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A More Virtuous Empire: The Ideology of Manifest Destiny in American Literature and Film

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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/13197

A More Virtuous Empire: The Ideology of Manifest Destiny in American Literature and Film

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Title: A More Virtuous Empire: The Ideology of Manifest Destiny in American Literature and Film
Author: Gann, Randall Lee
Advisor(s): Torres, Hector A.
Scharnhorst, Gary
Committee Member(s): Márquez, Antonio
Alemán, Jesse
Lewis, Jon
Department: University of New Mexico. Dept. of English
Subject(s): Manifest Destiny
American Exceptionalism
John Louis O'Sullivan
Empire
LC Subject(s): Manifest destiny in literature
Manifest destiny in motion pictures
Exceptionalism--United States--History
Degree Level: Doctoral
Abstract: This dissertation examines the historical origins of the ideology of Manifest Destiny and the effects of its transmission into American literature and film. I argue that though eruptions of Manifest Destiny repeat the idea of American exceptionalism, the semi-autonomous nature of the work of art works against the grain of these eruptions to show they are also symptomatic of the inability of the American State to reconcile the desire to be both a virtuous republic and a global empire. I begin with an analysis of the embedded notion of exceptionalism in John Winthrop’s A Model of Christian Charity and follow the trace of that same notion in Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence in order to establish an historical lineage of America’s exceptionalist narrative. I then argue that the ideas of exceptionalism and the divine mission of the American State become compressed into the concept of Manifest Destiny and, through the discursive acts of John Louis O’Sullivan and the United States Magazine and Democratic Review, American cultural production repeats the discourse of Manifest Destiny. A list of the authors that appeared in the Democratic Review virtually defines American Romanticism and under O’Sullivan’s editorial control the Democratic Review directly allied those authors with his politico-literary vision, which was informed by his belief that America was exceptional. I demonstrate how a novel like Herman Melville’s Moby Dick is a nodal point where an American exceptionalist discourse is transmitted into film vis-à-vis John Huston’s 1956 release of the filmic version of Moby Dick. Through a consideration of Rio Bravo (1959), and Lone Star (1998), my final chapter tracks eruptions of Manifest Destiny in the American Western film in order to show how changing formulations of American Exceptionalism gain traction in their time periods precisely because of the malleability of the exceptionalist narrative.
Graduation Date: May 2011
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/13197
Item Available: 2110-05-14

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