Prof. Amy Kaplan (University of Pennsylvania)
This lecture raises the question of how the threat of loss haunts representations of empire. As J.M. Coetzee writes in Waiting for the Barbarians , “One thought alone preoccupies the submerged mind of Empire: how not to end, how not to die, how to prolong its era.” While we tend to think of imperialism in terms of territorial expansion, this is an inquiry into the temporality of empire, its colonization of time. Focusing on the American expansion at the turn of the twentieth century, I examine two literary phenomenon that implicitly deal with this theme: the proliferation of utopian and dystopian fiction, by writers such as Mark Twain, Edward Bellamy, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Pauline Hopkins, and the popularity of Rome as an analog to the US in one of the most popular novels of the 19 th century, Ben Hur by Lew Wallace and its later film adaptations in the 20th century.