Skylar Clark

European and American Literary Realism: The Fictional Construction of Nation and Self

My research project will probe how the relationship between the protagonist and their society as illustrated within the 19th century realist novel functions as a reflective allegory for idealized national identity. I posit that the consolidation of recognizable cultural markers ,including language idiosyncrasies, geographic landmarks, and social traditions, connects character and setting in a unique way which sheds light on the idea of a singular national persona in literature; further, literary realism inevitably embodies a sense of cultural consolidation through the construction of a limited fictional setting, so as to reflect a picture of the real world as the reader imagines it. Scholars have defined cultural consolidation as the process of fortifying a collective identity toward the ultimate goal of successful-state building. Therefore, we must consider how protagonists relate to their social, spatial, and material surroundings as both individuals and generic representatives of national sentiment/ideals, and this is possible due to cultural consolidation within both the external fictional setting and the interiority of the protagonist.

Message to Sponsor

I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the Anselm A&H Fund for giving me the opportunity to explore the potential of my research topic, as well as my potential as a scholar in the humanities. Before embarking on this project I was unsure of my capacity for research, the exact direction of my project, and where I wanted this research to take me in the future. However, throughout the course of the summer I have become more secure in all three of these respects, as my confidence in my research abilities has steadily grown through my engagement with my literary materials, as well as due to the support of my SURF mentors and my faculty advisor. Engaging with these literary works which I am so passionate about drove me to go beyond close reading and literary analysis, as I was compelled to engage in social and literary theory, biographical materials of the authors, historical primary sources, and so on. In short, SURF gave me the opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone and pursue my project to boundaries further than I originally anticipated. I now feel more confident in the content of my project, which has become considerably more solidified since may, and I am ready to pursue to through my honors thesis. None of this would have been possible without the guidance offered through the fellowship, and the funding offered by Anselm A&H.
  • Major: English and Comparative Literature
  • Sponsor: Anselm
  • Mentor: Miryam Sas