Becoming a "Nation That is Not a Nation": National Image, Lost World Narratives, and American Antarctic Literature

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Carroll, Matthew James




This dissertation identifies the lost world narrative genre as being central to the history and development of American Antarctic literature, a connection which has not previously been explicitly identified, or explored in any sustained way. As a genre, lost world narratives render places that are “outside time,” which dovetails with the literary figuration of Antarctica as a place of “frozen” time. These facts converge in the lost world narrative of the American Antarctic literary tradition, in which the Antarctic lost world setting serves as a platform for a conservative, or static, national image of American society which is frequently grounded in discourses of evolution, including pre-Darwinian theories of racial difference, that are mobilized in particular to reflect historically contingent, ideologically-motivated ideas of masculinity and race. Such national images are conservative insofar as they foreground discourses which reflect the values and seek to perpetuate the social power of specific groups (namely, white men). Through its examination of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838), Charles Romyn Dake’s A Strange Discovery (1899), Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Caspak trilogy (1918), H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness (1936), and Marvel Comics’ Ka-Zar (1965-2011), the present work demonstrates that while these aspects provide a sense of cohesion to American Antarctic literature and do, in fact, help to distinguish it from trends in the Antarctic texts of other nations, ultimately that cohesion only represents the projection of a limited national image based on white masculine social hegemony in the US. Despite this normative vision that they advance, however, these texts also exhibit a strong counter-current that manifests in different ways but always works to break down the surface cohesion provided by the conservative national images fostered by American Antarctic lost world narratives.


History - American




Carleton University

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Theses and Dissertations

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