Sacred geographies: Religion, race, and the Holy Land in U.S. literature, 1819--1920
Robey, Molly K.
Levander, Caroline Field
Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation explores how representations of the Holy Land shaped nineteenth-century Americans' conceptions of racial identity in the emerging United States. In the nineteenth century, Americans physically encountered Palestine for the first time, exploring, mapping, and essentially inventing the Holy Land during a century of U.S. nation-building, expansion, and imperialism. "Sacred Geographies" reveals how the Holy Land provided a durable and fertile resource for writers wrestling with the place of race in the burgeoning nation. Analyzing a variety of "national" writings, including frontier romances, Gothic tales, slave narratives, and domestic novels, I demonstrate U.S. writers' engagement with a rapidly growing Holy Land industry. Attention to this often overlooked fascination with the Holy Land highlights the interdependence of racial and religious histories in U.S. culture. By examining the Holy Land's fundamental impact on U.S. perceptions of racial and national belonging, "Sacred Geographies" exposes the flexibility of the racial categories used to constitute U.S. culture, and it demonstrates the vital role religious identity played in the development of U.S. racial ideologies.
Religion; Middle Eastern history; American literature