Date of Award

Summer 8-1-2017

Degree Type

Report

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

English

First Advisor

Kerin Holt

Second Advisor

Paul Crumbley

Third Advisor

Steve Shively

Abstract

Much has been devoted to the study of causality and ambiguity within Charles Brockden Brown’s Wieland, or the Transformation. While there is textual and cultural evidence providing explanations for Clara’s behavior, little has been said about the ramifications of Clara’s actions. This essay seeks to add to the discussion of Wieland by exploring Clara’s transformation from theistic rationalist to someone who is inclined to believe in supernatural explanation concerning seemingly inexplicable events.

In more than one instance, Clara’s supernaturally-charged beliefs endanger her. Brown uses Clara’s increasing reliance on supernatural explanation to suggest that, should the early United States similarly abandon rational thinking, it will likewise expose itself to harm and self-destruction. To Brown, Clara’s narrative represents the United States’ potential trajectory should it fail to return to rational thought.

The early United States struggled to find clarity amid the conflicting roles that religious belief and rationality played. The Second Great Awakening created a surge in national religiosity; this was a surge that Brown was wary of. By using Clara as a metaphor, Brown argues that, not only should the early United States return to rational thought, women were central to reinstating a national equilibrium between rationality and religiosity.

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