• Campus Novels and the Nation of Peers

    Travis M. Foster (see profile)
    LLC 19th-Century American, LLC 20th- and 21st-Century American, LLC Late-19th- and Early-20th-Century American, TC Race and Ethnicity Studies
    American Civil War (United States , Critical race theory, Friendship, Education, Higher
    Item Type:
    White Nationalism, White Supremacy, Antiblackness, campus life, campus novels, American Civil War, Race critical theory, Higher education
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    This article covers an entire generation of American popular novels published between the Civil War and World War I: campus fictions, focusing all but exclusively on homosocial scenes of undergraduate merriment. Centering on the camaraderie of fraternal sociality, campus novels model friendship as a democratic ideal for dispensing with conflict, featuring plot lines that progress inexorably toward resolution in an intense affirmation of unity. As a new student in William Tucker Washburn’s *Fair Harvard: A Story of American College Life* (1869) puts it, campus novels pit “class feeling” against the “clique." By locating their impetus for white national belonging (“class feeling” writ large) in the extracurricular activities of college kids, these popular texts help us to see the historical momentum toward white sectional reconciliation in places we’re not accustomed to look— the joyous cavorting of drunken Harvard students, say—rather than those more frequently studied vehicles of cross-regional weddings and interregional progeny. This shift from heterosexuality to homosociality accompanies a shift in the form of reconciliation. If white national union proceeds through “sympathies and loyalties” that make it a desirable and presumed outcome, rather than through the historical revision of conflict-producing differences, then reconciliation will manifest in settings and situations that fail to bring the previously warring parties face-to-face or even to address the fact of conflict in the first place. This article is a version of the first chapter of my book, *Genre and White Supremacy in the Postemancipation United States*.
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    4 years ago
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