Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Balcerzak, Scott

Second Advisor

Einboden, Jeffrey

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of English


This dissertation explores the seemingly contradictory characteristics of two distinct art forms in two distinct eras. When exploring the period 1760 to 1860, scholars of transatlanticism argue that the literature of Great Britain and the young United States are of one unified cultural identity, and yet this period is also one in which American writers sought to establish a unique national voice. To understand this dichotomy, this dissertation examines the parallels between Early American Literature, or EAL, and classic Hollywood cinema (1930-1960). This exercise in intertextuality demonstrates how both mediums in both periods absorbed influences from other countries and other times and shaped it into a culturally unique art form that expressed a national identity. The chapters compare and contrast the following films and literary works: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (1850) and two screen adaptations (1926 and 1934), works which, on the one hand, display the very “language” of a hybridized art form and, on the other, deviate from those newly set standards; an exploration of “orientalism” and romantic escapism through a juxtaposition of Washington Irving’s Tales of the Alhambra (1832) and Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon (1937); Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography (1771-1790) and the film Sergeant York (1941), both of which deal with a concrete attempt to alter national identity; and a comparison of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851) and John Ford’s The Searchers (1956), which bare similarities beyond just the obvious monomaniacal quest and its inherent distortion of the hunter. By stressing the conflict between the forces of transnationalism and national exceptionalism, this project confirms the significance of hybridization — an approach which transcends the parameters of medium, language, genre, and nationality, and explores the liminal spaces between Romanticism and Realism.


232 pages




Northern Illinois University

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