Date of Award

Summer 2006

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Jeffers, Thomas L.

Second Advisor

Bates, Milton J.

Third Advisor

Sorby, Angela F.


This dissertation brings together four books-Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, Henry James's The Princess Casamassima, Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, and Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism-that were written during times of social and political crisis. Not all of the novels deal overtly with political subjects; nor does Arendt' s book mention nineteenth-century American literature; but all four books share an interest in the decline of European public life during the last half of the nineteenth century. The novels of Melville, James, and Twain respond, in part, to aspects of mid- to late-nineteenth-century society that contained, they felt, the seeds of future catastrophes. Watching as Europe (and, to a lesser extent, America) began to experience socio-political crises caused by widespread social isolation, imperialism, and the alliance between social elites and members of the underclass, these novelists worried about the political consequences that such problems might eventually cause. Moby-Dick, The Princess Casamassima, and A Connecticut Yankee express some of the political anxiety that these novelists felt as they observed the situation in Europe and in the United States during the nineteenth century. Many decades after these novels were written, Arendt looked back on the situation in Europe during the last half of the nineteenth century in order to discover the origins of twentieth-century totalitarianism; and, interestingly, she uncovered many of the same elements that were identified as potential problems by these novelists. Without any apparent knowledge of these novels, she, too, worried about the danger inherent in social alienation, imperialism, and what she called the "mob-elite alliance." What were potential problems for nineteenth-century novelists had become, in Arendt's time, actualized in the form of Nazi and Stalinist totalitarianism...



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