Theses Doctoral

'Native, Yet Foreign': Spain in the African American Imagination

Pawel, Rebecca Catherine

My dissertation argues that Spain was as important to the development of African American literary consciousness as more studied locales such as Paris, Harlem, or Chicago. I argue that a literary idea of Spain gave African American writers a conceptual space for thinking about race in the past and the future, and for considering the intersections between race and religion. Drawing on the work of Arthur Schomburg, Langston Hughes, Dorothy Peterson, and Richard Wright, I contend that mid-twentieth century African American writers adapted a broader trend of Anglophone historiography that viewed Spain as a quintessentially “medieval” country (feudal, agrarian, and Catholic), set in opposition to the essentially “modern” United States (democratic, industrial, and Protestant). This historiography appropriated Spanish history to position Spain as the physical site of the pre-modern history of the United States, creating what I call “geographic temporality,” where a physical space is associated with a specific time period.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Thesis Advisors
Edwards, Brent Hayes
Griffin, Farah Jasmine
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 7, 2020