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“In order to form a more perfect union”: Interethnic /interracial romances, unions, and nation formation in Helen Hunt Jackson, María Amparo Ruiz de Burton, Elizabeth Van Deusen, and Manuel Zeno Gandía
In the context of American imperialism, what role does the interracial/interethnic literary romance play? Do these romances offer the possibility of integrating politically disparate elements, or do these literary unions reveal the conflicts of nation-building at a time of territorial expansion? Drawing upon Doris Sommer's work on heterosexual romances and Robert McKee Irwin's work on homosocial bonds and both authors studies on nation-formation in Latin America, I explore interethnic/interracial unions in works by American and Latino writers and analyze the role these fictional romances and unions serve in representing the inclusion of new peoples and the formation of American national identity at the time of territorial expansion. The texts examined include Helen Hunt Jackson's Ramona, María Amparo Ruiz de Burton's The Squatter and the Don, Elizabeth Van Deusen's collection short story readers, Stories of Porto Rico and Tropical Tales (Porto Rico) and Manuel Zeno Gandía's Redentores. Through their use of the interracial/interethnic romance and unions, I argue that these writers reveal the complications of the larger geopolitical unions being constructed by the United States in the second half of the nineteenth century and early part of the twentieth century. These texts show the potentially subversive power that love, the romance trope, and related themes and homosocial bonds may have in a genre that traditionally emphasizes unions; in addition these works demonstrate that in unions—whether romantic or political—tensions will always persist. Lastly, these texts also demonstrate the frailty of using the nation-as-lovers as the emblematic trope of a nation that will hold within it multiple unions. Issues discussed include how romance is constructed, including the allusions, metaphors, plot devices, and motifs incorporated to tell the story of that romance; representation of these unions in light of United States' anti-miscegenation laws; the construction of consent; education and the lessons of domesticity.
American literature|Caribbean literature
Rodriguez, Arlene, "“In order to form a more perfect union”: Interethnic /interracial romances, unions, and nation formation in Helen Hunt Jackson, María Amparo Ruiz de Burton, Elizabeth Van Deusen, and Manuel Zeno Gandía" (2004). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3152740.