Frances Wright’s America: A 19th-Century Utopia

Authors

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.18778/2083-2931.10.22

Keywords:

antebellum USA, utopia, slavery, travel writing

Abstract

Frances Wright, a British social reformer and feminist, published an account of her American travels: Views of Society and Manners in America in 1821. Wright founded an experimental community in Nashoba, Tennessee, whose aim was to buy black slaves, educate them, and then liberate them. Even though the enterprise turned out to be a failure, the author continued to fight for the cause of black emancipation.

My paper examines Wright’s portrayal of America in Views, which, compared to most other early 19th-century British travel accounts, is surprisingly enthusiastic. Wright idealizes the young republic, seeing it as a perfect embodiment of her ideals. I argue that Wright’s vision of the young republic is utopian, and it prevents her from seeing any flaws in the American system. This is especially pronounced in the case of the central problem posed by British travelogues of the era, slavery, which troubles her not so much on moral grounds, but as a blemish on the character of the country of freedom and equality.

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Author Biography

Justyna Fruzińska, University of Lodz

Justyna Fruzińska holds an MA in American Literature and a PhD in Cultural Studies from the University of Lodz, Poland, where she holds the position of Assistant Professor and teaches American literature, culture and history. Her publications include Emerson Goes to the Movies: Individualism in Walt Disney Company’s Post-1989 Animated Films (2014), as well as numerous articles on American popular culture, Transcendentalism, and Polish poetry. She is a graduate of the Institute of Jewish Studies Paideia in Stockholm, as well as a member of the Association for Cultural Studies and Polish Association for American Studies. Her current research interests center around European 19th-century travel writing about America. She is also a published poet and translator working in Polish, English, and Hebrew.

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Published

2020-11-24

How to Cite

Fruzińska, J. (2020). Frances Wright’s America: A 19th-Century Utopia. Text Matters: A Journal of Literature, Theory and Culture, (10), 408-422. https://doi.org/10.18778/2083-2931.10.22