a complex palimpsest of provincial prejudices, liberal nationalisms, and cosmopolitan strategies. In Chapter Two I read the trans-american jeremiads of Margaret Fuller, Frederick Douglass, and Henry David Thoreau and Carlos María de Bustamante, Mariano Otero, and Luís de la Rosa in the aftermath of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. Chapter Three focuses on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s and Ignacio Ramírez's incommensurate preoccupations with the origins of language and their inter-related post/neo-colonial bids for national recognition on a Eurocentric geopolitical stage. The travel accounts of William Cullen Bryant’s trip to Mexico City in 1872 and Guillermo Prieto’s overnight stay in Bryant’s Long Island home in 1877 set the scene in Chapter Four to explore the bi-national tensions inherent in their oddly inter-related romantic nationalisms. Furthermore, the insights of this bi-national literary history invite us to recognize the contours of our own geopolitical positions, and in recognizing them, to re-orient nationalist epistemologies and literary histories as deeply conversant with contemporaneous traditions otherwise considered peripheral and/or foreign.