Stories of things remote: (Re)placing the self in 19<sup>th</sup>-century adventure fiction
In this dissertation, I argue that, rather than offering mere escapist distractions from their own troubled societies or simply reinforcing imperial ideologies, adventure novels by Melville, Stevenson, and Conrad directly explore the challenges of maintaining a stable self in the newly globalized spaces of the nineteenth century. Exploring the myriad possibilities of life in colonial spaces, these novels portray the struggles of European and American characters to adjust to the complex spaces of the colonial world. Departing from their relatively homogeneous societies in search of “adventure,” these characters must create new justifying narratives to explain their tenuous lives in the challenging environments that they encounter. Utilizing narrative theory as well as contemporary definitions of space, I analyze the harrowing realities that these novels often present about the costs of failed imperial ideologies and practices on individual selves. Embarking on their adventures with a strong belief in their own moral superiority, these novels' protagonists soon realize, often in shattering ways, that the new world they have entered openly resists the grand narratives they have come to believe. Responding to the collapse of these justifying narratives, these adventurers, both consciously and unconsciously, struggle to fashion new narratives that will allow them to survive. Created as colonial efforts reached their peak in both Britain and the United States, these novels represent a crucial early attempt to imagine identity in the multicultural contexts that colonial efforts produced.
British and Irish literature
0593: British and Irish literature