LITR 5831 Seminar in World / Multicultural Literature
American Immigrant Literature

Carrie Brownstein


on Letterman 2015

Modern Girl




equal but different 42, 75, 167, 239


Declaration notes

How does the opening of the Declaration embody or reflect "the American Dream?" How do the Declaration's narrative and values resemble an immigrant narrative?

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands. ["Naturalization" is the making of immigrants to citizens; e.g., the INS = Immigration and Naturalization Service]

He has excited domestic insurrections* amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages*, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions. . . . [*"domestic insurrections" = slave revolts, supposedly instigated by the British to weaken American war effort; **Indians as victims of immigration and population growth; Indian warfare depicted as terrorism]

omitted section on slavery


Constitution notes

1.2.3 Indians, 3/5

1.8.4 Naturalization


2.1.5 natural born citizen


4.1.3 fugitive slave clause


Article 14 born in the USA





Carnegie notes

1.1 small one-story house, poor but honest parents, of good kith and kin

1.3 optimistic nature

1.4 journalism, literacy, William Cobbett

1.4 mend shoes; cf. 2.18 bind shoes

1.7 poetry and romance (< royal folks)

1.8 father's business success

map of America, looking for Pittsburgh and pointing out Lake Erie and Niagara. Soon after my uncle and Aunt Aitken sailed for the land of promise.

1.10 an intense admirer of the American Republic.

1.11 denunciations of monarchical and aristocratic government, of privilege in all its forms, the grandeur of the republican system, the superiority of America, a land peopled by our own race, a home for freemen in which every citizen's privilege was every man's right

1.12 [aristocracy v. meritocracy].

1.13 creative destruction (hand looms to steam looms)

1.14 poverty


2.1 ["Presbyterian Church . . . infant damnation" refers to Calvinist doctrine of predestination or determinism vs. "free will," a theology also maintained by the American Puritans and "Pilgrims"]

2.2 left the Presby church

2.3 home influences, family values, domestic pleasure

2.4 My first business venture

2.5 evidence of organizing power

2.5 I did not understand steam machinery, but I tried to understand that much more complicated piece of mechanism—man.

2.5 networking

2.6 With the introduction and improvement of steam machinery, trade grew worse and worse in Dunfermline for the small manufacturers [economies of scale]

my father's sweet voice sang often to mother, brother, and me:

[2.7] "To the West, to the West, to the land of the free,
Where the mighty Missouri rolls down to the sea;
 Where a man is a man even though he must toil
 And the poorest may gather the fruits of the soil."

2.8 chain migration

[2.9] I had left school forever, with the exception

2.9 Wallace, Bruce, Burns, fairy tales, Arabian nights

2.14 interpretation of reality through literature

2.15 ethnic enclave?

2.16 westward migration

2.17-18 [individual crafts?]

2.17 father weaves, markets, fails; problems of economy of scale, distribution of labor, capital

2.18 mother binds shoes; cf. 1.4

2.18 we had no servant

2.18 gems of Scottish minstrelsy . . . a moral

2.19 children of honest poverty

2.20 [mother creates community; cf. boyhood friends]


Chapter III. Pittsburgh and Work

3.1 great question, get to work, help the family to a start in the new land; prospect of want, x-dependent on others

3.5 my father found it necessary to give up hand-loom weaving and to enter the cotton factory of Mr. Blackstock . . . a hard life

3.6 Scotch and wished to relieve me from the engine [steam-loom]

3.6 penmanship, figures

3.8 learned double-entry bookkeeping.

3.11 generations divide

3.13 a great mistake not to seize the opportunity.

3.14 my first real start in life, heaven, ladder

newspapers, pens, pencils, and sunshine . . . learn something


Chapter IV: Colonel Anderson and Books

4.1 time for self-improvement, books

treasures of literature were unfolded to me.

4.2 Colonel Anderson opens library to boys, although we did not now work with our hands, some of us had done so, and that we were really working boys

4.3 windows were opened in the walls of my dungeon through which the light of knowledge streamed in. Every day's toil and even the long hours of night service were lightened by the book which I carried about with me and read in the intervals that could be snatched from duty.



6.1 pure and good x base and vile

6.2 coarse men

tree of knowledge

refined young men, striving to improve themselves and become respected citizens

6.3 gold pieces as art

Uncle and Aunt Hogan, who had removed elsewhere


6.4 management of affairs

make an investment for me

financially connected with my leader and great man

security for a loan

6.5 revenue from capital

something that I had not worked for with the sweat of my brow. . . . the goose that lays the golden eggs." . . .



7.3 strike

all men who had signed the paper, pledging themselves to strike, were dismissed

7.4 Slight attentions or a kind word to the humble often bring back reward as great as it is unlooked for. No kind action is ever lost.

about such actions: they are disinterested, and the reward is sweet in proportion to the humbleness of the individual whom you have obliged

7.5 necessary that we should have a servant. It was with the greatest reluctance my mother could be brought to admit a stranger into the family circle.

evertheless we could not escape the inevitable servant girl. One came, and others followed, and with these came also the destruction of much of that genuine family happiness which flows from exclusiveness. Being served by others is a poor substitute for a mother's labor of love.

7.6 neither nurse nor governess was my companion in infancy. No wonder the children of the poor are distinguished for the warmest affection and the closest adherence to family ties

7.7 Any accurate description of Pittsburgh at that time would be set down as a piece of the grossest exaggeration. The smoke permeated and penetrated everything.

