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Manacled to Identity: Cosmopolitanism, Class, and ‘The Culture Concept’ in Stephen Crane

Collins, Michael James (2013) Manacled to Identity: Cosmopolitanism, Class, and ‘The Culture Concept’ in Stephen Crane. Comparative American Studies, 11 (4). pp. 404-417. ISSN 1477-5700. (doi:10.1179/1477570013Z.00000000053) (KAR id:49515)


This article begins with a close reading of Stephen Crane’s short story ‘Manacled’ from 1900, which situates this rarely considered short work within the context of contemporary debates about realism. I then proceed to argue that many of the debates raised by the tale have an afterlife in our own era of American literary studies, which has frequently focused on questions of ‘identity’ and ‘culture’ in its reading of realism and naturalism to the exclusion of the importance of cosmopolitan discourses of diffusion and exchange across national borders. I then offer a brief reading of Crane’s novel George’s Mother, which follows Walter Benn Michaels in suggesting that the recent critical attention paid to particularities of cultural difference in American studies have come to conflate ideas of class and social position with ideas of culture in ways that have ultimately obscured the presence of genuine historical inequalities in US society. In order to challenge this critical commonplace, I situate Crane’s work within a history of transatlantic cosmopolitanism associated with the ideas of Franz Boas and Matthew Arnold to demonstrate the ways in which Crane’s narratives sought out an experience of the universal within their treatments of the particular.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1179/1477570013Z.00000000053
Uncontrolled keywords: Stephen Crane, Matthew Arnold, Franz Boas, George’s Mother, ‘Manacled’, Maggie, print culture, transatlantic, cosmopolitanism, aestheticism
Subjects: E History America
E History America > E151 United States (General)
P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
Depositing User: Michael Collins
Date Deposited: 20 Nov 2015 10:55 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:20 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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