Temporal Forms in the Nineteenth-Century British Mediterranean
Chappell, Lindsey Nichole
Doctor of Philosophy
Temporal Forms in the Nineteenth-Century British Mediterranean examines how nineteenth-century British travelers constructed, reinforced, or resisted imperial and cultural identities in Mediterranean spaces. Specifically, I analyze how what I call “heritage discourses” structure literature, travel, and foreign affairs. How, for example, can we understand Percy Shelley’s proclamation in Hellas that “We are all Greeks” at the same time as Britain relinquished Parga to the Ottoman Empire? Universal heritage discourses that reinforced a shared identity pitted preservation against military strategy in the Mediterranean where empires overlapped; these same historical motives, though, facilitated proto-archaeological imperialism, launching controversies, such as the Elgin Marbles debates, that endure today. The nineteenth-century Mediterranean was a geographic contact zone between empires, where the Great Powers jostled for control. But it was also a temporal contact zone for British imperialists who could not, as they did elsewhere, sweep away existing cultures. In accounts of Italy, Greece, Egypt, and the Holy Land, I examine conflicts of time that travel brings to the fore of narrative. Each chapter focuses on a different temporal model—inheritance, embeddedness, presentism, and network—in order to theorize the convergence of past and present that I argue is heightened in the nineteenth-century Mediterranean. The methodology I develop is a politically aware formalism that takes time as its object. Time, I show, functions across narrative sequence and lived experience, organizing both how bodies move through space and how texts codify that movement. Recent work on transnationalism has yet to account for the fundamental temporal relationship between Britain and the Mediterranean that captivated travelers. Temporal Forms aims to fill this gap, exploring the links among history, narrative, and imperial time that manifest when travelers confront the extant landscapes of their heritage. Heritage proves powerful through this space, with the potential to reinforce imperialism and to incite revolution. It both acts upon and is made by the present. I argue, therefore, that the Mediterranean region affords examinations of how historical narratives intervene in geopolitics, how travel writers redefine time across scales, and how classical and biblical heritage shapes imperialism in British culture.
Mediterranean; nineteenth-century; British literature; Time; Temporality