We soon began to consider how we could get to the country

7.8 country lanes and gardens

7.9 aristocratic quarter

musical evenings



10.1 manufacture of iron.

interested in an iron mill

10.3 His German mind made him thorough.

no analysis of material, no scientific treatment

10.5 1862 that the great oil wells of Pennsylvania

men above the average, men who had saved considerable sums and were able to venture something in the search for fortune.

10.6 good humor which prevailed everywhere. It was a vast picnic,

[10.7] The adaptability of the American was never better displayed than in this region.

Order was soon evolved out of chaos.

all the appliances of civilization

but one rule among Americans—the tools to those who can use them. . . .

13.1 chemistry

blast-furnace manager of that day was usually a rude bully, generally a foreigner

13.3 find a chemist

The good was bad and the bad was good, and everything was topsy-turvy. Nine tenths of all the uncertainties of pig-iron making were dispelled under the burning sun of chemical knowledge. . . .



19.1 I resolved to stop accumulating and begin the infinitely more serious and difficult task of wise distribution.

19.4 this public library was really my first gift



20.1 fifteen-million-dollar pension fund for aged university professors

20.2 Of all professions, that of teaching is probably the most unfairly, yes, most meanly paid, though it should rank with the highest. E

20.3 giving of organs to churches20.4 from no fault of their own, have not sufficient means to live respectably

20.5 answer to the question which will never down in my thoughts: "What good am I doing in the world to deserve all my mercies?"

presence of universal law and should bow our heads in silence and obey the Judge within, asking nothing, fearing nothing, just doing our duty right along, seeking no reward here or hereafter.



21.1 Peace Society of Great Britain






Directional Orientations of American culture

Texas: Go West . . . Manifest Destiny . . . First Families of Virginia . . . the inevitable westward expansion of Anglo-European settlement

Mexican America: North-South dialectic . . . USA as "El Norte" . . . borderland usu. N-S

East Coast America: also North-South, but implicated in Westward Expansion, leading to U.S. Civil War

North as Puritans: middle-class culture, Calvinist religion, industry

South as Cavaliers: Southern gentlemen and ladies and, oh yeah, slaves and white trash






Of Plymouth Plantation

table of contents?

Exodus narrative: whole nation migrates from Egypt to Canaan (Promised Land), refuses to assimilate with new host culture (Israelites shouldn't worship Canaanite gods or intermarry with Canaanites)

Pilgrims: entire community migrates from Europe to America (Promised Land?), refuses to acknowledge new host culture's humanity or divinities and refuses to intermarry. (compare Crevecoeur)

My preference for Bradford relic of Anglo-American literary studies


Question: how like  / unlike the standard immigrant narrative?


Protestantism ch. 1.1, 1.7

plain style: speech: opening

architecture: photos

clothing: modesty, neutrality, professional


knowledge of Pilgrims from England, but less of stay in Netherlands


ch. 3 3.3d primitive churches


4.3, 4.4 dangers of scattering, children

4.7 vast and unpeopled


ch. 11

Mayflower compact


starving time

11.11 Squanto a special instrument sent by God


12.12 First Thanksgiving: vision of plenty

12.15-16 x-Christmas


ch 14 commonwealth and capitalism


19.7 Indian women


ch. 21 wealth > x-hold them together


ch 33 content with their conditions


Question: how like  / unlike the standard immigrant narrative?






Problem of individualism and family-centered society, accentuated by migration and mobile society (criticize & celebrate)

Can America be a community of individuals?

Earlier semesters: read Exodus story from Bible

compared Jews leaving Egypt for Canaan (Promised Land)


Pilgrims leaving England for America (Promised Land)


migration as a people vs. migration as individuals and families (cf. Mormons)


immigration for religious freedom v. economic opportunity

freedom of religion > religion evolves rapidly in freemarket of ideas

religion again becomes comfortable with comfort, wealth, material gain


two-way motion: western migration & modernization, but religious primitivism

we can't stop moving and changing, but our forefathers had it right


Modernization and migration erode communities and extended families

> nuclear families, divorce, people living alone, rugged individualism as model of success 



Pilgrims & Puritans as most community-minded of American immigrants

They migrated as a community and work to establish a community based on more than wealth: Christianity > social welfare

Puritan diaspora as base of liberal US: New England and northern Midwest


significance of literacy: the Puritans were never that numerous, but they're over-represented in American literary & cultural studies.


They wrote everything down, cultivating the most literate middle-class society and the strongest educational system.



community as repression, meddling, policing of morality: blue laws, Salem Witch Trials

Just as the Jews in the Promised Land swore not to mix with the Canaanites (i.e., to intermarry and assimilate)

the Pilgrims and Puritans in their Promised Land mixed little with American Indians (i.e., no assimilation to previous dominant culture, but became dominant culture themselves)







Scots Irish review

Not genealogically motivated, but partly autobiographical

I didn't dislike Scots-Irish culture as much as it dislikes me.


Scots-Irish deny ethnicity: "We're just Americans. Why can't everyone just be an American?"--i.e., an American like me!

However, Scots-Irish / Red-State culture increasingly plays ethnicity game of victimization and grievance: "Take Back America!"

But they don't go there: If Red State culture becomes ethnic instead of "just American," part of its rhetorical and symbolic power diminishes.