Alexandra Urakova

Senior Fellow
Period of Stay: 
January-June 2016
Modern European and American Literature
Gorky Institute of World Literature, Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia
Project Title: 
Gift Economy and Nineteenth-Century American Literature
Project Abstract: 

My book project aims at exploring the complex role of gift economy and gift exchange in American nineteenth-century literary culture. It will show the centrality of the gift to the way nineteenth-century artists defined themselves in relation to the literary market bearing on the ambivalence of the word’s meaning: at once a present and a talent, an offering and a creative faculty. It will describe the complex response of American authors, from Edgar Allan Poe to William Dean Howells, from Emerson to O’Henry, from Lydia Maria Child to Henry James, from Susan Warner to Mark Twain, to the ambiguous status of the gift in American culture. It will examine gift-related topoi and motives circulating in nineteenth-century American literature such as: dangerous and poisonous gifts; souvenirs of the dead; tokens of love and friendship; violent exchange and potlatch; benevolence; sacrifice; death as a gift.

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