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Making homeOrphanhood, kinship and cultural memory in contemporary American novels$
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Maria Holmgren Troy, Elizabeth Kella, and Helena Wahlström

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780719089596

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719089596.001.0001

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Orphans and American literature: texts, intertexts, and contexts

Orphans and American literature: texts, intertexts, and contexts

(p.10) 1 Orphans and American literature: texts, intertexts, and contexts
Making home

Maria Holmgren Troy

Elizabeth Kella

Helena Wahlström

Manchester University Press

This chapter situates the study in both literary and socio-historical contexts, focusing on earlier discussions of the American orphan figure in literary and social history and elaborating especially on literature as cultural memory. The chapter traces the central position of orphans in nineteenth-century American literary history as it has been constructed in the twentieth century; orphans have played major roles in a dominant white male tradition in criticism, but also in gendered and ethnic challenges to that tradition. Previous critical discussions of orphans typically focus on children’s literature, or on nineteenth-century literature, but nevertheless offer useful insights into the historically shifting roles and cultural work of orphan characters, linked to social and political developments in the US. The chapter also addresses ideas of the orphan, childhood, and family, and how these ideas operate in social and academic debates over multiculturalism, the US canon, and national belonging.

Keywords:   American literary history, nineteenth-century literature, children’s literature, canon, childhood, cultural memory, family, intertextuality, multiculturalism, national belonging

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