American Between the Lines: National Imagination and Identity in European-American Autobiographies, 1850-1950
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The Civil War that took place in the United States between 1861 and 1865 has often been described as a threat to national unity. However, America was not a unity considering its internal political, economic, and cultural/ethnical divisions and incoherence. Therefore the existence of an American identity could be denied. Nevertheless, this thesis argues that the European-Americans created a "national myth" that was hegemonic in society. This myth replaced the acknowledgement of divisions in reality. In this context, European-American autobiographies written between 1850 and 1890 in northwestern states of America show to what extent their authors viewed themselves as "Americans" and their nation as "America" and what they believed comprised their identity and that of their nation barely a hundred years after the founding of the United States of America.