Date of Award

Fall 12-12-2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Mark Noble

Second Advisor

Dr. Reiner Smolinski

Third Advisor

Dr. Robin Huff


This dissertation argues that the utopian novel offers an invaluable lens for understanding the social fabric of the antebellum America. The project focuses mainly on four works: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Blithedale Romance (1852), a fantasy roman à clef of the Brook Farm utopian colony; William Gilmore Simms’ The Yemassee (1835), a novel about the native American threat to the utopia of a slaveocracy; Martin Delany’s Blake; or the Huts of America (1859), a call for pan-African revolt in North America; and Robert Henry Newell’s Avery Glibun; or, Between Two Fires (1867), a fantasy bildungsroman about the antebellum period as a utopia in itself. My readings of these novels examine the different utopian aspects inherent in each text, drawing out the ways readership patterns illustrate that such works both amplify and complicate societal agitation for women’s equality, abolition, attention to class inequities, religious renewal and even political revolution. The common thread linking these topics is a question about the utility of the novel as a demonstrable instrument of social change. The porous political boundaries of the antebellum United States make for a literary environment ripe for the ideals and philosophy of European thinkers to take hold, and hence the term transatlantic. The dissertation approaches the developing field of ‘transatlanticism’ in literary studies, asking how American writers create a diaphanous geopolitical space redolent of an Elysian mythos. On the granular level, the literary analysis unearths evidence of the utopian reasoning of each novelist as he or she posits a counterpoint to the hegemonic structure of antebellum American society. I will argue that the Protestant ideals of social reform enables the novel to reach an emerging middle-class readership with a utopian idealism coupled with a pre-Marxist evangelical spirituality in the decades leading up to the Civil War.


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